But an Army investigation has concluded that the commanders' decision not to heed the specialist's advice and their failure to properly discipline Manning may have contributed to one of the most high-profile classified military network breaches in decades, the military official said.
Manning, 23, an intelligence analyst, has been accused of downloading classified State Department and Pentagon files onto his personal computer. Last summer, he was charged with transmitting classified material to an unauthorized person.
The Army investigation, which is separate from an ongoing criminal inquiry, found that Manning's immediate supervisors did not follow procedures for overseeing the secure area where the classified information was kept, greatly increasing the risk of a security breach, the official said.
The investigation, which was conducted by Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the senior Army commander at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., was ordered by top Pentagon officials to determine how the breach occurred and whether broader institutional failings allowed Manning to allegedly download the documents.
Caslen is expected to relay his findings to the Army secretary this week and to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in mid-February, military officials said.
"There were serious leadership failures within the unit chain of command and gross negligence in the supervision of Pfc. Manning in Iraq," said a second official who is familiar with the Army probe.
The defense officials were not authorized to speak about the inquiries. An Army spokesman declined to comment on the criminal investigation of Manning or on Caslen's investigation of how the leak took place.
Manning lived in Potomac before joining the Army in 2007. The military was facing a shortage of intelligence analysts in Iraq when he was deployed there in 2009.
The internal Army investigation did not fault Manning's recruitment to the Army or the initial decision to grant him a security clearance, said the official familiar with the probe.
"Something happened in his personal life after he joined the Army," the official said.
A source familiar with Manning's mental health records indicated that the stress that led the soldier to seek help was caused primarily by a faltering personal relationship.
At Fort Drum, Manning balled up his fists and screamed at higher-ranking soldiers in his unit, said the official familiar with the Army inquiry. In Iraq, a master sergeant who supervised Manning was so concerned about the private's mental health that he disabled Manning's weapon in December 2009, the private's attorney, David E. Coombs, previously said. Also in Iraq, in May 2010, Manning was demoted a rank for assaulting a fellow soldier, the Army said.
If the concerns in the report are accurate, "this clearly demonstrates the failure of the Army to take care of the soldier," Coombs said.
The master sergeant charged with overseeing Manning's day-to-day activities kept extensive records of the private's alleged outbursts and shortcomings as a soldier, but did not discipline him properly or compel him to get help, said the military official familiar with the non-criminal Army investigation. "He wrote memos and kept records, but that is no replacement for positive leadership," the official said.
The investigation, some aspects of which were previously reported by McClatchy Newspapers, also concludes that Manning's company commander should have taken more decisive action following the soldier's disciplinary issues at Fort Drum and in Iraq. It is not clear whether the final version of the report will recommend disciplinary action against Manning's immediate commanders or the sergeants who oversaw him on a daily basis.
The Army investigation faulted Manning's immediate supervisors for running a lax Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility, or SCIF, an area that holds computers capable of accessing the classified Internet system used by the Pentagon and State Department. Soldiers were allowed to bring compact discs into the area to listen to music, military officials said. Manning allegedly used such discs to download classified information, they said.
The faulty security at the classified facility in Baghdad is likely to be raised by the defense in a prospective court-martial. If proper security procedures had been in place, the acts Manning is accused of committing would have been impossible, the second official said.
Manning attested to the lax security in online chats that he reportedly had with Adrian Lamo, a former computer hacker in whom Manning allegedly confided last May.
At one point, Lamo asked Manning why the server that contained classified material was not secure, according to a copy of the chat logs Lamo shared with Wired.com.
Manning replied: "You had people working 14 hours a day . . . every single day . . . no weekends . . . no recreation . . . people stopped caring after 3 weeks . . . there was no physical security."
He added: "Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis . . . a perfect storm."
Manning is confined in a Marine detention facility at Quantico, Va., awaiting a possible trial.