23 year old Bradley Manning was a quite low-ranking intelligence analyst in the US army. An intelligent and astute young man who longed for justice and fairness in the world, and who became disillusioned when he saw how little there really was.
Much of this is revealed in a series of online chats published at Wired.com between him and a former illegal hacker Adrian Lamo in May when Manning was in serving in Iraq. Manning read a story on Lamo published at Wired.com and made contact with him. It’s obvious that Manning thought he had found a friend and a like-minded soul. (All quotes are from Wired.com)
Lamo got him to talk about his personal life and his challenges – and how he had downloaded 260,000 classified State Department diplomatic cables and submitted them to Wikileaks, along with the video of the 2007 helicopter incident, and another in 2009 which Wikileaks hasn’t published yet.
Manning said at one point “I can’t believe what I’m confessing to you 😥 I’ve been so isolated so long… I just wanted to be nice, and live a normal life… but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive…smart enough to know what’s going on, but helpless to do anything…”
He went on to say [after sending the cables to Wikileaks] “god knows what happens now…hopefully worldwide discussions, debates and reforms…if not…then we’re doomed as a species…I will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens. I want people to see the truth, regardless of who they are…because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public…”
The incident that made him want to do something about the injustices in Iraq was when he saw 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”. The police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so Manning was told to investigate. He found out that the literature was a benign political critique. He ran to the US officer to explain, and was told to shut up and rather explain how the US could assist the Iraqi Police in finding more detainees.
Manning said he had always questions the way things worked, and looked for the truth, but now he’d been forced to be actively involved in something he was completely against. “…I was a part of it…and completely helpless” he said, to which Lamo replied sympathetically “sometimes we’re all helpless”, then asked Manning what he would do if he was exposed. Manning said he didn’t think it would happen, because nobody ever noticed him. “I was regularly ignored…except when I had something essential…then it was back to “bring me the coffee, then sweep the floor…I never quite understood that…felt like I was an abused work horse”.
It’s easy to understand how such a young man would be drawn to shadowy, almost folk hero figure like Assange. He said it took him 4 months to confirm that the person he was communicating with was in fact Assange. And he admitted that although they have a relationship of sorts, Assange tells him very little.
Well, the ending to this story is tragic. Lamo led Manning to believe he could be trusted – then turned him over the FBI and the Army. On May 26 Manning was arrested by Army authorities and put into pre-trial detention in Kuwait (he was serving in Iraq at the time). As I said yesterday, he faces 50 years in jail, and some US politicians are calling for the death sentence. While Assange becomes more of a folk hero.
Well, Manning has learned a hard lesson, hasn’t he? As for Adrian Lamo, according to Wiki, he’s “a government informant known principally for breaking into a series of high-profile computer networks, and his subsequent arrest.” (The New York Times, Yahoo! News, and Microsoft.) Funny, Assange was also a hacker. Honor and dishonor amongst thieves.