There’s been more than a lot of talk and attention focused on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who seems to have become quite the master of the inflammatory sound byte, not mention having sold his memoirs for seven figures. But what about the 23-year-old Army intelligence analyst, Pfc Bradley Manning, accused of passing semingly untold thousands of secret government documents to WikiLeaks and now being held in solitary confinement since May at Quantico, Va., under suicide watch?
Manning was arrested by the Army after revealing to a computer hacker 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. A New York Times story dated August 8, 2010, provides some details of Manning:
At school, Bradley Manning was clearly different from most of his peers. He preferred hacking computer games rather than playing them, former neighbors said. And they said he seemed opinionated beyond his years about politics, religion, and even about keeping religion out of politics.
Manning spent his childhood and teenage years living both rural Oklahoma (where his father is from) and Wales (where is mother is from). As a teenager in Oklahoma, his father found out that he was gay and kicked Manning out of the house. He joined the army in 2007 after briefly living out of his car. But in the army, ‘his social life was defined by the need to conceal his sexuality under “don’t ask, don’t tell” and he wasted brainpower fetching coffee for officers.’
Manning is not without his supporters, including a non-profit in Oakland, California, Courage to Resist, which has issued a call to ‘help end the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning.’ Courage to Resist sells bumper stickers, whistles, and other items with the jailed private’s face imprinted on them. The group has raised more than $100,000 towards Manning’s legal fund, the December 26th New York Times notes. A member of the Oakland organization visits Manning every two weeks. Manning also has the support of Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
Nonetheless, as the New York Times observes, Manning
has never publicly defended himself in political or moral terms, and questions remain about what Private Manning may have leaked.
The lack of clarity surrounding Private Manning’s involvement has made building public support a challenge, even in friendly forums like the Berkeley City Council, which last week declined to back a measure calling Private Manning a hero.
Assange says that ‘he has never spoken with Private Manning and does not know who is behind the leaks.’ He has also stated (to ABC News) that the Wikileaks was ‘“designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never know the identities or names of people submitting us material.’”
All right. But isn’t this yet another instance of Assange ducking and presenting himself as above, beyond, or not to be bothered by the moral principles that guide the rest of us—-as unaccountable to anyone but himself?
Photo by Takver.