My conversations with Bradley Manning

Due to intense public interest, New York magazine and The Guardian have elected to publish my conversations with Bradley Manning ahead of time. I’ll also be making them available for download. The only redactions that have been made are to remove the identifying information of certain individuals.

I’m releasing these logs because, thus far, all that we’ve heard from Bradley himself is in the form of incomplete conversations from Adrian Lamo. That was during an exceptional time in his life, and it doesn’t give the whole picture of who Bradley is. I knew him as an intelligent, motivated and ambitious soldier who was dedicated to doing the best for his country, and I believe his words reflect that.

Regardless of what we might think of his actions, I feel it’s important that we develop a more balanced understanding of Bradley and his personal views. It’s my hope that this will provide valuable insight into someone who has undoubtedly made history.

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My conversations with Bradley Manning

Statement on the New York story and Bradley Manning

In February of 2009, I was contacted online by Private Bradley Manning, who has been implicated in the release of classified material to Wikileaks. He found me via my YouTube videos, and we spoke on several occasions until August of 2009. I haven’t been in touch with him since then. Bradley first reached out to me because he was interested in the topics I discussed and felt that we were of a similar mindset. He talked to me about his upbringing and various experiences growing up, and told me about his work as an intelligence analyst with the Army. He did express some frustration at having to work within various regulations while doing his job, but this didn’t seem to be a major problem for him, and I got the impression that he was relatively comfortable with his position.

Even though he spoke about living under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and being attacked by his platoon for being gay, it seemed like he was making the best of his situation. He told me the Army was a diverse place full of people of every race, religion, and sexual orientation. He took pride in his work, even bragging about it at times. As he told me, he just wanted to make sure that everyone would get home to their families safely. He did say that he had to delete his blog and his YouTube channel for security reasons, and that he was sometimes an anonymous source for some of his friends, but at no time was there any indication that he was planning on leaking classified documents. As far as I know, he didn’t begin doing so until several months later. To me, he never seemed like the kind of person who would do that. I lost touch with him after I changed my screen name, and I only recognized that he was the one who had been arrested after I saw his username in his conversations with Adrian Lamo. I have not been in contact with the authorities, or Adrian Lamo, or Wikileaks.

In March of this year, I was approached by a reporter with New York magazine who was interested in doing a story about my conversations with Bradley. That story has been published today. I provided them with our logs because I wanted them to see a different side of Bradley. I will be releasing the unredacted logs next week so that everyone can read them. After all of the stories portraying him as mentally unstable and revealing his problems at home and in the military, I felt it was important for people to know that there was a time when he seemed satisfied with his life. He had his struggles and hardships just as we all do, although I’ve come to learn that his difficulties ran deeper than I was aware of. But he also seemed like an everyday guy, someone who didn’t stand out as a threat, and someone I never expected to do this.

In particular, I find it deplorable that some have attributed his alleged actions to his sexuality or his gender identity. There are thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world who serve their country with honor. They have not done anything like this, and who they are is not even remotely a reliable indicator that they would pose some kind of security risk. It’s clear that Bradley was facing a variety of issues that were much more significant than simply being gay, and reducing all of this to his sexuality is extremely misleading. I’m also very disturbed that one of his counselors would apparently reveal private information about his gender identity. What they talked about is an intensely personal matter, and definitely not something to be broadcast to the entire world without his consent. If that is the case, this is highly unprofessional and a severe violation of trust.

Furthermore, the conditions under which Bradley was detained at Quantico are nothing short of outrageous. The extreme isolation in solitary confinement, forced nudity, and deprivation of even the most basic amenities may very well constitute a form of torture as recognized by various legal bodies. This treatment was blatantly inhumane and contrary to the recommendations of the brig psychiatrist. Bradley has not even been convicted of a crime, yet he was subject to indefensible punishment that can easily lead to permanent psychological trauma. There is no excuse for this. Likewise, it was clearly inappropriate for President Obama to declare that Bradley “broke the law” before his case has even gone to trial. That is the venue in which it will be determined whether he broke the law – not by the president’s proclamation.

At the same time, I find that I can’t entirely agree with the movement calling for Bradley to be released. While some have argued that his actions would be covered under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, I have to wonder whether this would be a viable defense. The Act is meant to protect servicemembers who report violations of the law. Although this may encompass the “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq which apparently shows the unlawful killing of civilians, as well as certain activities revealed in the war logs and diplomatic cables, it seems inevitable that not all of the leaked material is incriminating. Much of it, while certainly interesting, is merely embarrassing, or just mundane. While I don’t know what process Bradley used to select the documents he allegedly chose to release, it seems implausible that he could have identified criminal wrongdoing in all of the hundreds of thousands of cables and war logs. His actions appear to have been mostly indiscriminate rather than targeted.

There is a reason why this is against the law. We don’t know what’s in the documents that Wikileaks and the press have chosen to withhold or redact. In this case, it’s fortunate that the material was sent to them and could be examined before being released. Someone else could have just as easily posted it all on a public website or torrent, without making any effort to remove potentially dangerous information. While many feel that the release of these files has turned out to be positive for the world overall, it’s troubling to think that the mass leaking of classified material is always something for us to look the other way on.

But whatever the outcome, Bradley deserves a fair trial – he’s already been deprived of a speedy trial, and the effects of his prolonged confinement may have caused irreparable damage to his mental well-being. Regardless of what he might have done, he is a person, and he has rights. Everyone does. I still find myself wishing I had kept in touch with Bradley when he was considering whether to do this; perhaps things would have gone very differently for him. Against all odds, I hope that he’ll be treated well, and I wish him the best.

If you’d like to contact me about this, I can be reached at [email protected], or @ZJemptv on Twitter.

Zinnia Jones
July 4, 2011

Statement on the New York story and Bradley Manning

Focusing on the most irrelevant thing possible

Cliff Kincaid
Hey, remember Cliff Kincaid? The guy who said Uganda’s proposed gay execution bill only includes death “for deliberately spreading AIDS and engaging in homosexual behavior that threatens children and society”, when the death sentence could actually apply to any gay person who’s had consensual sex more than once (“aggravated homosexuality”), and the majority of HIV infections in Uganda occur through heterosexual contact? Yeah. Well, guess who I got a shout-out from…

Military Homosexual Scandal Tied to WikiLeaks Treason:

Gawker cites evidence that Manning contacted well-known trans videoblogger ZJ via AOL Instant Messenger as far back as February 21, 2009, and said that he enjoyed the videos on the site. “He just said he enjoyed my videos,” ZJ said. “He told me that me and him were on the same page.”

ZJ is “Zinnia Jones” and the site is linked to a Facebook entry for “Queer and Queer-Supportive Atheists,” described as “A group for atheists and agnostics who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, or otherwise queer, as well as straight allies. We support LGBT rights and oppose the influence of religion in the government and the law.”

(Oh, dear. There’s “well-known trans videoblogger ZJ” again.)

Really, “Military Homosexual Scandal”? So is it a scandal about a person in the military who happens to be a homosexual? Or is it a “homosexual scandal” in the military? Either way, why does that have any relevance here? Sure, he may have leaked thousands of potentially compromising documents about an ongoing war… but he’s gay!

Kincaid’s entire article is a morass of unsubstantiated rumors and insinuations:

It is apparent that Manning, based on published reports, was a public homosexual activist for at least over a year. During this time he apparently came up with the idea of downloading and releasing the classified information to WikiLeaks as a way to get back at the United States military over its policy regarding homosexuality.

If he had actually read any of Manning’s conversations, it’s obvious he had a number of concerns that motivated him to release the documents, but never listed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as one of them. He had already mentioned DADT when he spoke with me, all the way back in February of 2009 when he hadn’t even leaked anything and didn’t indicate that he was planning to. And he really didn’t seem very worried about it.

In another bizarre twist, reliable reports suggest that Private First Class Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army Intelligence analyst accused of leaking the classified information to the website, was not only a homosexual but was considering a sex change.

While it’s impossible to completely rule out that he’s trans, the support for this claim is extremely weak to nonexistent, and appears to rely solely on a creative interpretation of his conversations with Adrian Lamo. Nothing he said to me ever suggested that he was trans, or questioning his identity in any way.

The riveting Telegraph account of Manning’s growing rage and anger raises serious questions of how the soldier was able to flaunt his homosexuality despite the fact that the Pentagon still officially has a policy in place of excluding open homosexuals from military service.

So, it’s not really about his “growing rage and anger” – which would seem to be pretty important in terms of understanding his motives – but his homosexuality? Just think about this for a moment. Here’s two hypothetical scenarios:

  1. Manning was just as upset with the military, but he was also a heterosexual. Would his not being gay have been the only thing keeping him from making the same choice, under the same circumstances, for the same reasons? Why?
  2. Manning, while gay, was perfectly satisfied with the military and loved his job. Would his being gay have been enough to make him release thousands of classified documents, despite having no reason to? How?

Again, what makes this relevant to anything?

The dramatic revelations about Manning’s circle of friends and associates suggest that, rather than repeal the homosexual exclusion policy, as Obama is demanding, the prohibition on homosexuals should have been more strictly enforced and that it should be strengthened today. What’s more, it is clear that Manning should have been expelled from the Armed Forces long before he allegedly did his damage to U.S. national security.

How does a requirement of heterosexuality function as a reliable security measure? Are straight people inherently incapable of espionage? Does being attracted to the opposite sex guarantee loyalty, obedience, and a greater ability to keep secrets? This is what you would have to demonstrate in order to justify anti-gay discrimination as a useful method of threat reduction. Prove that you are a more capable person than us, because of who you love.

Would a more strictly applied anti-gay policy have kept Manning out of the military? Possibly. But what it wouldn’t do is ensure that a heterosexual wouldn’t have leaked the same material instead. It may end up excluding the gay soldier who would have turned that person in before they could do any damage, though. Do you see how this is a totally useless criterion?

It will be interesting to see how the pro-homosexual U.S. media deal with the shocking revelations about Manning – and whether they investigate whether he was part of a secret homosexual network in the military that is currently working with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, once part of a group called the “International Subversives.”

Oh, I see why he mentioned me…

What is this, the ’50s? It’s the Lavender Scare all over again! Really, if someone is crafty enough to infiltrate the military for the purpose of espionage, what makes you think screening out gay people would prevent this? If they can manage to stay under without being found out, how hard would it be for them to pass as straight? That would be trivial in comparison, and it’s exactly why excluding gay people fails to accomplish anything. And even if they could reliably keep out every gay person, do you really believe there would be no straight spies to replace them?

This is important because the Manning scandal provides ammunition to those who want to maintain the exclusion of homosexuals from the military. It proves in dramatic terms that homosexuals with gender identity disorders are potentially unstable and that their strange sexual preferences can subvert the military mission and cost lives.

Homosexuals are “potentially unstable”. Heterosexuals are “potentially unstable”. People with gender identity disorder are “potentially unstable”. People without gender identity disorder are “potentially unstable”.

It’s not about whether they’re “potentially unstable”, it’s about whether they actually are. And a person’s sexuality or gender identity is not useful information that would help in determining this. And since when is being attracted to men or women a “strange sexual preference”? Whichever you prefer, so does about half of the world population. How “strange”!

The only way this “provides ammunition” is if you’re a gutless hatemongering idiot. This is nothing but the same bigoted tactics we’ve come to know all too well: malicious generalization using one unflattering example to demonize an entire group of people, which is oddly never applied to all straight people based on the bad behavior of individual heterosexuals. So what makes it okay to mischaracterize gay people like that? Homosexuality and heterosexuality have nothing to do with it. Gay people serve in armies around the world, ours included. And they do their job as professionally and as competently as their fellow straight servicemembers. One prominent counterexample does not negate that.

Focusing on the most irrelevant thing possible