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Chelsea Manning Says Seeing The Horrors Of War Up Close Inspired Her To Reach Out To WikiLeaks


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Since President Barack Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence before stepping down in January, the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst turned leaker has kept a low profile since her release. However, that’s all about to change as, in a series of interviews with ABC News and the New York Times Magazine, Manning is speaking out about what she did and why she did it. What effect her comments will have on her detractors remains to be seen, but judging by what she told the Times, it’s a good bet more Americans may at least come to understand her reasoning.

Working in what’s called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, Manning didn’t experience actual combat during her deployment to Iraq. However, as Times contributor Matthew Shaer notes, “She could hear the shudder of car bombs and sometimes ran into soldiers, dazed and dusty, on their way back from a firefight.” These occasions, combined with the intelligence information Manning was required to “skim,” introduced her to the horrors of a “ceaselessly bloody war.”

“Doing my job, you couldn’t even really read all the files,” she explains. “You have to skim [and] get a sense of what’s relevant and what’s not.” Even so, as more and more accounts piled on, inundating Manning with countless accounts of bloodshed on all sides, she broke down. “At a certain point, I stopped seeing records and started seeing people,” she continues, adding: “Being exposed to so much death on a daily basis makes you grapple with your own mortality.” As a result of these collected experiences, Manning decided she had to do something and, after trying to contact various media organizations, settled upon WikiLeaks.


After her trial, sentencing and imprisonment, Manning hardly made contact with the outside world. Whenever she managed to do so through intermediaries, however, the reports were less than comforting — like when she went on a hunger strike protesting the military and prison officials’ treatment of her. Intriguingly, as Manning explains in the Times profile, her fellow prisoners did more to protect her while behind bars than anyone else who was there:

“Of all the people in my entire experience” in government custody, she said, the ones “who have been consistently good to me were the other inmates — like, I’m not saying they were excited or happy or approved of me or anything.” Manning says she counted a handful of inmates among her close friends, among them Clint Lorance, an Army platoon leader convicted of second-degree murder for ordering his men to open fire on three unarmed Afghan civilians.

Despite the qualification, such instances of protection — especially for Manning, who was transitioning at the time — may sound far-fetched. But as her Army-appointed lawyer, David Hammond puts it, “Remember that all these folks were active military before they were incarcerated.” As a result, the “discipline” soldiers are imbued with regarding their fellows’ well-being “carries over.”

(Via New York Times Magazine)



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Chelsea Manning Says Seeing The Horrors Of War Up Close Inspired Her To Reach Out To WikiLeaks

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