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.

The second factor was the widespread and extremely lax security standards associated with Manning’s workplace, the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility prounounced SKIF). Many have heard and know the details of how Manning took classified data out of the SCIF, but what many don’t know are how SCIFs are supposed to be run. Every SCIF I’ve been near had a simple rule. Besides the rules of no phones, no cameras, no recorders, anything connected to a classified computer (classified data or SIPRnet access) also becomes classified. So CDs, DVDs, thumbdrives, external drives, etc., become classified material, and vice versa (a classified CD inserted into a nonclassified computer makes that computer “classified”).  You essentially lose ownership of those materials.  They become gov’t property and canny be removed unless ordered/Authorized by those controlling the SCIF.  Allowing movies, games and music CDs to be freely accessed in the SCIF was a clear violation that the officers and NCOs were aware was happening, even if they didn’t actually “see“ it.  When the Network Security Officer CPT Thomas Chrepko inspected, he repeatedly deleted unauthorized movies, games and personal files, to include one individual who had 500 gigs of unauthorized content on a secured computer. He further reported these violations to the BDE XO, LTC Brian Kerns, who exhorted the command to refrain from the practice, but no orders or strong actions were initiated. LTC Kerns would later acknowledge his mistake as he explained a theatre-wide lapse of network security awareness.

On 8 May 2010, Manning struck SGT Showman.  He was moved to the supply room. His weapon was taken away and his clearance revoked. Three weeks later he was under arrest for the crimes he would eventually be charged and found guilty of thanks to a hacker he befriended. MSG Adkins then shared the following letter and a picture of PFC Manning dressed as a woman from more than a year before with CPT Lim.

“‘This is my problem. I’ve had signs of it for a very long time. I’ve been trying very, very hard to get rid of it. It is not going away. It is haunting me more and more as I get older. Now the consequences are getting harder. I am not sure what to do with it. It’s destroying my ties with family. It is preventing me from developing as a person. It’s the cause of my pain and confusion. It makes the most basic things in my life very difficult.’ He said the only help that seems available is severe punishment. ‘I have a fear of getting caught and have gone to great lengths to conceal my disorder. It is difficult to sleep and impossible to have conversations. It makes my entire life feel like a bad dream that won’t end. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what will happen to me. But at this point I feel like I am not here anymore.” Signed, Bradley Manning.

A casual reading of the numerous witness statements at clearly demonstrates that HHC 2nd BDE’s numerous leadership failures, especially by SFC Adkins, CPT Lim, LTC Kerns and others, created an environment that facilitated Manning’s continued access and theft of classified data, but in no way did it cause it or relieve Manning of responsibility for his actions. We expect soldiers not to break the law, their oath or sacred trust despite poor leadership and supervision.