A shocking lack of basic discipline and intelligence security at the unit in which Bradley Manning worked before his arrest for allegedly transferring the largest trove of state secrets in American history to WikiLeaks has been revealed at his pre-trial hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Under cross-examination by Manning's defence team, the head of the intelligence unit at the military base in Iraq where Manning was posted painted a picture of staggeringly loose controls. Soldiers were allowed to store movies on secure computer databases, were permitted to bring in commercial music CDs to areas where secure computers were in operation, DVDs were left strewn about and there was no system for checking that classified information was not removed from the building.
Captain Steven Lim told the hearing that he was shocked when he was presented with a set of memorandums from Manning's immediate supervisor, Master Sergeant Paul Atkins. The memorandums chronicled emotional behaviour on Manning's behalf dating back to before he was deployed to Iraq in October 2009.
Yet Atkins did not warn Lim, or any of his other superiors in the chain of command, about Manning's problems until 3 June 2010 – after his May 25 arrest. The memorandums gave details of an email that Manning had sent Atkins in April that year in which the soldier confessed that he was suffering severe psychological problems including gender identification disorder that was making it difficult for him to do his job, to interact with other people or even to think.
Manning included a picture with the email of himself dressed as a woman.
The memorandums also itemised a series of incidents in which Manning had displayed emotional outbursts. He assaulted a woman supervisor and was demoted shortly before his arrest to the rank of private first class.
In December 2010 he had to be restrained after he flipped over a table and made to grab a gun from a gun rack. In another incident he was found curled up in a foetal position on the floor of the unit.
Questioned by Manning's defence lawyer, David Coombs, Lim admitted that the incident with the gun rack was not a "minor" disciplinary matter as earlier suggested by the prosecution. Had he known about it at the time, Lim said, he would have recommended that Manning be issued with a "derog" – a disciplinary complaint that would probably have seen him removed from the intelligence unit and stripped of his security clearance.
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That in turn, Lim admitted, would have meant that Manning would no longer have had access to the huge databases of state secrets from which he allegedly made his WikiLeaks downloads.
Because of his dereliction of duty in failing to pass on crucial information about Manning's state of mind to his superiors – at a key time in the soldier's alleged leaking to WikiLeaks – Atkins was demoted earlier this year to the rank of sergeant first class.
At the time of the WikiLeaks dump of classified information, Manning was working as an intelligence analyst inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad. His task was to pore over information about Shia attacks on US forces and draw from it patterns of behaviour that commanders would find useful in determining future deployments.
He was known as a "35 Fox" – indicating that he had received intelligence training and had security clearance.
Inside the SCIF he had the use of a so-called D-Sig computer – a secure machine through which he could gain access to secure databases of classified information including one called SIPRNet and another CIDNE. He was called an "all source analyst" in that he had access to all types of intelligence.
But Lim revealed that the culture within the SCIF was extraordinarily lax, with soldiers regularly allowed to behave in contravention of the military rule book governing the handling of sensitive information.
CDs and DVDs should all have been clearly labelled for classified information and registered with the head of security for the unit – but they weren't. Soldiers were allowed to insert CDS into D-Sig computers and to take them out of the unit without any reference to their supervisors.
Manning is accused of downloading a massive trove of secrets, including more than 250,000 US embassy cables, from the secure databases. He is alleged to have stored them on a Lady Gaga CD while lip-synching to her music.