Had the Army heeded a mental health specialist’s recommendation not to deploy Pfc. Bradley E. Manning to Iraq, one of the most extensive classified military network breaches may not have taken place. Manning is accused of passing semingly untold thousands of secret government documents to WikiLeaks. He was arrested by the Army after revealing that he had leaked video of a helicopter attack that killed two Reuters photographers and Iraqi civilians, and also some 260,000 diplomatic cables and intelligence reports.
According to the February 2nd Washington Post, an Army investigation has revealed that, in the words of an official who is ‘familiar’ with it, ‘”There were serious leadership failures within the unit chain of command and gross negligence in the supervision of Pfc. Manning in Iraq.”‘ Even though a specialist at Fort Drum, N.Y., recommended that Manning not go to Iraq, his immediate commanders (who make the final decision about whether or not a soldier is able to go to a war zone) deployed the private. The Army ‘was facing a shortage of intelligence analysts in Iraq’ when Manning was sent there in 2009 the Washington Post reports.
Accounts of Manning’s behaviors at Fort Drum and Iraq suggest that the Army should indeed have thought twice about deploying him:
At Fort Drum, Manning balled up his fists and screamed at higher-ranking soldiers in his unit, said the official familiar with the Army inquiry. In Iraq, a master sergeant who supervised Manning was so concerned about the private’s mental health that he disabled Manning’s weapon in December 2009, the private’s attorney, David E. Coombs, previously said. Also in Iraq, in May 2010, Manning was demoted a rank for assaulting a fellow soldier, the Army said.
The investigation states that Manning’s immediate commander ‘should have taken more decisive action following the soldier’s disciplinary issues at Fort Drum and in Iraq’; whether or not those charged with overseeing his daily activities will face disciplinary action remains to be seen. Manning’s immediate commanders have been faulted for ‘running a lax Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility, or SCIF, an area that holds computers capable of accessing the classified Internet system used by the Pentagon and State Department.’ Soldiers were allowed to bring compact discs into the area; Manning is alleged to have used such discs (some labeled ‘Lady Gaga,’ according to online chats he is said to have had with former hacker Adrian Lamo, as reported in Wired) to download classified information.
Top Pentagon officials ordered the investigation to be carried out, to determine ‘how the breach occurred and whether broader institutional failings allowed Manning to allegedly download the documents.’ The investigation was conducted by Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the senior Army commander at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. According to military officials, Caslen is expected to relay his findings to the Army secretary this week and to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in mid-February.
Manning is currently being held at a Marine detention facility at Quantico, Virginia. An August 2010 New York Times story about his earlier life suggests a troubled young man who joined the army in 2007 after briefly living out of his car; he had been kicked out of his family’s house in Oklahoma after his father learned that he was gay.
According to an unnamed official in the Washington Post, ‘if proper security procedures had been in place, the acts Manning is accused of committing would have been impossible’—and Wikileaks would not have been nominated for a 2011 Nobel Peace Price, and Tunisians might not have risen up against their then-president Ben Ali, and, and, and.
And, what if the Army had adequate services and coverage for soldiers with mental health needs?
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The Case of Pfc Bradley Manning
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