Many ask how Bradley Manning was able to access, amass and expose 700,000 of our nation’s classified documents. The simple answer is the use of a Lady Gaga CD and abuse of the trust that was placed in him to not copy classified data and release it to the world. But failed leadership gave him an unparalleled opportunity. Pouring over various leaders’ own words as reported on  and Bradley Manning’s defense’s request for Article 32 witnesses portray a clear picture of the litany of errors. They are shocking but at no time do they excuse Bradley Manning from responsibility for his crimes. Doing so would be like blaming a bad cop for a criminal committing murder.

Manning served in a unit with some severe leadership challenges. COL David M. Miller, BDE commander, moved Manning’s officer in charge, Major Cliff Clausen, the S-2 or intel section chief, while deployed because after six months this officer didn’t “communicate information the way the commander needed it.”  Four months later, Manning’s company commander was relieved for poor accountability and decision making. These changes had no direct impact on Manning, but they do indicate some shortcomings in enforcing standards.

Bradley Manning was an analyst in the intel section of a BDE HQ of the 2nd BDE 10th ID. His unit was under great pressure to deploy. Intel analysts don’t grow on trees and aren’t easily replaced. The more problem troops a command leaves behind, the greater the challenge one places on a rear detachment which is a skeleton crew with varying levels of “talent.” Manning’s NCOIC MSG Paul Adkins knew things about PFC Manning that would have kept him home (a pattern of antisocial behavior, yelling at superiors, and pictures demonstrating he had gender identity issues, which would have been grounds for a chapter from the service). The NCOIC chose not to share those issues with his chain of command. Again, not an excuse for Manning’s behavior, but one of many mistakes that kept Manning in a position to hurt the nation.

Once deployed, two key factors emerged that facilitated Manning’s future crimes. First, his NCOIC was allowed wide latitude by the relieved S2. Not bad in and of itself, but mistakes were not corrected and MAJ Clausen had no relationship with his troops. This was allowed to continue under the new S2, CPT Steven Lim, where at least two officers and as many NCOs who voiced reservations about Manning, his behavior and suitability for access to classified info were told that this was “NCO business.” On one occasion where Manning was being counseled for being late, he flipped a table causing two computers and a radio to crash to the ground. He had to be placed in a full nelson by a warrant officer to calm down. He was counseled, but access to classified data and a weapon were still allowed.