Yesterday, in the first excerpt from my new book, Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences, we noted that even after the uproar over the harsh conditions of his current incarceration at Quantico—facing serious charges for allegedly passing classified material to WikiLeaks—few know much or anything about his early life.
After tracing the days of his youth in Oklahoma, and kicking around at low-paying jobs after high school, we pick up the story after he has decided to join the military. The new book is available as an e-book here and print here.
According to Jordan Davis, his friend had always wanted to serve in the army. He “had views about the world,” and some of those views were very “pro-America, pro-Army,” Davis told reporter Ed Caesar of the Sunday Times of London. But he added: “I was a little worried about Bradley joining the army. I think he underestimated the culture of the military.”
He “thought it would be incredibly interesting, and exciting," Davis told another reporter, Denver Nicks. “He was proud of our successes as a country. He valued our freedom, but probably our economic freedom the most. I think he saw the US as a force for good in the world…”
But Manning’s father told a different story when interviewed in 2011 for a PBS Frontline documentary about Bradley. Brian Manning said his son had never wanted to join the military and only signed up after he pushed Bradley to do so. “I didn’t make him,” Manning told Frontline. “I twisted his arm and urged him as much as a father can possibly urge somebody…. because he needed structure in his life. He was aimless.”
While at Fort Huachuca in Arizona for training, Manning was reprimanded for posting messages to friends on YouTube that revealed sensitive information. Still, he gained the status of an intelligence analyst with a security clearance. Next, he was stationed at Fort Drum in upstate New York.
Manning spent the holidays at the end of 2008 in the Washington, DC, area, and announced he had a new boyfriend, Tyler Watkins, who was studying neuroscience and psychology at Brandeis, near Boston. Manning often visited him there. Watkins’s circle included hackers and other information-must-be-free advocates.
Later he met David House, a young researcher at MIT who hails from Alabama, at a conference House organized. “Clearly Bradley was somehow involved in the hacker culture,” House told the Guardian in March 2011. “But he looked a bit like an outsider. Bradley had obviously slept well, he hadn’t been up for days on end, his hair was fixed, he had showered. He wasn’t dirty, like a typical hacker is.”