top secret

Who is Bradley Manning?

If you’ve been alive over the past few years, then you’ve probably heard the name Bradley Manning. Who is he, and what did he do? Technically, Bradley Manning is now a she, and goes by the name “Chelsea,” after recently deciding to live life as a female, after suffering from gender dysphoria for at least the past few years. That’s not why you keep hearing about her. Quite frankly, gender dysphoria has nothing to do with it, and the real reason for Manning’s notoriety is much bigger than the issue of gays and transgendered people in the military and has a much greater affect.

The story begins in 2008, when Manning joined the U.S. Military. After going through basic training, where she received much bullying from fellow soldiers, she eventually graduated as an Intelligence Analyst. A year later, Manning was deployed to Iraq where she continued to face much isolation due to her sexual orientation, but again, that is not where her supporters came from. Being an intelligence analyst, Manning had access to classified information on the military’s computers, which is where her story began.

While using the military’s computer system, Manning came across a shockingly large amount of what has been called “sensitive information.”  Simply put, documents, as well as video footage of war crimes committed by certain members of the United States Military. There were videos of innocent civilians viciously murdered without cause, proof of torture used, and all kinds of disturbing, as well as previously unknown, information. Manning previously contacted Wikileaks, a controversial website that posts classified documents, and other forms of information on the Internet for the public. Well, Wikileaks is why the name Bradley Manning first became part of the public’s consciousness.

Manning was discharged and arrested on charges of aiding the enemy, violating the Espionage Act, stealing government property, and a few others. This is how Manning began to gain supporters from all over the world, as well as some enemies in America. To people who disagreed with her actions, she was a “traitor” who jeopardize the safety of the U.S. To her many supporters, she had risked her own freedom for the sake of exposing atrocities, war crimes, and downright evil acts. Consequently, she was held for multiple years before going on trial in conditions some considered torturous, to the point of being placed on suicide watch. After a long period of cruel and unusual punishment, her mental state was certainly not its best. However, in June 2013, after imprisonment for 1,293 days, Mannings trial began.

The sentence was handed down this August. She avoided a life sentence, and although she was not found guilty of all charges, the judge still sentenced Manning to 35 years in a military prison.

Regardless of your, or my opinion about this event, the laws broken, or the consequences, the important question we should ask ourselves as Americans is…if we are punished for blowing the whistle on people who commit atrocities, what kind of system are we living in? If the person who shines a light on slain innocent people receives a harsher punishment than the people who took the innocent lives in the first place, isn’t something wrong here?

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  • Micaela Gardner

    Thank you for writing this. It’s important that we keep questioning the society we live in when these kind of atrocities occur. I also thank you for being respectful about her chosen pronoun. A lot of the media has been obsessing over what to call her, and to me it’s remarkably simple–she’s a self-identified female–treat her as such.