Reports that a U.S. Army intelligence analyst who’s accused of leaking classified information is gay have raised questions about whether a resentment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could have motivated his alleged crime.
Pfc. Bradley Manning, 22, is the prime suspect in the investigation of leaked video footage showing a U.S. Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad that killed 12 civilians, including employees of a Reuters news agency.
Manning allegedly gave the footage to WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing website devoted to disclosing the secrets of governments and corporations.
In an instant message conversation with a friend, Manning reportedly said he was responsible for the leak as well as another video showing a 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan. He also reportedly claimed to have 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that would reveal the inner workings of U.S. embassies.
“Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,” Manning said in the conversation, according to Wired.com.
Additionally, Manning is a person of interest in an investigation seeking to determine the source of thousands of secret documents leaked related to the Afghanistan war. But as of earlier this week, Manning reportedly hadn’t been formally named as a suspect in the matter.
The charges against Manning are serious. Lt. Col. Rene White, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Manning is under investigation “for allegedly improperly downloading, storing and disclosing to unauthorized third parties classified or sensitive [U.S. government] documents or media.”
White said Manning is being held in the brig at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.
“Manning will remain in pre-trial confinement as the Army continues its investigation,” White said. “We don’t know if Pfc. Manning is the source of the recently leaked documents. We are assessing them now to determine the potential damage to lives, sources and methods and national security.”
Courtney Whittmann, a spokesperson for U.S. Army Military District of Washington, said Manning could face up to 52 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge as well as forfeiture of all pay and allowances. She said the court of his appearance is yet to be determined.
As this investigation is underway, a report from British media describing Manning as gay is raising questions about whether discontent with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” contributed to his alleged decision to leak the classified material.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Manning is openly gay and had several postings on his Facebook page that he was unhappy with the military and was going through relationship troubles with a same-sex partner.
At the beginning of May, Manning reportedly wrote he was “livid” after being “lectured by ex-boyfriend,” then later posted that he was “not a piece of equipment” and was “beyond frustrated with people and society at large.”
In the same month, when he was serving at a U.S. military base near Baghdad, Manning reportedly changed his status to: “Bradley Manning is now left with the sinking feeling that he doesn’t have anything left.”
The publicly viewable portion of his Facebook profile this week listed the Washington Blade as among his favorite pages as well as several other LGBT-related pages, including the Human Rights Campaign, gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and “REPEAL THE BAN — End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
After Window Media closed the Blade late last year, Manning donated $120 to a “Save the Blade” initiative that helped re-launch the paper, according to Blade records.
Manning has also been seen in gay venues in D.C. and was present at the National Stonewall Democrats’ Capital Champions event in 2009.
Jon Hoadley, a gay activist and former Stonewall Democrats president, is among those who know Manning. Still, Hoadley said he said he didn’t know Manning well and hasn’t seen him in more than a year.
“Other [than] through some Stonewall events and stuff like that — and through a few friends — I didn’t know him really well,” Hoadley said.
Whittmann, the Army military district of Washington spokesperson, said she didn’t immediately know whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a factor in the investigation of Manning, but said she would look to find more information on the matter.
The co-director of OutServe, an organization for LGBT active duty service members, said he was skeptical that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” played a role in Manning’s alleged decision to leak classified information.
OutServe’s co-director, who’s adopted the alias J.D. Smith to avoid being outed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” said he didn’t think Manning’s discontent with the law led him to his alleged decision to leak classified information.
“From what I’ve being reading on this situation, he had a lot of issues that he was dealing with — not just about his homosexuality,” said Smith, who noted OutServe has had no contact with Manning. “We don’t know all the factors. All the details haven’t come out to the public yet.”
The Family Research Council has seized on reports that Manning is gay to drum up opposition to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In an e-mail blast, Tony Perkins, president of FRC, called Manning an “extreme homosexual activist” and said his “fury over the services’ homosexual policy may have led him to publicize highly classified documents about the wars.”
“Unfortunately for all of us, Manning’s betrayal painfully confirms what groups like FRC have argued all along: the instability of the homosexual lifestyle is a detriment to military readiness,” Perkins wrote.
John Aravosis, a gay D.C.-based blogger, responded to the FRC mailing on his website, Americablog.com, calling it evidence of the continued lies and distortion that FRC puts forth on LGBT issues.
“FRC cites the Telegraph, and claims that the Telegraph says Manning has an ‘extensive history’ of campaigning for gay rights,” Aravosis wrote. “In fact, the Telegraph article mentions that Manning once showed up at a single gay rights rally — that’s it. How is that an ‘extensive’ history as an ‘extreme’ gay activist? It’s not.”
Aravosis also disputed the notion that evidence exists showing that anger over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” led Manning to leak classified information.
“Finally, there’s nothing, anywhere, to suggest that Manning had any ‘fury’ over [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’], or that, even if he did, such fury led him to leak the documents,” Aravosis said. “Where did FRC come up with it?”
Smith said FRC’s decision to try to solicit funds over the charges against Manning is “pretty awful.”
“There are plenty of instances where straight soldiers have done things as well,” Smith said. “And I don’t think they should [be] playing this as homosexual treason at all. I think that we need to be very careful in how this is portrayed.”