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Pilkington writes: "Physically tiny in frame, she has proven to be over the past seven years oversized in the intensity of her resistance to anything she sees as unjust in the world, or disrespectful in terms of her own treatment at the hands of her military captors."

Chelsea Manning supporters hold up banners near the Pentagon in 2015 before delivering more than 100,000 signatures calling for new charges against whistleblower to be dropped. (photo: Mike Avender/FFTF)
Chelsea Manning supporters hold up banners near the Pentagon in 2015 before delivering more than 100,000 signatures calling for new charges against whistleblower to be dropped. (photo: Mike Avender/FFTF)


ALSO SEE: Julian Assange Will not Hand Himself
in Because Chelsea Manning's Release
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Russia Extended for Three Years

How Chelsea Manning Lifted Lid on Harsh Facts of US Wars and Military Justice

By Ed Pilkington, Guardian UK

18 January 17

 

A physically slight army private, shocked by the reality of America’s military mission, revealed US diplomatic secrets and was made to pay a heavy price

was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness.”

Those words were part of an 11-page letter written by Chelsea Manning and passed to the Guardian in March 2011 in which she outlined the harsh treatment to which she was being subjected in prolonged solitary confinement in the military brig at Quantico base in Virginia. She was then awaiting trial as the suspected source of the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, and going under the male name given to her at birth before her transition to living as a woman. The details of her detention were later denounced by the UN as a form of torture.

But the letter did so much more than that. It established Manning as one of the more formidable forces to be reckoned with within the modern US military, a reputation that she has more than lived up to since then.

Physically tiny in frame, she has proven to be over the past seven years oversized in the intensity of her resistance to anything she sees as unjust in the world, or disrespectful in terms of her own treatment at the hands of her military captors. She has expressed those passionate emotions in her regular Guardian columns and in a stream of legal documents aiming to secure her rights while incarcerated. More recently, in acts of distressing self-harming, she let it be known that she had attempted suicide.

On Tuesday, that dogged persistence on the part of Manning and her team of lawyers – her trial lawyer David Coombs, followed by her appeal lawyer Nancy Hollander and the attorney handling her transgender lawsuit, Chase Strangio – was finally repaid with a happier outcome. In a move that is likely to go down in history as President Obama’s most contentious decision to commute a sentence, made in the dying days of his term in office, he has ordered that she should walk free from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 120 days’ time, on 17 May.

That date falls just 10 days short of the seventh anniversary of her arrest in Forward Operating Base Hammer, outside Baghdad, where she had been stationed as an intelligence analyst in late 2009. She had been brought to the attention of military police just days before, when a hacker with whom she had been having a private internet interaction, Adrian Lamo, informed on her as the source of the giant transfer of US state secrets to the open-information website WikiLeaks.

Though Manning had been relatively lowly in rank – she was an army private – she had enjoyed extraordinary access to millions of pages of military intelligence from all around the world. In her job researching military patterns in the area surrounding her base in late 2009 and early 2010 she had grown increasingly disturbed by what she had discovered in the databases about the unequal face of modern warfare and the at times callous and brutal way in which the US exerted its vast military superiority against civilian populations.

She was particularly unsettled by a video upon which she stumbled, showing an US Apache helicopter attack on a group of people on the ground who had been assumed to be insurgents but were in fact civilians including two Reuters journalists. The footage was later published with immense impact globally as the “Collateral Murder” video.

Other hugely impactful material among her leaks, many of which were published initially by the Guardian as part of an international consortium of news outlets, included war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq and the US embassy cables that deeply embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s state department and helped propel popular uprisings in Tunisia and beyond.

Daniel Ellsberg, the source of the 1971 Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war, responded to news of Manning’s release by saying that he had waited 39 years since his own public interest act for someone to carry out a leak of such proportions. “Chelsea put up a large enough mass of secret information that it could not be discounted or dismissed as partial or misleading.”

Ellsberg added: “She paid a very heavy price for it. It was a price she shouldn’t have had to pay at all as she didn’t have a fair trial – she was unable to make a public interest defense for what she had done.”

Though Manning’s deep discomfort at the state of warfare that she unearthed in the intelligence databases to which she had access was the prime motivator for her leak of 700,000 secret documents, at trial the military court was told by her defense team that she had also been personally troubled at the time of the action. She was born in 1987 in Oklahoma City to a Welsh mother, Susan Fox, and American father, Brian Manning.

At around the age of 11 she endured the pain of her parents’ divorce and in the aftermath was present when her mother was rushed to hospital after her own suicide attempt. Following the divorce, Fox took Manning back to her native home in Haverfordwest in Wales where the young Chelsea spent most of her teenage years.

Returning to the US in 2005, Manning went on to join the US army in the hope of securing a college education through the GI Bill and of giving herself a purpose in life. By then she was already grappling with conflict in her gender identity: she had been assigned the male gender at birth but felt herself to be female, a condition known as gender dysphoria.

Most of the turmoil that lay within the soldier was obscured to those around her as Manning launched into a military career. A talented computer technician, she trained in intelligence analysis in Fort Drum, New York, before being sent out to Iraq to apply her skills in the war zone.

It was a challenging clash of temperaments: the strait-laced hierarchical order of the military at a time when the “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy was still in place butting up against Manning’s free spirit and her mounting distress over her gender struggles. The product was unpredictable and at times volatile – she quickly gained a reputation as an excellent and dependable intelligence expert, but she also got into trouble through outbursts of anger that led to disciplinary action against her.

Amid this whirlwind of conflicting impulses, she learnt about the free-data website WikiLeaks which was advertising its ability to accept secrets down an encrypted pipeline in which the identity of the source could be safeguarded. Pain-free whistleblowing, as it was billed.

It was into this pipeline that Manning shoveled her Everest-load of secret documents that she had copied on to a Lady Gaga CD on her laptop and then carried to the US on a camera SD card before uploading it to WikiLeaks. It has to be presumed that the US intelligence apparatus, with its omnipotent snooping devices, would have tracked her down eventually, but in the end she gave herself away by entering into an intimate online chat with Lamo.

The rest is history.

Over the almost seven years of her incarceration, the rollercoaster existence of Chelsea Manning has continued. In addition to the nine months of solitary she suffered in Quantico, she has also pursued an uphill battle to cajole and demand that the military allow her to live as a woman.

Held in a male military lock-up, she has been given gender realignment hormones and some cosmetics. But the army insists that she wears her hair at standard male length, and promises of surgery to complete her transition have so far failed to materialize.

Amid the ongoing trauma of her detention and gender issues, though, she has managed to perform an extraordinary public function, all the more striking for one held behind bars. In her Guardian columns, she has flown the flag for those she considers to be oppressed by the overweening nature of US government, while writing honestly and movingly about the difficulties of living as a woman.

As she walks out into the open air from Fort Leavenworth in May, Manning will face yet another strange twist in her extraordinary journey. She will have been freed by the very man who put her away: the leader who established a tougher regime for whistleblowers and official leakers than any in modern American history.

President Obama was the architect of Manning’s undoing; now he is her savior. He holds the record as the president who oversaw the prosecution of more leakers under the Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined; now he has spun on a dime, courting conservative and military outrage by setting her free.

It’s the story of her life. Chelsea Manning has for years found herself at the center of powerful opposing forces, from those around her and in herself, and in May she’ll be able to tell the world all about it for herself.

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+15 # tedrey 2017-01-18 21:52
I rejoice at her punishment being commuted, but point out that perpetrators of the war crimes she revealed didn't serve a day in prison. In fact, the cover-up of reported war crimes is also a crime (see American UCMJ), and her judges were guilty of that also.

http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com/2013/07/committing-war-crimes-is-duty-reporting.html
 
 
0 # DongiC 2017-01-19 19:53
If you blow the whistle on war crimes, the perpetrators will get you and you won't be free to tell what you know. Why do you think our country is hated so.?
 

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