An Army investigation of the breach of US government documents released to Wikileaks found “serious leadership failures” and “gross negligence” in Pvt Bradley Manning’s supervision in Iraq, an official familiar with the investigation has said.
The investigation centers around Manning, currently held in solitary confinement at Quantico marine brig in Virginia, and his alleged download of sensitive government documents and subsequent transmission of that material to Wikileaks.
Among the investigation’s findings is the recommendation by a Fort Drum, NY mental health specialist that Manning not be deployed to Iraq, a suggestion that Manning’s immediate superiors disregarded and instead, deployed him anyway.
According to the military official, the Army investigation has determined that that decision by Manning’s immediate superiors along with a failure to discipline him could have contributed to the eventual publishing of tens of thousands of sensitive US government documents in what the Washington Post calls “one of the most high-profile classified military network breaches in decades.”
The Washington Post reported last June that Manning was “confronting a personal crisis of the highest order.” Apparently, that crisis involved documents that Manning described in a message to Adrian Lamo, the computer hacker who Manning exchanged information and ultimately reported Manning, as “how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective.”
The Army investigation, conducted by Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, senior Army commander at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., was part of a Pentagon order to find out how Manning allegedly accessed the documents and what other security failures occurred in the breach.
The Washington Post reports a second military official familiar with the investigation said: “There were serious leadership failures within the unit chain of command and gross negligence in the supervision of Pfc. Manning in Iraq.”
The news comes on the heels of recent information by US military officials that an investigation has failed to find a link between Manning and Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, thus creating a hurdle for the government as it attempts to target Assange on espionage charges.
According to NBC News:
“The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.”
The issue of Manning’s solitary confinement and conditions that Amnesty International calls “harsh and punitive” is a result of what the Pentagon categorizes as a “misnomer” that is the result of “liberal bloggers” and has warned journalists to “be extraordinarily careful” in their reporting of the affair.
Liberal bloggers or not, the fact remains that Quantico Brig Commander James Averhart placed Manning on suicide risk on January 18 without the authority to do so, a decision that can only be made by medical personnel, NBC News reports. That move allowed officials at Quantico to have Manning stripped to his underwear and confined to his MAX custody cell 24 hours per day.
As a result, Manning’s lawyer had to file an Article 138 Complaint to have Manning removed from the suicide risk. Only after the complaint was filed did Quantico change his status back to MAX custody and Prevention of Injury (POI) watch. David Coombs, Manning’s lawyer, has called the treatment being dished out at Manning as “abuse.”
Adding to the drama is news this week from the Norwegian Nobel Committee that Wikileaks has been nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, a nomination that Snorre Valen, Norwegian parliamentarian calls “a natural contender” for the prize.