What would you do if you’d have access to classified networks for fourteen hours per day, for seven days a week for eight months?
To this rhetorical question asked in 2010 to Adrian Lamo (the American Hacker who delivered her to the US Army), Chelsea Manning, born Bradley, already gave an answer.
But who’s Chelsea Manning?
Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, born Bradley Edward Manning (the name has been modified after the gender transition, but we’ll talk about that later), is the US Army ex analyst who in April 2010 delivered to WikiLeaks 90,000 files about the war in Afghanistan, 450,000 about the Iraq War and more than 250,000 cablegrams which “will change the public opinion about United States and the diplomacy activities”.
To draw the first chapter of Bradley’s existence it is necessary to dip the pen in the inkwell of suffering. Brad’s intimate major challenge, favored by the isolation in the rural American province (Manning spent great part of his youth in Crescent, a small town a few miles from Oklahoma City), is constantly fed by the sanctimonious religious conservatism that permeates in Crescent, a place where there are more pew than inhabitants. A narrow, morbidly believer situation, in which the hands of time seem stuck in the pages of Steinbeck’s tales.
The slow flow of Bradley’s youth is complicated by the figure of his father Brian, an American navy soldier of an intransigent and severe personality, who will undermine, with his lumbering presence, the already insecure nature of his son.
And exactly during adolescence an introverted, closed and rebellious Bradley knows the first heavy torments. In 2001, when Bradley was 13, his father suddenly abandoned his family and his Welsh descent mother decided to move to Haverfordwest, South Wales.
These are the years when Bradley becomes aware of his homosexuality and reaches a political orientation “increasingly critical of US foreign policy, without detracting from his patriotic feelings”.
However the uprooting from friends and affections convinced Bradley’s mother to send back her 17-year-old son to Oklahoma at the end of the school term.
A not very prudent choice because, once discovered his homosexuality, his father chased him away.
Without any real expectation, but with the desire to get back in the game, in October 2007, this blond boy from the Midwest enlisted in the US army.
He’s a smart, experienced and diligent nerd, thanks to his great love Tyler Watkins’s affinity and the Boston hacker environment incentives
in August 2008, after attending an intelligence specialization course in a military base in Arizona, Manning is already able to access government databases that shield the most confidential documents.
At this time he is sent to Iraq.
The start of the Iraqi mission, however, is rather stormy. More and more often Manning complains about the downgrade of his tasks: recriminations that are easy to find on social profiles. On Facebook, for example, he once wrote: “Bradley Manning is not an ornament.”
Nevertheless, Manning remains a scrupulous and talented analyst and, thanks to these skills, he will manage to make his way in Baghdad’s Contingency Operating Station Hammer.
The shifts stand by the small Bradley (less than 160 cm high) are exhausting, but also useful for noticing the fragility and defects of the security measures.
The opportunities to access to the most secret documents become privileged when the Crescent soldier is given two portable PCs containing the hottest top secret documents in the United States. “The first laptop is connected with the SiprNet (Secret internet protocol router network), used by the Department of Defense and the Department of State to share information in full security, the second one guarantees access to the Jwics (Joint worldwide intelligence communications system), a network where all classified communications converge”.
For days on end, accompanied by the music of the beloved Lady Gaga, Manning easily accesses the United States Government’s most burning and private material.
These documents show, without any doubt, the ambiguous face of American politics: an overflowing treasure chest made of files, secret videos that denounce the horrors of the Iraq war and cablegrams of diplomatic origin. No country is immune, no country is excluded.
They still don’t know, but the fate of Bradley and Julian Assange are one step away from intertwining forever.