The man suspected of leaking government information to WikiLeaks, and held in arguably torturous conditions for nearly a year now, was a troubled teenager, according to a PBS Frontline segment airing on Tuesday night. Bradley Manning threatened his stepmother with a knife and was subsequently removed from his father’s home in 2006, at the age of 18, a 911 tape reveals. Manning’s father tells PBS that his son was “yelling and, you know, kind of tossin’ some stuff around and … it just reached a point where my wife felt vulnerable. And she just was, you know, was scared. And so she called 911….” Manning’s father fell to the floor during the commotion, fresh from surgery, and so the woman called the police. But is the clip too sensationalist?
“The Private Life of Bradley Manning,” a ten-minute segment, is meant to illustrate Manning’s violent tendencies, demonstrated elsewhere when he punched an Army colleague, earning a demotion from specialist to private first class. “I had about three breakdowns, successively worse, each one revealing more and more of my uncertainty and emotional insecurity,” Manning told Adrian Lamo, a hacker and FBI source involved in Manning’s WikiLeaks arrest. Manning also lost a job at a software company because of “a heated confrontation with his boss,” according to Wired, which was home to the original reporting on Manning’s WikiLeaks ties and today plus the PBS news feature.
The PBS clip airs tonight, but can be seen in full here, and serves as a teaser to a longer Manning documentary slated for May.
But at The Nation, Greg Mitchell, who has written e-books on both WikiLeaks and Manning, is critical of PBS for including a title card “that simply reports that Manning is currently being held in the brig at Quantico — without describing the conditions he is held under, or mentioning that this has been roundly denounced by human rights organizations and even Hillary Clinton’s top spokesman at the State Department (who lost his job after protesting).” Additionally, the video “makes no mention whatsoever of his political or philosophical views (he was against the Iraq war, attended a gay rights rally, and wore a ‘humanist’ dog tag after joining Army),” focusing instead on his personal dramas. At TechEye, a writer wonders “why Wired is so keen on putting the boot into Manning after its reporting got him locked up.” But the PBS strategy, and Wired‘s support, seems to be less politically motivated and more about getting eyeballs, especially with the longer Manning feature coming soon.
See it for yourself here.
UPDATE: In response to the TechEye quote above, Wired senior editor Kevin Poulsen notes that it’s “false to write of Bradley Manning that Wired‘s ‘reporting got him locked up.’ Our first report on Manning revealed that he’d been locked up over a week earlier. It did not cause it.”