‘In her own words’


Update Aug 27, 2013: PVT Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning’s 35-page testimony during her providence inquiry detailed her time as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and how she concluded that the American public needed to see the United States’ secret abuses in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Below is an article that was written the week following this historic statement.

By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. March 7, 2013.

Bradley Manning reading his plea statement in court, sketched by Clark Stoeckley of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Bradley Manning reading his plea statement in court, sketched by Clark Stoeckley of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

What would you do if you had evidence of war crimes? What would you do if ‘following orders’ meant participating in grave abuses that you opposed? Would you have the courage to risk everything – even your life – to do the right thing?

Most of us would keep our mouths shut. Not Pfc. Bradley Manning.

With a 10,000-word statement that he read aloud last week at a pretrial hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland, Bradley Manning detailed how his conscience led him to expose crimes, abuse, and corruption, by releasing the Iraq and Afghan War Logs, the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, State Department cables, Guantanamo Bay files, and more to WikiLeaks.

An historic document in its own right, the statement lays out Bradley’s work as an intelligence analyst, what he saw while working in eastern Baghdad, and how he concluded that the American people needed to know what really happens in our wars abroad.

Bradley stored backup versions of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs – databases of ‘Significant Activities (or ‘SigActs,’ in Army terminology), which document enemy engagements and casualties – on rewritable CDs, initially because he believed that he and fellow analysts would need to access them during the frequent computer network failures at the base in Iraq.

“I believed and still believe that [the Iraq and Afghan War Logs] are two of the most significant documents of our time,” he declared in court last week.

Bradley went on to describe how he began to see that these documents exposed a horrible mess of a war that Americans couldn’t fully see.

I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and anger on both sides. I began to become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year. The SigActs documented this in great detail and provide a context of what we were seeing on the ground.

In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists… ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions.

Bradley realized that the American people needed to see these documents.

I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the [Iraq and Afghan War Logs] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In January 2010, while home on leave from Iraq, Bradley attempted to give the cables to major U.S. newspapers, to no avail. He called the Washington Post, but the reporter he reached didn’t seem to take him seriously, and said her superior editors would need more information. Bradley turned to the New York Times. He called the Times’ public editor, and when he got an answering machine, he left a message with his phone number. The Times didn’t call back.

So he turned to WikiLeaks. On 3 February 2010, taking shelter from a blizzard in a Barnes and Noble in Rockville, Maryland, Bradley anonymously uploaded the Iraq and Afghan War Logs.

I felt this sense of relief by [WikiLeaks] having [the information]. I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and what I had read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan everyday.

While WikiLeaks reviewed the documents in preparation for later release, Bradley returned to Iraq.

Later that month, he listened to a debate within his intelligence shop over a 12 July 2007 video of a U.S. aerial weapons team gunning down civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in Iraq. At first, he said, the video seemed like any other “war porn” incident he saw routinely. But when Bradley further investigated the video, now known around the world as ‘Collateral Murder,’ he was appalled.

The most alarming aspect of the video to me…was the seemly delightful bloodlust the Aerial Weapons Team seemed to have. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life, and referred to them as quote-unquote “dead bastards,” and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.

Furthermore, he learned that Reuters sought a copy of the video under the Freedom of Information Act, but were stonewalled by the U.S. government. Bradley also learned that Washington Post reporter David Finkel had chronicled the incident for his book The Good Soldiers, but was “aghast” at how Finkel portrayed it.

Believing that Reuters needed to see the video, and investigation of it, to better protect their journalists–and that the American people deserved to see it to get an accurate portrayal of the types of incidents our government keeps secret, Bradley decided to release the video files to WikiLeaks.

I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crewmembers. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled—if not more troubled—than me by what they saw.

On 2 March 2010, Bradley was ordered to investigate the Iraqi Federal Police’s detention of 15 individuals for distributing “anti-Iraqi literature.” He quickly realized that “none of the individuals had previous ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist militia groups.”

In fact, the literature these academics were distributing was “merely a scholarly critique” of the “corruption within the cabinet of [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki’s government and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people.”

Bradley brought this to the attention of his superiors, but they told him to “drop it” and help the Iraqi police find more of these dissidents to detain.

I knew if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time—if ever.

Instead of assisting the … Baghdad Federal Police, I decided to take the information and expose it to [WikiLeaks], before the upcoming 7 March 2010 election, hoping they could generate some immediate press on the issue and prevent this unit of the Federal Police from continuing to crack down on political opponents of al-Maliki.

WikiLeaks has yet to publish those files. But they did publish a cable that he released called Reykjavik 13, revealing how two European countries were bullying Iceland. The publication inspired Bradley to persist in exposing covert abuse.

I always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts in my section [or other sections], I was not satisfied with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie-cutter assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what we could do to correct or mitigate the situation.

This led him to more extensively explore the State Department’s diplomatic cables, throughout March 2010. Like well over a half-million other Government employees and contractors, then 22-year-old Bradley had access to those documents via his secure workplace computer.

With my insatiable curiosity and interest in geopolitics I became fascinated with them. I read not only the cables on Iraq, but also about countries and events I found interesting.

The more I read, the more I was fascinated by the way that we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think that the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world.

The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that– that this type of information should become public. I once read and used a quote on open diplomacy written after the First World War and how the world would be a better place if states would avoid making secret pacts and deals with and against each other. I thought these cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy.

Yet, he was also careful to consider how their release would affect the U.S.

Given all of the Department of State information that I read, the fact that most of the cables were unclassified, and that all the cables have a SIPDIS caption [messages intended for automatic Web publishing, according to the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual], I believed that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States; however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations.

On 5 April 2010, WikiLeaks published the Collateral Murder video. Heartened by the international reaction to that video, he uploaded the diplomatic cables five days later.

The rest is history – WikiLeaks’ releases changed the world, although maybe not to the extent Bradley hoped. Tunisians, who recently nominated Bradley Manning for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, learned more about the corruption of their government, helping spur democratic revolt there. After learning from WikiLeaks releases that the U.S. had covered up its summary executions of innocent Iraqi civilians in 2006, the Iraqi government refused to allow President Obama to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 withdrawal deadline.

Bradley read his statement to supplement his guilty plea to 10 lesser offenses and plea of not guilty to the other 12 more-serious offenses. He made it clear that responsibility was his alone. “No one associated with [WikiLeaks] pressured me into giving more information,” he said. “The decisions that I made to send documents and information to [WikiLeaks] were my own decisions, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”

His plea is not part of a deal with the government. In fact, military prosecutors attempted to block Bradley from even reading the statement, arguing it was “irrelevant.” The Army has since announced that they are proceeding on all 22 counts–including the egregious “aiding the enemy” charge, as well as the Espionage Act-related charge–that could land Bradley in jail for life without parole.

So when Bradley’s court martial comes on 3 June 2013, the proceedings will focus a little less on the forensics of what happened and more on why it happened, and what effect it had. It couldn’t be clearer. Bradley Manning did not “aid the enemy,” but aided the public in making better-informed decisions regarding our government’s secret abuses, and the horrors of war.

Bradley deserves gratitude and celebration, not prosecution and continued incarceration. Join us June 1st at Fort Meade, and demand he be freed. 

 

51 thoughts on “‘In her own words’

  1. I support you Bradley, and only recently did I learn of some of the details in your story. You should be free, and you will be free. Hold your head up high brother, you are walking in righteousness!

  2. I.m a mother of a hero and me and my family thank you for stepping up and going beyound being a hero because of u i know that my son is not crazy as the v.a. WANTED ME TO THINK YOU GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY YOU ARE IN OUR PRAYERS

  3. Bradley did an incredibly brave thing, compelled by his conscience. That a compassionate, kind, intelligent, authentic human being is incarcerated illustrates what is so wrong with this world.
    He was doing us all a service and he has put his life on the line for it. He shouldn’t have to. Governments should be more transparent. Wiki leaks should be applauded. And those that take risks to expose the truth are Heroes.
    If only we had more leaders like Bradley this world would be a better place….

  4. Usually when I leak sensitive information about my countries’ military it’s at a Barnes and Nobles.. in the middle of a blizzard. That’s how I rock and roll.

  5. What a coherent and intelligent testimony by Mr. Manning.

    I had the impression from the press that he was bitter and twisted, and broad-spectrum anti-government.

    But from the samples of the testimony here, it seems that he knew why he was doing what he did, and that was specific to the information released.

    I hope that the constitution defends him better in the future than it has in the past.

  6. Thank you Mr Manning. Unfortunately, hope for the best but expect the worse. Whistle-blowers rarely have an easy ride. And the prosecution must eventually punish you because “they” are right and therefore you must be “wrong”.

  7. Thomas Paine has returned a Manning. The American Political machine is broken because it is held hostage by interests whose purpose is selfish and narrow minded. Today’s POTUS included. This patriot has done the first of many actions ,done by true patriots, that will save our precious democracy. It’s the ones filled with darkness that want to silence this man of truth and liberty.

  8. As an American, I truly appreciate what you did. I hope that one day the shame that we caused ourselves will force us to have the conversation that you wished for, and ultimately lead us back to greatness.

    Our foreign policy is murder, and the release of those documents proves it explicitly and irrevocably. You do not deserve to be in prison for war crimes, it is they who created and perpetuated this war who are criminals. Godspeed.

  9. Thank you Brad!!! You’ve exposed the truths that our political system can’t handle, for this we are indebted to you forever! Fascism will die a little more with your trial, regardless of outcome, because history will prove you right!!! Career narcissists will be detected and removed in the future!!!

  10. Thank you so much Bradley, for doing what most of us don’t have the courage to do!
    You are a true hero and the world is in your debt.
    We are behind you and the numbers are growing.
    Please, everyone, share this story!

  11. Bullcrap. The guy put many Americans, and American interests, at risk. I hope he will rot in jail for the rest of his life.

    • What greater American interest is there than justice? Liberty? Accountability? Valor? Bradley Manning did what he did to protect the American people from the terrors the US Government has inflicted not only upon citizens of other nations but its own people. Without the information he divulged, we cannot fully understand the processes that govern US diplomacy, military action, and the actions of our highest officials. The key to a thriving nation, a harmonious citizenry, and a peaceful world is an informed public. An additional element that is pertinent to all of these things is a reliable, conscientious, scrupulous governing body. We have neither but Bradley Manning’s actions have brought us closer to both. His actions command your respect, your gratitude, and your apologies for what you have said in disservice to him.

  12. Truly amazing, Bradley. The truth really is out there. If the U.S. keeps locking up all the Bradley’s of the world . . .

  13. He is a traitor. He did it for money. This is all bills hit him and his lawyer cooked up to fool jack added like you. He got a LOT of people killed because of the release. Are you all fucking retarded?

    • Really? .yeah totally the truth about what happened should never come out right?????? . I am military and the goal is to protect the weak and innocent from corrupt governments.. like yours…..

    • I think that maybe you should do a quick summary of facts buddy. What money has he got? HE IS IN JAIL. He did this so that the people would start asking questions as to why the government wants these innocent civilians to die at the United states governments hands. You are one of those people that are shrouded in darkness, i hope that one day you will wake up and realise that good things exist and good and honourable people exist-And Private First Class Bradley manning is one of those people.

      P.S If you read the official reports-Him releasing these SigActs and The collateral murder video-Didnt actually cause any deaths specifically that wouldnt have happened before!!!!

      FREE PRIVATE FIRST CLASS BRADLEY MANNING.
      The Real Life Hero and True Patriot for Humankind as a whole.

  14. Complicity to murder and genocide is on trial, and Manning refuses to be complicit. Do we, as humans? This is what is on trial. We are. Should we let them convict us without our knowledge?

    Garbage gathering police are deputized to ‘take it out,’ the garbage, which is provided in droves by the central media outlets producing so much altering any cultural landscape permanently, hollow instead of hallow, and drives people from their evolutionary design to learn. Learning leads to learning-to-learn (Bateson) where we would, then, know the ‘containers’ relavant to the initial learning where it is formed, much less have it based on any truth at all.

    Tricks are not epistemology. Some tricks are good, like aspirin, for example. Learning, in reality, is not a trick, as if there is any distinction to made, any leap in cognitive powers for the power that makes it all, just, shudder.

  15. Mr. Manning you are small, weak and above all you don’t have money! You will die on the cross so that others may live! The truth is irrelevant! Truth has no purpose! Truth doesn’t generate money! Above all, truth doesn’t multiply! You will drown in a barrel of lies!
    Keep your head high, though.

  16. Actually didn’t know about Bradley Manning until tonight watched Frontline on PBS. Then cked on WikiLeaks and the Bradley Manning site.Now I am more informed and can only say….FREE Bradley Manning. He did the right thing by releasing the video..horrified by it…We should all stand behind him. Free Bradley Manning

  17. Respect Bradley, stay strong. If only we all had the righteousness to do what is right and not hide behind the Governments prison of fake money and scare mongering over the last century. You have my support, the truth of past events should never be punished and is in itself an admission of corruption by covering it up.

  18. I voted for Obama, twice. I’m greatly saddened to realize of all that he’s tried to do, there is nothing he has been so earnest in as persecuting those who value the truth and have the courage to expose the murderous corruption of this government. This President could have been the shining light of a generation, perhaps this century, instead, in his refusal to prosecute financial criminals, his collaboration with the corporatocracy, his subordination of the Constitution and the rule of law, and most simply, his failure to be just and resolute, he may have secured the ignoble position of overseeing and ensuring the complete destruction of any reason for this Nation to continue. Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden in their acts as whistle-blowers shame this President and his party and every member of government who will not work for their complete and immediate exoneration.

  19. I created a petition asking President Obama to pardon Bradley Manning. It is on We the People, a feature on WhiteHouse.gov. If this petition gets 100,000 signatures by August 31, 2013, the Obama Administration will issue an official response.

    You can view and sign the petition here:

    http://wh.gov/lrWOh

    Here is the text of this petition:

    Pardon Bradley Manning

    Whereas Nuremberg taught the world that “just following orders”
    is no justification for morally questionable actions;

    and, whereas Bradley Manning acted to expose morally questionable actions
    conducted by the United States–actions that turn the United States into
    something she should never become;

    and, whereas by exposing these morally questionable actions we now have a
    better chance to redeem the soul of America;

    we urge you, Mr. President, to grant Bradley Manning full pardon.

  20. Thank you Bradley Manning, May God Bless you for your Patriotism, and all others like you, such as your fellow comrade Bradley Snowden! We love you both!!

  21. It is vital that Bradley is supported for revealing the horrors of the war, he should be excused on the basis of whistle-blowing. The USA government should be having an open debate about what they are seeking to achieve in Aafghanistan with Bradley Manning and his fellow recruits as the key witnesses. These young men and women should have nothing to fear by speaking the truth.

    The prosecution of Bradley Manning is a perversion of justice.

    He must be freed.

    Bradley, you are not alone. Be strong. Your actions are those of a spirit that can never be bound.

  22. I really appreciate the kind act of young man, letting the world now about US dirty policies totally against human ethics. While US claims herself to be the number 1 humanity respected country. Bradley I am your Fan, love you more than any famous personality in the world, I also support that you must be awarded with Nobel Prize for peace!!
    Live Long Bradley Manning!

  23. Thank you Bradley for following your conscience and your intentions to help so many people in and out of the U.S. You are truly a Hero.

  24. ONE WORD – PATHETIC!!! WHO ARE YOU TO MAKE THE DETERMINATION AS TO WHAT THE “PUBLIC KNOWS”?!?! YOU MAKE ME SICK!!! WHEN YOU ARE ROTTING AWAY IN PRISON, YOU CAN SIT THERE AND THINK “THE PEOPLE DESERVED TO KNOW”. WHILE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE GO ON ABOUT THEIR LIFES, YOU WILL BE FORGOTTEN…..

    • no1 will be forgotten jane i believe that the world isnt ready for the whole truth and you must always fight for what u believe in no matter how long it takes u to get ur evidence

  25. My dear Chelsea,

    There are an awful lot of people out there, not just in the US, who love you and support you all the way.

    You are a beacon for freedom and truth, things that America were supposed to have been built on but have consigned to the dustbin with this farce of a trial.

  26. I am one that is of the opinion that Mr Manning although young and confused should remain in prison for the rest of his life. The damage he did is not reversable, and he deserves life in prison for what he did.

  27. Just watched the doc We Steal Secrets today. I am not sure how I feel but I believe that Chelsea Manning did the right thing by exposing what she found. Its just sad that there is no protection for her and its unjust that her sentence was 35 yrs. But hope she find peace now as a girl.

  28. I’ve always wanted to know, how does standing up for human rights equate to ‘aiding the enemy’. Our government is a tyrannical, corrupted monster that needs to taken apart layer by layer.

  29. Thank you Chelsea Manning for having the conscience to see and understand the truth about these war crimes and for having the courage to speak out and tell the truth. You are a true patriot.

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