Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987) is a former United States Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013, of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified, or unclassified but sensitive, military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced to 35 years confinement in August 2013 and pursuant to a commutation by President Obama, was released on May 17, 2017.
Manning is a trans woman who, in a statement the day after sentencing, said she had a female gender identity since childhood, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and desired to begin hormone replacement therapy.
Assigned in 2009 to an Army unit in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, Manning had access to classified databases. In early 2010, she leaked classified information to WikiLeaks and confided this to Adrian Lamo, an online acquaintance. Lamo indirectly informed the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, and Manning was arrested in May that same year. The material included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables; and 482,832 Army reports that came to be known as the "Iraq War Logs" and "Afghan War Diary". The material was published by WikiLeaks and its media partners between April 2010 and April 2011.
Manning was ultimately charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which was the most serious charge and could have resulted in a death sentence. She was held at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico in Virginia, from July 2010 to April 2011, under Prevention of Injury status—which entailed de facto solitary confinement and other restrictions that caused domestic and international concern—before being transferred to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she could interact with other detainees. She pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the charges. The trial on the remaining charges began on June 3, 2013, and on July 30 she was convicted of 17 of the original charges and amended versions of four others, but was acquitted of aiding the enemy. She was sentenced to serve a 35-year sentence at the maximum-security U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence to nearly seven years of confinement dating from the date of arrest (May 27, 2010) by military authorities.
Reaction to Manning's disclosures, arrest, and sentence was mixed. Her biographer, Denver Nicks, writes that the leaked diplomatic cables were seen by some (but disputed by others) as a catalyst for the Arab Spring that began in December 2010, and that she was viewed by some as a 21st-century Tiananmen Square Tank Man and by others as an embittered traitor.
Born Bradley Edward Manning in 1987, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, she was the second child of Susan Fox, originally from Wales, and Brian Manning, an American. Brian had joined the United States Navy in 1974, at the age of 19, and served for five years as an intelligence analyst. Brian met Susan in a local Woolworths store while stationed in Wales at RAF Brawdy. Manning's older sister, Casey Manning, was born in 1976. The couple returned to the United States in 1979, settling first in California. After their move near Crescent, Oklahoma, they bought a two-story house with an above-ground swimming pool and 5 acres (2 hectares) of land, where they kept pigs and chickens.
Manning's sister Casey told the court-martial that both their parents were alcoholics, and that their mother had drunk continually while pregnant with Chelsea. Captain David Moulton, a Navy psychiatrist, told the court that Manning's facial features showed signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. Casey became Manning's principal caregiver, waking at night to make a bottle for the baby. The court heard that Manning was fed only milk and baby food until the age of two. As an adult she reached 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m) and weighed around 105 pounds (48 kg).
Manning's father took a job as an information technology (IT) manager for a rental car agency, which required travel. The family lived several miles out of town, and Manning's mother was unable to drive. She spent her days drinking, while Manning was left largely to fend for herself, playing with Legos or on the computer. Brian would stock up on food before his trips, and leave pre-signed checks that Casey mailed to pay the bills. A neighbor said that whenever Manning's elementary school went on field trips, she would give her own son extra food or money so he could make sure Manning had something to eat. Friends and neighbors considered the Mannings a troubled family.
In a 2011 interview Manning's father said, "People need to understand that he's a young man that had a happy life growing up." He also said that Manning excelled at the saxophone, science, and computers, and created a website at the age of 10. Manning learned how to use PowerPoint, won the grand prize three years in a row at the local science fair, and in sixth grade, took top prize at a statewide quiz bowl.
A childhood friend of Manning's, speaking about a conversation they had when Manning was 13, said: "he told me he was gay." The friend also said that Manning's home life was not good and that her father was very controlling. Around this time, Manning's parents divorced. She and her mother Susan moved out of the house to a rented apartment in Crescent, Oklahoma. Susan's instability continued, and in 1998 she attempted suicide; Manning's sister drove their mother to the hospital, with the 11-year-old Manning sitting in the back of the car trying to make sure their mother was still breathing.
Manning's father remarried in 2000, the same year as his divorce. His new wife, also named Susan, had a son from a previous relationship. Manning apparently reacted badly when the son changed his surname to Manning, too; she started taking running jumps at the walls, telling her mother: "I'm nobody now."
In November 2001, Manning and her mother left the United States and moved to Haverfordwest, Wales, where her mother had family. Manning attended the town's Tasker Milward secondary school. A school friend there told Ed Caesar for The Sunday Times that Manning's personality was "unique, extremely unique. Very quirky, very opinionated, very political, very clever, very articulate." Manning's interest in computers continued, and in 2003, she and a friend, James Kirkpatrick, set up an online message board, angeldyne.com, that offered games and music downloads.
Manning became the target of bullying at the school because she was the only American and was viewed as effeminate. Manning had come out to two friends in Oklahoma as gay, but was not open about it at school in Wales. The students would imitate her accent, and apparently abandoned her once during a camping trip; her aunt told The Washington Post that Manning awoke to an empty camp site one morning, after everyone else had packed up their tents and left without her.
Fearing that her mother was becoming too ill to cope, in 2005 (at age 17) Manning returned to the United States. She moved in with her father in Oklahoma City, where he was living with his second wife and her child. Manning got a job as a developer with a software company, Zoto, and was apparently happy for a time, but was let go after four months. Her boss told The Washington Post that on a few occasions Manning had "just locked up" and would simply sit and stare, and in the end communication became too difficult. The boss told the newspaper that "nobody's been taking care of this kid for a really long time."
By then, Manning was living as an openly gay man. Her relationship with her father was apparently good, but there were problems between Manning and her stepmother. In March 2006, Manning reportedly threatened her stepmother with a knife during an argument about Manning's failure to get another job; the stepmother called the police, and Manning was asked to leave the house. Manning drove to Tulsa in a pickup truck her father had given her, at first slept in it, then moved in with a friend from school. The two got jobs at Incredible Pizza in April. Manning moved on to Chicago before running out of money and again having nowhere to stay. Her mother arranged for Brian's sister, Debra, a lawyer in Potomac, Maryland, to take Manning in. Nicks wrote that the 15 months Manning spent with her aunt were among the most stable of her life. Chelsea had a boyfriend, took several low-paid jobs, and spent a semester studying history and English at Montgomery College, but left after failing an exam.
Manning's father spent weeks in late 2007 asking her to consider joining the Army. Hoping to gain a college education through the G.I. Bill, and perhaps to study for a PhD in physics, she enlisted in September that year. She told her Army supervisor later that she had also hoped joining such a masculine environment would resolve her gender identity disorder.
Manning began basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, on October 2, 2007. She wrote that she soon realized she was neither physically nor mentally prepared for it. Six weeks after enlisting, she was sent to the discharge unit. She was allegedly being bullied, and in the opinion of another soldier, was having a breakdown. The soldier told The Guardian: "The kid was barely five foot ... He was a runt, so pick on him. He's crazy, pick on him. He's a faggot, pick on him. The guy took it from every side. He couldn't please anyone." Nicks writes that Manning, who was used to being bullied, fought back—if the drill sergeants screamed at her, she would scream at them—to the point where they started calling her "General Manning".
The decision to discharge her was revoked, and she started basic training again in January 2008. After graduating in April, she moved to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in order to attend Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 35F, intelligence analyst, receiving a TS/SCI security clearance (Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information). According to Nicks, this security clearance, combined with the digitization of classified information and the government's policy of sharing it widely, gave Manning access to an unprecedented amount of material. Nicks writes that Manning was reprimanded while at Fort Huachuca for posting three video messages to friends on YouTube, in which she described the inside of the "Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility" (SCIF) where she worked. Upon completion of her initial MOS course, Manning received the Army Service Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.
In August 2008, Manning was sent to Fort Drum in Jefferson County, New York, where she joined the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and trained for deployment to Iraq. In late 2008 while stationed there, she met Tyler Watkins, who was studying neuroscience and psychology at Brandeis University, near Boston. Watkins was her first serious relationship, and she posted happily on Facebook about it, regularly traveling 300 miles (480 km) to Boston on visits.
Watkins introduced her to a network of friends and the university's hacker community. She also visited Boston University's "hackerspace" workshop, known as "Builds", and met its founder, David House, the MIT researcher who was later allowed to visit her in jail. In November 2008, she gave an anonymous interview to a high-school reporter during a rally in Syracuse in support of gay marriage:
I was kicked out of my home and I once lost my job. The world is not moving fast enough for us at home, work, or the battlefield. I've been living a double life. ... I can't make a statement. I can't be caught in an act. I hope the public support changes. I do hope to do that before ETS [Expiration of Term of Service].
Nicks writes that Manning would travel back to Washington, D.C., for visits. An ex-boyfriend helped her find her way around the city's gay community, introducing her to lobbyists, activists, and White House aides. Back at Fort Drum, she continued to display emotional problems and, by August 2009, had been referred to an Army mental-health counselor. A friend told Nicks that Manning could be emotionally fraught, describing an evening they had watched two movies together—The Last King of Scotland and Dancer in the Dark—after which Manning cried for hours. By September 2009 her relationship with Watkins was in trouble; they reconciled for a short time, but it was effectively over.
After four weeks at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in Fort Polk, Louisiana, Manning was deployed to Forward Operating Base Hammer, near Baghdad, arriving in October 2009. From her workstation there, she had access to SIPRNet (the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) and JWICS (the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System). Two of her superiors had discussed not taking her to Iraq; it was felt she was a risk to herself and possibly others, according to a statement later issued by the Army—but the shortage of intelligence analysts dictated their decision to take her. In November 2009, she was promoted from Private First Class to Specialist.
In November 2009 Manning wrote to a gender counselor in the United States, said she felt female, and discussed having surgery. The counselor told Steve Fishman of New York magazine in 2011 that it was clear Manning was in crisis, partly because of her gender concerns, but also because she was opposed to the kind of war in which she found herself involved.
She was by all accounts unhappy and isolated. Because of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy (known as DADT and in effect until September 20, 2011), Manning was unable to live as an openly gay man without risk of being discharged. But she apparently made no secret of her orientation: her friends said she kept a fairy wand on her desk. When she told her roommate she was attracted to men, he responded by suggesting they not speak to each other. Manning's working conditions included 14- to 15-hour night shifts in a tightly packed, dimly lit room.
On December 20, 2009, during a counseling session with two colleagues to discuss her poor time-keeping, Manning was told she would lose her one day off a week for persistent lateness. She responded by overturning a table, damaging a computer that was sitting on it. A sergeant moved Manning away from the weapons rack, and other soldiers pinned her arms behind her back and dragged her out of the room. Several witnesses to the incident believed her access to sensitive material ought to have been withdrawn at that point. The following month, January 2010, she began posting on Facebook that she felt hopeless and alone.
Manning said her first contact with WikiLeaks took place in January 2010, when she began to interact with them on IRC and Jabber. She had first noticed them toward the end of November 2009, when they posted 570,000 pager messages from the September 11 attacks.
On January 5, 2010, Manning downloaded the 400,000 documents that became known as the Iraq War logs. On January 8, she downloaded 91,000 documents from the Afghanistan database, known later as part of the Afghan War logs. She saved the material on CD-RW and smuggled it through security by labeling the CD-RW media "Lady Gaga". She then copied it onto her personal computer. The next day, she wrote a message in a readme.txt file (see right), which she told the court was initially intended for The Washington Post.
Manning copied the files from her laptop to an SD card for her camera, so that she could take it with her to the United States while on R&R leave. Army investigators later found the SD card in Manning's basement room in her aunt's home, in Potomac, Maryland. On January 23, Manning flew to the United States via Germany, for two weeks of leave. It was during this visit that she first went out dressed as a woman, wearing a wig and makeup. After her arrest, her former partner, Tyler Watkins, told Wired that Manning had said during the visit that she had found some sensitive information and was considering leaking it.
Manning contacted The Washington Post and The New York Times to ask if they were interested in the material; the Post reporter did not sound interested, and the Times did not return the call. Manning decided instead to pass it to WikiLeaks, and on February 3 sent them the Iraq and Afghan War logs via Tor. She returned to Iraq on February 11, with no acknowledgement from WikiLeaks that they had received the files.
On or around February 18, she passed WikiLeaks a diplomatic cable, dated January 13, 2010, from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavík, Iceland. They published it within hours, which suggested to Manning that they had received the other material, too. She found the Baghdad helicopter attack ("Collateral murder") video in a Judge Advocate's directory and passed it to WikiLeaks on or around February 21. In late March, she sent them a video of the May 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; this was the video later removed and apparently destroyed by Daniel Domscheit-Berg when he left the organization. Between March 28 and April 9, she downloaded the 250,000 diplomatic cables and on April 10, uploaded them to a WikiLeaks dropbox.
Manning told the court that, during her interaction with WikiLeaks on IRC and Jabber, she developed a friendship with someone there, believed to be Julian Assange (although neither knew the other's name), which she said made her feel she could be herself. Army investigators found 14 to 15 pages of encrypted chats, in unallocated space on her MacBook's hard drive, between Manning and someone believed to be Assange. She wrote in a statement that the more she had tried to fit in at work, the more alienated she became from everyone around her. The relationship with WikiLeaks had given her a brief respite from the isolation and anxiety.
On April 24, 2010, Manning sent an email to her supervisor, Master Sergeant Paul Adkins—with the subject line "My Problem"—saying she was suffering from gender identity disorder. She attached a photograph of herself dressed as a woman and with the filename breanna.jpg. She wrote:
This is my problem. I've had signs of it for a very long time. It's caused problems within my family. I thought a career in the military would get rid of it. It's not something I seek out for attention, and I've been trying very, very hard to get rid of it by placing myself in situations where it would be impossible. But, it's not going away; it's haunting me more and more as I get older. Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it's causing me great pain in itself ...
Adkins discussed the situation with Manning's therapists, but did not pass the email to anybody above him in his chain of command; he told Manning's court-martial that he was concerned the photograph would be disseminated among other staff. Captain Steven Lim, Manning's company commander, said he first saw the email after Manning's arrest, when information about hormone replacement therapy was found in Manning's room on base; at that point Lim learned that Manning had been calling herself Breanna.
Manning told former "grey hat" hacker Adrian Lamo that she had set up Twitter and YouTube accounts as Breanna to give her female identity a digital presence, writing to Lamo: "I wouldn't mind going to prison for the rest of my life [for leaking information], or being executed so much, if it wasn't for the possibility of having pictures of me... plastered all over the world press... as [a] boy... [...] the CPU is not made for this motherboard..." On April 30 she posted on Facebook that she was utterly lost, and over the next few days wrote that she was "not a piece of equipment", and was "beyond frustrated" and "livid" after being "lectured by ex-boyfriend despite months of relationship ambiguity ..."
On May 7, according to Army witnesses, Manning was found curled in a fetal position in a storage cupboard; she had a knife at her feet and had cut the words "I want" into a vinyl chair. A few hours later she had an altercation with a female intelligence analyst, Specialist Jihrleah Showman, during which she punched Showman in the face. The brigade psychiatrist recommended a discharge, referring to an "occupational problem and adjustment disorder". Manning's supervisor removed the bolt from her weapon, making it unable to fire, and she was sent to work in the supply office, although at this point her security clearance remained in place. As punishment for the altercation with Showman, she was demoted from Specialist (E-4) to Private First Class (E-3) three days before her arrest on May 27.
Ellen Nakashima writes that, on May 9, Manning contacted Jonathan Odell, a gay American novelist in Minneapolis, via Facebook, leaving a message that she wanted to speak to him in confidence; she said she had been involved in some "very high-profile events, albeit as a nameless individual thus far". On May 19, according to Army investigators, she emailed Eric Schmiedl, a mathematician she had met in Boston, and told him she had been the source of the Baghdad airstrike video. Two days later, she began the series of chats with Adrian Lamo that led to her arrest.
WikiLeaks was set up in late 2006 as a disclosure portal, initially using the Wikipedia model, where volunteers would write up restricted or legally threatened material submitted by whistleblowers. It was Julian Assange—an Australian Internet activist and journalist, and the de facto editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks—who had the idea of creating what Ben Laurie called an "open-source, democratic intelligence agency". The open-editing aspect was soon abandoned, but the site remained open for anonymous submissions.
According to Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks spokesperson, part of the WikiLeaks security concept was that they did not know who their sources were. The New York Times wrote in December 2010 that the U.S. government was trying to discover whether Assange had been a passive recipient of material from Manning, or had encouraged or helped her to extract the files; if the latter, Assange could be charged with conspiracy. Manning told Lamo in May 2010 that she had developed a working relationship with Assange, communicating directly with him using an encrypted Internet conferencing service, but knew little about him. WikiLeaks did not identify Manning as their source. Army investigators found pages of chats on Manning's computer between Manning and someone believed to be Julian Assange. Nicks writes that, despite this, no decisive evidence was found of Assange's offering Manning any direction.
On February 18, 2010, WikiLeaks posted the first of the material from Manning, the diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavík, a document now known as Reykjavik13. On March 15, WikiLeaks posted a 32-page report written in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Defense about WikiLeaks itself, and on March 29 it posted U.S. State Department profiles of politicians in Iceland.
WikiLeaks named the Baghdad airstrike video "Collateral Murder", and Assange released it on April 5, 2010, during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The video showed two American helicopters firing on a group of 10 men in the Amin District of Baghdad. Two were Reuters employees there to photograph an American Humvee under attack by the Mahdi Army. Pilots mistook their cameras for weapons. The helicopters also fired on a van, targeted earlier by one helicopter, that had stopped to help wounded members of the first group. Two children in the van were wounded, and their father was killed. Pilots also engaged a building where retreating insurgents were holed up. The Washington Post wrote that it was this video, viewed by millions, that put WikiLeaks on the map. According to Nicks, Manning emailed a superior officer after the video aired and tried to persuade her that it was the same version as the one stored on SIPRNet. Nicks writes that it seemed as though Manning wanted to be caught.
On July 25, 2010, WikiLeaks and three media partners—The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel—began publishing the 91,731 documents that, in their entirety, became known as the Afghan War logs. (Around 77,000 of these had been published as of May 2012.) This was followed on October 22, 2010, by 391,832 classified military reports covering the period January 2004 to December 2009, which became known as the Iraq War logs. Nicks writes that the publication of the former was a watershed moment, the "beginning of the information age exploding upon itself".
Manning was also responsible for the "Cablegate" leak of 251,287 State Department cables, written by 271 American embassies and consulates in 180 countries, dated December 1966 to February 2010. The cables were passed by Assange to his three media partners, plus El País and others, and published in stages from November 28, 2010, with the names of sources removed. WikiLeaks said it was the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. WikiLeaks published the remaining cables, unredacted, on September 1, 2011, after David Leigh and Luke Harding of The Guardian inadvertently published the passphrase for a file that was still online; Nicks writes that, consequently, one Ethiopian journalist had to leave his country, and the U.S. government said it had to relocate several sources.
Manning said she gave WikiLeaks a video, in late March 2010, of the Granai airstrike in Afghanistan. The airstrike occurred on May 4, 2009, in the village of Granai, Afghanistan, killing 86 to 147 Afghan civilians. The video was never published; Julian Assange said in March 2013 that Daniel Domscheit-Berg had taken it with him when he left WikiLeaks and had apparently destroyed it.
On May 20, 2010, Manning contacted Adrian Lamo, a former "grey hat" hacker convicted in 2004 of having accessed The New York Times computer network two years earlier without permission. Lamo had been profiled that day by Kevin Poulsen in Wired magazine; the story said Lamo had been involuntarily hospitalized and diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Poulsen, by then a reporter, was himself a former hacker who had used Lamo as a source several times since 2000. Indeed it was Poulsen who, in 2002, had told The New York Times that Lamo had gained unauthorized access to its network; Poulsen then wrote the story up for SecurityFocus. Lamo would hack into a system, tell the organization, then offer to fix their security, often using Poulsen as a go-between.
Lamo said Manning sent him several encrypted emails on May 20. He said he was unable to decrypt them but replied anyway and invited the emailer to chat on AOL IM. Lamo said he later turned the emails over to the FBI without having read them.
In a series of chats between May 21 and 25, Manning—using the handle "bradass87"—told Lamo that she had leaked classified material. She introduced herself as an Army intelligence analyst, and within 17 minutes, without waiting for a reply, alluded to the leaks.
Lamo replied several hours later. He said: "I'm a journalist and a minister. You can pick either, and treat this as a confession or an interview (never to be published) & enjoy a modicum of legal protection." They talked about restricted material in general, then Manning made her first explicit reference to the leaks: "This is what I do for friends." She linked to a section of the May 21, 2010, version of Wikipedia's article on WikiLeaks, which described the WikiLeaks release in March that year of a Department of Defense report on WikiLeaks itself. She added "the one below that is mine too"; the section below in the same article referred to the leak of the Baghdad airstrike ("Collateral Murder") video. Manning said she felt isolated and fragile, and was reaching out to someone she hoped might understand.
Manning said she had started to help WikiLeaks around Thanksgiving in November 2009—which fell on November 26 that year—after WikiLeaks had released the 9/11 pager messages; the messages were released on November 25. She told Lamo she had recognized that the messages came from an NSA database, and that seeing them had made her feel comfortable about stepping forward. Lamo asked what kind of material Manning was dealing with; Manning replied: "uhm ... crazy, almost criminal political backdealings ... the non-PR-versions of world events and crises ..." Although she said she dealt with Assange directly, Manning also said Assange had adopted a deliberate policy of knowing very little about her, telling Manning: "lie to me."
Lamo again assured her that she was speaking in confidence. Manning wrote: "but im not a source for you ... im talking to you as someone who needs moral and emotional fucking support," and Lamo replied: "i told you, none of this is for print."
Manning said the incident that had affected her the most was when 15 detainees had been arrested by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing anti-Iraqi literature. She was asked by the Army to find out who the "bad guys" were, and discovered that the detainees had followed what Manning said was a corruption trail within the Iraqi cabinet. She reported this to her commanding officer, but said "he didn't want to hear any of it"; she said the officer told her to help the Iraqi police find more detainees. Manning said it made her realize, "i was actively involved in something that i was completely against ..."
She explained that "i cant separate myself from others ... i feel connected to everybody ... like they were distant family," and cited Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman and Elie Wiesel. She said she hoped the material would lead to "hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. if not ... than [sic] we're doomed as a species." She said she had downloaded the material onto music CD-RWs, erased the music and replaced it with a compressed split file. Part of the reason no one noticed, she said, was that staff were working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and "people stopped caring after 3 weeks."
Shortly after the first chat with Manning, Lamo discussed the information with Chet Uber of the volunteer group ProjectVIGILANT, which researches cybercrime, and with Timothy Webster, a friend who had worked in Army counterintelligence. Both advised Lamo to go to the authorities. His friend informed the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (CID), and Lamo was contacted by CID agents shortly thereafter. He told them he believed Manning was endangering lives. He was largely ostracized by the hacker community afterwards. Nicks argues, on the other hand, that it was thanks to Lamo that the government had months to ameliorate any harm caused by the release of the diplomatic cables.
Lamo met with FBI and Army investigators on May 25 in California, and showed them the chat logs. On or around that date he also passed the story to Kevin Poulsen of Wired, and on May 27 gave him the chat logs and Manning's name under embargo. He met with the FBI again that day, at which point they told him Manning had been arrested in Iraq the day before. Poulsen and Kim Zetter broke the news of the arrest in Wired on June 6. Wired published around 25 percent of the chat logs on June 6 and 10, and the full logs in July 2011.
Manning was arrested by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, on May 27, 2010, and transferred four days later to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. She was charged with several offenses in July, replaced by 22 charges in March 2011, including violations of Articles 92 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and of the Espionage Act. The most serious charge was "aiding the enemy", a capital offense, although prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty. Another charge, which Manning's defense called a "made up offense" but of which she was found guilty, read that Manning "wantonly [caused] to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the US government, having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accessible to the enemy".
While in Kuwait, Manning was placed on suicide watch after her behavior caused concern. She was moved from Kuwait to the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on July 29, 2010, and classified as a maximum custody detainee with Prevention of Injury (POI) status. POI status is one stop short of suicide watch, entailing checks by guards every five minutes. Her lawyer, David Coombs, a former military attorney, said Manning was not allowed to sleep between 5 am (7 am on weekends) and 8 pm, and was made to stand or sit up if she tried to. She was required to remain visible at all times, including at night, which entailed no access to sheets, no pillow except one built into her mattress, and a blanket designed not to be shredded. Manning complained that she regarded it as pretrial punishment.
Her cell was 6 × 12 ft (1.8 x 3.6 m) with no window, containing a bed, toilet and sink. The jail had 30 cells built in a U shape, and although detainees could talk to one another, they were unable to see each other. Her lawyer said the guards behaved professionally, and had not tried to harass or embarrass Manning. She was allowed to walk for up to one hour a day, meals were taken in the cell, and she was shackled during visits. There was access to television when it was placed in the corridor, and she was allowed to keep one magazine and one book. Because she was in pretrial detention, she received full pay.
On January 18, 2011, after Manning had an altercation with the guards, the commander of Quantico classified her as a suicide risk. Manning said the guards had begun issuing conflicting commands, such as "turn left, don't turn left," and upbraiding her for responding to commands with "yes" instead of "aye". Shortly afterwards, she was placed on suicide watch, had her clothing and eyeglasses removed, and was required to remain in her cell 24 hours a day. The suicide watch was lifted on January 21 after a complaint from her lawyer, and the brig commander who ordered it was replaced. On March 2, she was told that her request for removal of POI status—which entailed among other things sleeping wearing only boxer shorts—had been denied. Her lawyer said Manning joked to the guards that, if she wanted to harm herself, she could do so with her underwear or her flip-flops. The comment resulted in Manning being ordered to strip naked in her cell that night and sleep without clothing. On the following morning only, Manning stood naked for inspection. Following her lawyer's protest and media attention, Manning was issued a sleeping garment on or before March 11.
The detention conditions prompted national and international concern. Juan E. Mendez, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, told The Guardian that the U.S. government's treatment of Manning was "cruel, inhuman and degrading". In January 2011 Amnesty International asked the British government to intervene because of Manning's status as a British citizen by descent, although Manning's lawyer said Manning did not regard herself as a British citizen. The controversy claimed a casualty in March that year when State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley criticized Manning's treatment and resigned two days later. In March, 295 members of the academic legal community signed a statement arguing that, contrary to former professor of constitutional law President Obama's assertion that Manning's confinement was "appropriate and meet[s] our basic standards," Manning was being subjected to "degrading and inhumane pretrial punishment." On April 20 the Pentagon transferred Manning to the medium-custody Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she was placed in an 80-square-foot cell with a window and a normal mattress, able to mix with other pretrial detainees and keep personal objects in her cell.
In April 2011, a panel of experts, having completed a medical and mental evaluation of Manning, ruled that she was fit to stand trial. An Article 32 hearing, presided over by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, was convened on December 16, 2011, at Fort Meade, Maryland; the hearing resulted in Almanza's recommending that Manning be referred to a general court-martial. She was arraigned on February 23, 2012, and declined to enter a plea.
During the Article 32 hearing, the prosecution, led by Captain Ashden Fein, presented 300,000 pages of documents in evidence, including chat logs and classified material. The court heard from two Army investigators, Special Agent David Shaver, head of the digital forensics and research branch of the Army's Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU); and Mark Johnson, a digital forensics contractor from ManTech International, who works for the CCIU. They testified that they had found 100,000 State Department cables on a workplace computer Manning had used between November 2009 and May 2010; 400,000 military reports from Iraq and 91,000 from Afghanistan on an SD card found in her basement room in her aunt's home in Potomac, Maryland; and 10,000 cables on her personal MacBook Pro and storage devices that they said had not been passed to WikiLeaks because a file was corrupted. They also recovered 14 to 15 pages of encrypted chats, in unallocated space on Manning's MacBook hard drive, between Manning and someone believed to be Julian Assange. Two of the chat handles, which used the Berlin Chaos Computer Club's domain (ccc.de), were associated with the names Julian Assange and Nathaniel Frank.
Johnson said he found SSH logs on the MacBook that showed an SFTP connection, from an IP address that resolved to Manning's aunt's home, to a Swedish IP address with links to WikiLeaks. Also found was a text file named "Readme", attached to the logs and apparently written by Manning to Assange, which called the Iraq and Afghan War logs "possibly one of the most significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare". The investigators testified they had also recovered an exchange from May 2010 between Manning and Eric Schmiedl, a Boston mathematician, in which Manning said she was the source of the Baghdad helicopter attack ("Collateral Murder") video. Johnson said there had been two attempts to delete material from the MacBook. The operating system had been re-installed in January 2010, and on or around January 31, 2010, an attempt had been made to erase the hard drive by doing a "zero-fill", which involves overwriting material with zeroes. The material was recovered after the overwrite attempts from unallocated space.
Manning's lawyers argued that the government had overstated the harm the release of the documents had caused, and had overcharged Manning to force her to give evidence against Assange. The defense also raised questions about whether Manning's confusion over her gender identity affected her behavior and decision making.
The judge, Army Colonel Denise Lind, ruled in January 2013 that any sentence would be reduced by 112 days because of the treatment Manning received at Quantico. On February 28, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges. Reading for over an hour from a 35-page statement, she said she had leaked the cables "to show the true cost of war". Prosecutors pursued a court-martial on the remaining charges.
The trial began on June 3, 2013. Manning was convicted on July 30, on 17 of the 22 charges in their entirety, including five counts of espionage and theft, and an amended version of four other charges; she was acquitted of aiding the enemy. The sentencing phase began the next day.
Captain Michael Worsley, a military psychologist who had treated Manning before her arrest, testified that Manning had been left isolated in the Army, trying to deal with gender-identity issues in a "hyper-masculine environment". David Moulton, a Navy forensic psychiatrist who saw Manning after the arrest, said Manning had narcissistic traits, and showed signs of both fetal alcohol syndrome and Asperger syndrome. He said that, in leaking the material, Manning had been "acting out [a] grandiose ideation".
A defense psychiatrist, testifying to Manning's motives, suggested a different agenda:
Well, Pfc Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and future wars, actually. This was an attempt to crowdsource an analysis of the war, and it was his opinion that if ... through crowdsourcing, enough analysis was done on these documents, which he felt to be very important, that it would lead to a greater good ... that society as a whole would come to the conclusion that the war wasn't worth it ... that really no wars are worth it.
On August 14, Manning apologized to the court: "I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that they hurt the United States. I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people. ... At the time of my decisions I was dealing with a lot of issues."
Manning's offenses carried a maximum sentence of 90 years. The government asked for 60 years as a deterrent to others, while Manning's lawyer asked for no more than 25 years. She was sentenced on August 21 to 35 years in prison, reduction in rank to private (private E-1 or PVT), forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge. She was given credit for 1,293 days of pretrial confinement, including 112 days for her treatment at Quantico, and would have been eligible for parole after serving one-third of the sentence. She was confined at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
On September 3, 2013, Manning's lawyer applied for a presidential pardon for his client. Coombs filed a Petition for Pardon/Commutation of Sentence to President Obama through the pardon attorney at the Department of Justice and Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh. In the petition, which was filed with the legal name "Bradley Manning" and used male-gender pronouns, Coombs contended that Manning's disclosures did not cause any "real damage", and that the documents in question did not merit protection as they were not sensitive. The request for a pardon included a supporting letter from Amnesty International which said that Manning's leaks had exposed violations of human rights. Coombs's letter touched on Manning's role as a whistleblower, asking that Manning be granted a full pardon or that her sentence be reduced to time served.
In April 2015, Amnesty International posted online a letter from Manning in which she wrote, "I am now preparing for my court-martial appeal before the first appeals court. The appeal team, with my attorneys Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward, are hoping to file our brief before the court in the next six months. We have already had success in getting the court to respect my gender identity by using feminine pronouns in the court filings (she, her, etc.)."
In November 2016, Manning made a formal petition to President Obama to reduce her 35-year sentence to the six years of time she had already served. On December 10, 2016, a White House petition to commute her sentence reached the minimum 100,000 signatures required for an official response. Lawyers familiar with clemency applications stated in December 2016 that the pardon was unlikely to happen; the request did not fit into the usual criteria.
In January 2017, a Justice Department source said that Manning was on President Obama's short list for a possible commutation. On January 17, 2017, President Obama commuted all but four months of Manning's remaining sentence. In a press conference held on January 18, Obama stated that Manning's original 35-year prison sentence was "very disproportionate relative to what other leakers have received" and that "it makes sense to commute—and not pardon—her sentence." Notwithstanding her commutation, Manning's military appeal will continue, with her attorney saying, "We fight in her appeal to clear her name."
On January 26, 2017, in her first column for The Guardian since the commutation, Manning lamented that President Obama's political opponents consistently refused to compromise, resulting in "very few permanent accomplishments" during his time in office. In response, President Donald Trump condemned Manning as an "ungrateful traitor" and said that she should "never have been released."
Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth's detention center at approximately 2 a.m. Central Time on May 17, 2017. Although sentenced during her court-martial to be dishonorably discharged, Manning was reportedly returned to active unpaid "excess leave" status while her appeal is pending. However, in July 2017, Manning tweeted from her verified Twitter account, "I am not in the army."
In a June 9, 2017 appearance on Good Morning America, her first interview following her release, Manning said she "accepted responsibility" for her actions, and thanked former President Obama for giving her "another chance".
The publication of the leaked material, particularly the diplomatic cables, attracted in-depth coverage worldwide, with several governments blocking websites that contained embarrassing details. Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, said: "I can't think of a time when there was ever a story generated by a news organisation where the White House, the Kremlin, Chávez, India, China, everyone in the world was talking about these things. ... I've never known a story that created such mayhem that wasn't an event like a war or a terrorist attack."
United States Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the leaks had placed the lives of American soldiers and Afghan informants in danger. Journalist Glenn Greenwald argued that Manning was the most important whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. In an impromptu questioning session after a fundraiser, captured on a cell phone video, President Barack Obama said that Manning "broke the law", which was later criticized as "unlawful command influence" on Manning's upcoming trial.
In 2011, Manning and WikiLeaks were credited in part, along with news reporters and political analysts, as catalysts for the Arab Spring that began in December 2010, when waves of protesters rose up against rulers across the Middle East and North Africa, after the leaked cables exposed government corruption. In 2012, however, James L. Gelvin, an American scholar of Middle Eastern history, wrote: "After the outbreak [January 2011] of the Egyptian uprising … journalists decided to abandon another term they had applied to the Tunisian uprising: the first 'WikiLeaks Revolution,' a title they had adopted that overemphasized the role played by the leaked American cables about corruption in provoking the protests."
A Washington Post editorial asked why an apparently unstable Army private had been able to access and transfer sensitive material in the first place. According to her biographer, Manning's sexuality came into play by illustrating for the far right that gay people were unfit for military service, while the American mainstream thought of Manning as a gay soldier driven mad by bullying.
A report written by the Department of Defense a year after the breach found that Manning's document leaks had no significant strategic impact on U.S. war efforts. The heavily redacted final report was not published until June 2017, after a Freedom of Information request by investigative reporter Jason Leopold.
In 2011, Manning was awarded a "Whistleblowerpreis" by the German Section of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms and the Federation of German Scientists. In 2012, she was awarded "People's Choice Award" awarded by Global Exchange. In 2013, she was awarded the Sean MacBride Peace Prize by the International Peace Bureau. In 2014, she was awarded the Sam Adams Award by Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
Icelandic and Swedish Pirate Party MPs nominated Manning and fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. In a statement to the Nomination Committee, the Pirate Party members said Manning and Snowden "have inspired change and encouraged public debate and policy changes that contributed to a more stable and peaceful world". In 2013, Roots Action launched a petition nominating Manning for the prize that received more than 100,000 supporting signatures.
In May 2015, Anything to say?, an art installation made of mobile bronze statues of Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange, was placed at Berlin's Alexanderplatz for a weekend, as a "monument for courage". Germany's Green Party sponsored the sculpture created by Italian sculptor David Dormino. Afterwards, the installation was moved and exhibited in different European cities.
In an article written by Manning, she says her first public appearance as female was in February 2010 while on leave from her military duties; Manning was exhilarated to blend in as a woman.
On August 22, 2013, the day after sentencing, Manning's attorney issued a press release to the Today show announcing that his client was a female, and asked that she be referred to by her new name of Chelsea and feminine pronouns. Manning's statement included the following:
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.
The news media split in its reaction to Manning's request; some organizations used the new name and pronouns, and others continued to use the former ones. Advocacy groups such as GLAAD, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) encouraged media outlets to refer to Manning by her self-identified name and pronoun.
In April 2014, the Kansas District Court granted a petition from Manning for a legal name change. An Army spokesman stated that while the Army would update personnel records to acknowledge the name change, the military would continue to regard Manning as a male. Manning sought hormone therapy and the right to live as a woman while confined, consistent with her gender dysphoria, which had been confirmed by two Army medical specialists. Such treatment is provided in civilian federal prisons when it is found to be medically necessary, but it is not available in military prisons. The Pentagon policy at the time considered transgender individuals ineligible to serve.
In July, the Federal Bureau of Prisons rejected a request by the Army to transfer Manning from the USDB to a civilian facility for treatment of her gender dysphoria. Instead, the Army kept Manning in military custody and said it would begin rudimentary gender treatment, which could include allowing her to wear female undergarments and possibly receive hormone treatments.
On August 12, 2014, the ACLU and Manning's civilian attorney David Coombs said Manning was not receiving treatment for her gender identity condition as previously approved by Secretary of Defense Hagel. They notified the USDB, Hagel and other Defense Department officials that a lawsuit would be filed if they did not confirm by September 4 that treatment would be provided. On August 22, Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Alayne Conway told NBC News, "The Department of Defense has approved a request by Army leadership to provide required medical treatment for an inmate diagnosed with gender dysphoria." Although Conway would not discuss "the medical needs of an individual", she did say, "In general terms, the initial stages of treatment for individuals with gender dysphoria include psychotherapy and elements of the 'real life experience' therapy. Treatment for the condition is highly individualized and generally is sequential and graduated." The Army declined to say when treatment might begin.
In September, Manning filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., against Secretary of Defense Hagel, claiming she had "been denied access to medically necessary treatment" for gender disorder. She sued to be allowed to grow her hair longer and use cosmetics, and to receive hormone treatments "to express her female gender".
On February 12, 2015, USA Today reported that the commandant of the USDB wrote in a February 5 memo, "After carefully considering the recommendation that (hormone treatment) is medically appropriate and necessary, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented, I approve adding (hormone treatment) to Inmate Manning's treatment plan." According to USA Today, Manning remained a soldier, and the decision to administer hormone therapy was a first for the Army. Manning was not allowed to grow her hair longer. Her ACLU attorney, Chase Strangio, said that the delay in approving her hormone treatment "came with a significant cost to Chelsea and her mental health".
On March 5, in response to Manning's request for an order compelling the military to use pronouns that conform to her chosen gender identity, the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals ruled, "Reference to appellant in all future formal papers filed before this court and all future orders and decisions issued by this court shall either be neutral, e.g., Private First Class Manning or appellant, or employ a feminine pronoun."
On March 14, the digital library host Cryptome posted an unsigned public copy of a court document, filed March 10, wherein the parties to Manning's September 2014 lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Hagel agreed to stay proceedings for seven months, after which time they would address how the litigation should proceed in light of Manning's status at that time. The document revealed that the Army was then providing Manning with weekly psychotherapy, including psychotherapy specific to gender dysphoria; cross-sex hormone therapy; female undergarments; the ability to wear prescribed cosmetics in her daily life at the USDB; and speech therapy.
In April 2015, Amnesty International posted online a letter from Manning in which she disclosed,
I finally began my prescribed regime of hormones to continue my overdue gender transition in February. It's been such an amazing relief for my body and brain to finally come into alignment with each other. My stress and anxiety levels have tapered off quite considerably. Overall, things are beginning to move along nicely.
In December 2016, Manning's attorneys reported that her military doctor, Dr. Ellen Galloway, refused Manning's request to change the gender on her military records to female.
In January 2017, Manning wrote to The New York Times that although months had passed, she had still not seen a surgeon. At the time of her release, Manning's attorney stressed that she would be pursuing her own medical care and "building her life on her own terms, separate from the military." Manning subsequently confirmed from her verified Twitter account that her healthcare from the military had stopped on May 16, 2017, and that she had secured a private health plan. She said her gender transition while in prison had cost "only $600 over 2 years," explaining that the Department of Defense "got meds at a markdown."
On May 22, 2017, Manning's 2014 lawsuit seeking a federal court to order the Defense Department to provide hormone therapy and other treatment for her gender identity condition was dismissed because, her ACLU attorney explained, "she is free."
In March 2015, Bloomberg News reported that Manning could be visited by only those she had named before her imprisonment, and not by journalists. She could not be photographed or give interviews on camera. Manning was not allowed to browse the web, but could consult print news and have access to new gender theory texts.
In April 2015, Amnesty International posted online a letter from Manning in which she described her daily life. "My days here are busy and very routine," she wrote. "I am taking college correspondence courses for a bachelor's degree. I also work out a lot to stay fit, and read newspapers, magazines and books to keep up-to-date on current events around the world and learn new things."
Also that month, Cosmopolitan published the first interview with Manning in prison, conducted by mail. Cosmo reported that Manning was optimistic about recent progress but said that not being allowed to grow her hair long was "painful and awkward … I am torn up. I get through each day okay, but at night, when I'm alone in my room, I finally burn out and crash." Manning said it was "very much a relief" to announce that she is a woman and did not fear the public response. "Honestly, I'm not terribly worried about what people out there might think of me. I just try to be myself." According to Cosmo, Manning had her own cell with "two tall vertical windows that face the sun", and could see "trees and hills and blue sky and all the things beyond the buildings and razor wire". Manning denied being harassed by other inmates and claimed some had become confidantes.
In February 2015, Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of Guardian US, announced that Manning had joined The Guardian as a contributing opinion writer on war, gender, and freedom of information. Viner added that Manning would not be paid in this capacity. In 2014, The Guardian had published two op-eds by Manning: "How to make Isis fall on its own sword" (September 16) and, "I am a transgender woman and the government is denying my civil rights" (December 8). Manning's debut under the new arrangement, "The CIA's torturers and the leaders who approved their actions must face the law," appeared on March 9, 2015.
On July 5, 2016, Manning was taken to a hospital after what media sources characterized as a suicide attempt. The following week, Manning confirmed through an attorney statement that she had attempted to end her own life. On July 28, 2016, the ACLU announced that Manning was under investigation and facing several possible charges related to her suicide attempt. She was not allowed to have legal representation at the disciplinary hearing for these charges. At the hearing, held on September 22, she was sentenced to 14 days in solitary confinement, with seven of those days suspended indefinitely. Manning emerged from solitary confinement on October 12, after serving seven days; she said that she was not given the opportunity to appeal the ruling before being placed in solitary.
In an article following her recovery, entitled "Moving On", Chelsea reflected on her change in identity, wishing people to see her no longer as "Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, a US Army Soldier... convicted..." but as a person. She used a selfie from 2008 to accompany the article.
In November 2016, Manning disclosed that she made a second suicide attempt on October 4, 2016, on the first night of her solitary confinement.
On September 9, 2016, Manning began a hunger strike to protest what she described as her being bullied by prison authorities and the U.S. government. On September 13, the ACLU announced that Manning had ended the five-day hunger strike after the Army agreed to provide gender transition surgery.
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. ...I also request that...you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun... . Thank you, Chelsea E. Manning
the soldier was found guilty in their entirety of 17 out of the 22 counts against him, and of an amended version of four others.
It is clear that leaked cables … played an important role in firing up the nation's disaffected youth. … No one is suggesting WikiLeaks and its editor Julian Assange can take full credit for toppling the corrupt Tunisian regime.
…the cables did have an impact.
...journalists and other officials should use her chosen name of Chelsea and refer to her with female pronouns. Using the name Bradley or male pronouns is nothing short of an insult. Media, having reported on her wishes, must respect them as is the standard followed by the AP Stylebook.
Key articles on the Lamo–Manning chat log, in order of publication
McGrath discusses the play in his Honorary Doctorate acceptance speech
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