FT. MEADE, Md. – Army Pfc. Bradley Manning pleaded guilty Thursday to sending huge digital archives of secret U.S. military and diplomatic records to the WikiLeaks website, saying he was motivated by a U.S. foreign policy “obsessed with killing and capturing people.”
Manning, 25, sat erect in dress blues beside his lawyers in a military courtroom and read aloud for more than an hour – slowly but sometimes stumbling over his words – from a 35-page, handwritten statement that described his personal angst over America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I began to become depressed with the situation we had become mired in year after year,” he said.
After his nearly three years in jail, Manning’s sometimes rambling, sometimes riveting confession offered the first public insights into what drove the former low-level intelligence analyst to play a role in what prosecutors called the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history – an estimated 700,000 documents in all.
It is unlikely, however, to settle the argument of whether the pale, thin soldier in wire-rim glasses deliberately aided America’s enemies and put U.S. lives at risk, as prosecutors contend, or was a whistle-blower who committed civil disobedience to expose flaws in U.S. policies, as his supporters say.
Manning said his goal was to spark a domestic debate about U.S. foreign policy and “to make the world a better place.” He said he thought the leaks “might be embarrassing” but would not harm the United States.
Manning said he alone was responsible for uploading to WikiLeaks highly classified combat videos of U.S. airstrikes that killed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, detailed logs of U.S. military patrols and incidents, a memo from an unnamed intelligence agency, assessments of terrorism suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the globe.
The release of the material on the anti-secrecy website beginning in February 2010 outraged U.S. officials, who said the leaks endangered intelligence sources and that the sometimes unflattering diplomatic dispatches embarrassed key allies. In Tunisia, allegations of corruption revealed in the files helped spur civil unrest that ultimately overthrew the autocratic regime.
Prosecutors are expected to present a detailed assessment of the alleged damage to national security caused by the leaks when Manning is sentenced.
Under a plea arrangement, Manning pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 criminal charges of misusing classified material, including unauthorized possession and willful communication of information from military databases. He is expected to be sentenced to 20 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge from the military.
But Manning also pleaded not guilty to 12 far more serious charges, including aiding the enemy and multiple counts of violating the Espionage Act. He is scheduled to face a court-martial beginning June 3. If convicted, he could face a life sentence.
Defense lawyers hope that prosecutors will decide that 20 years is enough punishment and will dismiss the remaining charges to avoid a public court-martial with 140 witnesses discussing a deeply embarrassing breakdown in the military’s system for safeguarding classified information.
The public relations fallout for the military already has been significant. Protesters urging Manning’s release routinely converge at the gates of Ft. Meade for pretrial hearings. On Saturday, they marked his 1,000th day in custody with rallies in 70 cities in the U.S. and abroad.
Manning’s comments were his first in court since November, when he testified about the harsh treatment he received at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia after he was arrested in Iraq in May 2010. He said he was held in solitary confinement at Quantico for up to 23 hours a day, and considered suicide.
Asked repeatedly Thursday by the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, if he wanted to go forward with the guilty pleas, Manning answered each time with short, crisp words: “Yes, ma’am,” and “Yes, your honor.”
He then read his statement. “I am a 25-year-old private first class in the Army,” he began.
Manning said he enlisted in the Army to gain “real world experience,” telling recruiters he was interested in “geopolitical matters” and advanced computer skills. He said he nearly washed out during basic training because “I quickly realized I was neither physically or mentally ready.”
But he persevered, he said, and eventually was deployed as an Army intelligence analyst with a top-secret clearance to Contingency Operating Station Hammer near Baghdad. Upset by what he read in diplomatic cables and on a classified military network, he said he soon began collecting and storing classified material, taking some of it home to his quarters and printing or downloading it on his personal laptop.
“I looked everywhere and anywhere for information,” he said.
In December 2009, he said, he started “conducting research” on WikiLeaks because the website seemed dedicated to “exposing corruption.” He continued to follow the site, because “it is something good analysts do…I routinely monitored their website.”
While on leave visiting his aunt in Potomac, Md., he said, “I tried to decide what to do with” the classified material on his personal computer. He traveled to Boston and told his boyfriend, Tyler, about the material, but he “was not excited about it.”
When he returned to Maryland, a blizzard hit; so, suddenly snowbound, “I debated what to do” about the materials, he said. “Hold on to them or disclose them to a press agency?”
He said he called the Washington Post, but a reporter said she “did not believe him” and turned down his offer to provide the secret files. He said he then called the New York Times public editor and left a message, but “I never received a reply.”
In February 2010, sitting in a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Rockville, Md., he visited the WikiLeaks website, he said, and “I clicked on the Submit Documents link.”
Over the next few months, he uploaded other documents and material, including encrypted gun-sight video and audio from a July 2007 incident in Baghdad in which two U.S. Apache helicopters killed a dozen people, including a photographer and driver working for the Reuters news agency. The military later said the helicopter crew mistook a camera lens for a weapon, but Manning called the video “war porn.”
In leaking the classified material, he added, “I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience.”
This week's blog is now for Period 3 only, at least for now; each class will revisit this thread once they've read the book.
There’s a soundtrack to this week’s blog entry. (A tip of my cap to you if you can figure out why I used each song/sequenced them as I did.)
This is one of those posts where you’ll probably get even more out of it if you were around for the first semester; as long as you’ve learned the Star concepts and kept thinking about your Foundation Questions, you should be fine no matter what. (If you were a first-semester student, however, I’ll be curious to see whether you can tie this back to what you’ve already learned.)
I wrote the first version of this post about three years ago, back before the NFL Draft in question. I tried to keep the vast majority of my initial perspective unchanged; I want you to approach the topics at hand from that perspective, a position where you don’t know how this all turns out yet. (This is why I reference 2010 as the “present.”)
Obviously, many of the questions the post raises – and that I ask near the end – have been answered since then. I’ll provide an update after the prompts/requirements sections at the bottom that advances the narrative all the way up to the present day, but if you don’t already know what happens, I strongly encourage you to avoid reading my update at the very bottom – or anyone else’s responses – until you’ve written your first draft.
That said, I do want you to read the update before you submit your post; the “truth,” as it were, may change your original response (just as Senior Project research may crush a couple of your preconceptions about your career).
If you end up changing your mind after reading the update, don’t delete what you wrote. I love looking behind the scenes at how creative works are made – I’m one of those people who actually watches the Extras on his DVDs – and I’d like to see what you originally composed. Past students who needed to write additional post-update material divided their entries into boldly-titled sections: Original Work and Now That I Know.
Finally, please make sure you’ve read – and really considered – all of the prompts before composing your response. I knew that the first thread would be pretty home-obsessed, and while I really liked it, I felt like the second thread also trod the same ground. This isn’t uncommon; the first thread always tends to fixate on the main body’s main topic, or at least what seemed to be its main topic. But I come up with a bunch of prompts because I (somewhat selfishly) prefer as much variety within these threads as possible; please try to use material that’s distinctly your own!
NOTE: This isn't yet finished, but I'll open it now and keep updating until it's done.
For writers, this was where some sort of dusty magic lived, and people came looking for it as if visiting a religious shrine, leaving an offering and hoping something intangible would be given in return. Wright Thompson
After reading the syllabus, please submit your signature, as well as contact/other relevant information, via the following Google document.
Homework Assignment #1: Fill out the Google document and sign up for the Turnitin.com section by the beginning of class on Wednesday, January 30th. You must do both in order to be in the class, but you can only get the points for signing up if you beat that due date.
Some other key notes:
+ With very few exceptions, all work in this class will be submitted to Turnitin.com - even work that you've already posted publicly here. Your Turnitin.com class ID is 6046032, and your enrollment password is B2B2.
+ During the first semester, I used a single blog for my Search for Human Potential and Myth to Science Fiction courses. During the second semester, your blog will be kept separate from the Myth to Science Fiction blog. While both Myth/Sci-Fi and World Lit will, at times, work on similar or identical assignments (the Senior Project chief among them), the scope of each course is different enough to warrant different pages.
+ If you're unfamiliar with posting - either technique-wise or etiquette-wise - check this thread for some fantastic examples. (If you want to see how this year's kids took on the same sort of thread, click here for Myth/Sci-Fi's and here for SFHP's versions, respectively.)
+ If you don't know how to leave a post on these blogs (how to log in, etc.), click "Continue Reading..." at the bottom of this thread.
+ Once we begin submitting assignments to Turnitin.com, please remember to upload your documents in a Turnitin-approved format (.doc, .docx, .rtf). Turnitin will not accept OpenOffice documents, although I can open them on the school's computer if you need to submit via e-mail. Please avoid submitting work to Turnitin via copy-and-paste; doing so strips your assignment of MLA formatting, paragraph breaks, and so on.
Also, when submitting work in this class via Turnitin (no headers necessary on blog posts), your MLA-formatted header will always appear in the upper left corner of your page. It looks exactly like this:
First Name Last Name
World Literature - Period #
31 January 2013
Notice that you do not use an honorific (Mr.) with my name; that there's a space before and after the dash in the third line; that you'll fill in your period number yourself; and that the due date (which you now use in your headers) is written in a Day Month Year format. (I do not care whether the header is single- or double-spaced, but proper placement is important.)