Messages from alleged leaker Bradley Manning portray him as despondent soldier

The U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks offer unvarnished insights into the personal proclivities of world leaders.

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By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bradley Manning, 22, had just gone through a breakup. He had been demoted a rank in the Army after striking a fellow soldier. He felt he had no future, and yet he thought that by sharing classified information about his government's foreign policy, he might "actually change something."

A series of instant messages from Manning to a stranger open a window into the anguished state of the former Army intelligence analyst, who was detained late last month for allegedly leaking classified video and documents to Wikileaks.org.

The military has not detailed the allegations against Manning, who is being held in Kuwait pending an investigation, and his attorney could not be reached. His aunt, Debra van Alstyne, reached by phone, declined to comment on the allegations but allowed that the family was "shocked and surprised" by them.

"We love him, and we'll stand by him through this process," she said.

The logs of messages between Manning and Adrian Lamo, provided to The Washington Post by Lamo, reveal a young man who was at once privy to government material of the highest sensitivity and confronting a personal crisis of the highest order. While stationed in Iraq, he decided to turn to Lamo, a former hacker whom he did not know but who would ultimately report him to authorities out of concern that lives could be at risk.

"I'm an army intelligence analyst, deployed to eastern baghdad, pending discharge for 'adjustment disorder,' " Manning said by way of introducing himself to Lamo, who had recently been profiled on the Web site of Wired magazine.

"If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?" he wrote.

In the days that followed -- the two exchanged messages for no more than a week -- Manning seemed intent on impressing Lamo with what he could access from his post in Iraq. He wrote of a "database of half a million events during the iraq war . . . from 2004 to 2009 . . . with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures," as well as 260,000 diplomatic cables "explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective."

But much of the exchanges focused on Manning's unhappiness.

"Ive been isolated so long . . . i just wanted to figure out ways to survive . . . smart enough to know whats going on, but helpless to do anything . . . no-one took any notice of me," he wrote at one point. Another time, he wrote: "im a wreck."

In one particularly poignant message, Manning wrote: "my family is non-supportive . . . im losing my job . . . losing my career options . . . i dont have much more except for this laptop, some books, and a hell of a story."

Young man adrift

Manning was born in Crescent, Okla. His parents are divorced; his mother lives in Wales, his father in Oklahoma. He confided in Lamo that he was homeless in 2006 and had drifted from Tulsa to Chicago before landing at his aunt's house in Potomac.


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