Chelsea Manning 8: Intelligence Analyst

The recruiter in Washington, D.C. who enlisted Chelsea in late 2007 asked her what interests she had apart from a career in the military. She said she was interested in “geopolitical matters and information technology,” and the recruiter suggested she might be suited for work as an intelligence analyst. Chelsea liked this idea and decided to pursue it. As a result, after basic training, she was sent to train as an intelligence analyst in Arizona — at Fort Huachuca, the location of the United States Army Intelligence Center.(8, 1; 11)

In this second stage of training, Chelsea learned how to take pieces of information from various sources — such as first-hand reports of military action, diplomatic cables, and reports from undercover informants — and combine them into a clear, organized document that would be useful to her superiors. In her pre-trial statement, she makes it clear that she enjoyed “the mental challenges of reviewing a large amount of information from various sources and trying to create useful or ‘actionable’ products.” And she adds that she felt more comfortable at Fort Huachuca than she had at Fort Leonard Wood because she “no longer felt different than the other soldiers.” (8, 2)

In August 2008, after finishing her specialist training, Chelsea was posted to Fort Drum in northern New York state. It was there that her military career really began. She worked hard, and her abilities were recognized by her superior officers. But it was also there, it seems, where her inner struggles came more and more to preoccupy her mind.

Although she was now a full-time soldier, Chelsea was free to do as she pleased on weekends, and she had enough money to do some travelling. Not long after arriving in New York, she took part in a pro-gay marriage demonstration in Syracuse, about 100 kilometers to the south of Fort Drum. There, she approached a reporter from a high-school newspaper and told her that the worst thing about being a gay soldier was having to put up with the Army’s “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy which made gays feel even more like second-rate human beings than they did in the civilian world. She summed up the situation by saying, “The world is not moving fast enough for us.” (12)

Chelsea also travelled several times to Boston — about 400 kilometers to the southeast. There, she met Tyler Watkins, a student of neuroscience and psychology at Brandies University. They fell in love with each other and Chelsea began her first really serious romantic relationship. Tyler was part of the large hacker community in the Boston area and, through him, Chelsea came into contact with a whole new world.

One noteworthy event was her visit to a hackers’ workshop, “Builds,” at Boston University where she met the person who founded it, David House, an open government advocate and a computer scientist at yet another university, the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT).(1) In 2010, after Chelsea had been brought back to the US and put into a military jail in Virgina, David House visited her there several times and, a result, he was repeatedly harassed by army and government security agents. Around this time, David House also founded an influential organization, The Bradley Manning Support Network.(14) (see 13)

While she was stationed at Fort Drum, Chelsea also returned to Washington, D.C. about 500 kilometers to the south. There, she got in touch with an ex-boyfriend who took her into the city’s gay world and introduced her to political activists, government workers, and lobbyists who were part of it. (1)

Chelsea’s trips to cosmopolitan American cities brought her into contact with politically and technically sophisticated people. This must have made her more confident; and have made her realize that she was not as alone in the world as she had thought. Also, her romance with Tyler Watkins must have improved her spirits and brightened her outlook. Still, back at Fort Drum living in a barracks and with only other soldiers for company, she seems to have been lonely and unhappy. Despite her now quite lengthy experience of military life, she was still having trouble getting along with her fellow soldiers. She didn’t like either of her two roommates: one of them she thought was a racist; the other, she found homophobic. And she was still unable to control her temper: once she was reprimanded for throwing chairs around in an outburst of anger and, on another occasion, she got into trouble for yelling at a superior officer.

In August 2009, a year after arriving at Fort Drum, Chelsea was ordered by her supervisor, Sergeant Adkins, to consult an Army mental health specialist. He felt she was showing signs of “instability” and that she needed “anger management training”(5,1) Sergeant Adkins also — as was revealed in a later statement — thought that, perhaps, Chelsea should stay in the US rather than being sent to Iraq because she was “a risk to [herself] and possibly others,” but in the end he decided that Chelsea should be taken along because her temperament seemed to be improving and, most important, the army was badly in need of intelligence analysts. (1)

Things were made even harder for Chelsea during this period by the fact that her relationship with Tyler Watkins was going downhill. Chatting with one of her online friends, Danny, she wrote: “He doesn’t talk to me much anymore. Maybe I’m just being needy, but he is the only thing I have that I care about.” (1)

In the summer of 2008, Chelsea spent four weeks at Fort Polk in Louisiana in the far south of the US. There, at the Joint Readiness Training Center, soldiers were given final “pre-deployment” training in conditions that simulated as closely as possible those they would find in Iraq. (3, 114) Then, in October, 2008, after another short stint at Fort Drum, along with the rest of her unit, Chelsea was sent to Iraq.