Interview Brian Manning

Brian Manning

In this exclusive interview, Bradley Manning's father tells FRONTLINE about his son's upbringing in small-town Oklahoma, Bradley's love of computers, the explosive altercation with his son that led to police being called to the family's home and why he convinced his son to join the Army. This transcript is drawn from two interviews, conducted on Feb. 28 and March 7, 2011.

Why have you decided, at this point, to speak?

The only reason I decided to come forward at this time is because there's so much misinformation out there about Bradley's early life, his later years as he progressed, and the basis of why he took the path of joining the Army. ... I wanted to straighten all that out. There's been so many things that have been misrepresented. Flat-out incorrect information has been put out there by people that I don't even know.

“People need to understand that he's a young man that had a happy life growing up.”

And I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for any other member of the family. I am not speaking for Bradley. These are my words, my truths. If I know something that's incorrect, I'll correct it. If I don't know something, I'll say, "I don't know that." And if there's some information that you don't have and I think is pertinent to Bradley's story, I'll supply that for you.

And I want to do this with public broadcasting because it's a media that I, all the time, listen to. I'm a supporter of PBS. I listen to Morning Edition and the afternoon show, All Things Considered, and have for many, many years.

To NPR?

Yep. NPR, National Public Radio. So I thought it would be a better platform to go forward on a media that I trust and that I've listened to for many years. ...

My son, unfortunately, he's in a brig. He's been accused of something, but hasn't been incriminated or judged in a court of law or anything. I have no power over that. But, you know, I have [to talk about] my son's reputation, because his childhood is being reflected, you know, that he had a negative childhood when he had a lovely childhood.

Crescent, [Okla.,] is just a lovely town to grow up in. The school was K-12, so if anything occurred at school or anything, I mean, the entire town knew. ... All the people were lovely. Everybody at school knew everybody. So if you look at it from that point of view, you can see if anything negative had been going on in his life, it would have been apparent to everyone. ...

People need to understand that he's a young man that had a happy life growing up. ...

He would create his own websites. His first website I think he did when he was, like, 10 years old, where I had to go out and actually buy an advanced HTML manual. ... The whole website was based on the movie Goldeneye.

The James Bond film?

Right. And he had links in the HTML where he would link to the lyrics or to the movie and things like that. It was kind of a neat little place to go. ...

He was really into computers?

Oh, yes. You could definitely say that was the focal point of his life.

He was smart about computers?

Very smart, and proactive. ... He taught himself Word and taught himself PowerPoint. And he was avid at the yearly science fairs where he would do a presentation. He was very skilled there. He taught himself PowerPoint to a very high level where he was able to develop all of his material for his presentation in PowerPoint. So when we put together his display, even just looking at it from a distance, it looked so professional. He won, I think three years running, grand prize. This is a K-12 project. And I think the fourth year, he basically qualified to win, but they said, you know, "We can't keep giving you this award." ...

He spent a lot of time on the computer. Is that correct?

If he did anything, that's all he did.

That's all he did?

Yeah. He never went outside there.

He didn't like to go outside?

No.

No sports?

Nope. I guess at some point, in Crescent, while he was still there, he was on their basketball team. I have a nice picture of him in his uniform.

What kind of friends did he have?

Very few friends. I think that he had two close friends that he kept in contact with and would visit them after he came back. I don't recall their names. But he never, to my knowledge, as long as I lived with him, it was never anybody came by the house. There wasn't any sleepover or anything else like that. So he kind of kept to himself, kind of.

He was a happy kid. He was happy with the things he had in his life. As long as anything didn't disrupt his activities, he was fine. As I said, he was basically on autopilot. You didn't have any chores; you didn't have anything else like that. There wasn't anything laid out, like, "Well, Bradley, you need to do this, or you need to do that." He never had anything like that.

What was his temperament like?

He was very calm, very quiet. ...

What kind of things did you like to do together?

Basically just talk about the computer things. When you do IT work all the time -- you know, it's like the old saying: Driving down the street, you know which house is where the painter lives. Well, it's the one that needs to be painted -- you know, so the last thing you want to do when you get home is to do something you've been doing all day. But most of the time he enjoyed figuring stuff out himself.

I had seen a statement on the Internet that I was strict or whatever. ... We never had to tell him to get up. I never had to tell Bradley to go to bed. You know, same with his older sister. They just were very well-behaved kids. And I mean, it was a very happy household.

You say it was a happy household, but you did go through some tough times.

At the very end. ...

You worked for the Navy?

Worked for the Navy, but in the entire time I was in the Navy, I never physically saw a naval ship. Our base was just off of a Royal Air Force base down there. It was called Brawdy Wales, was the name of the Royal Air Force base. ...

Can you describe what you were doing?

No.

In general terms?

No. Not at all.

You were doing classified work?

I can say I was an ocean systems technician, second class. But after second class, and the work I did was classified. It was covert. That's all I can say about it.

So Bradley is born in '87?

[Yes.] ... Bradley was born, and before he was 1 is when we relocated to Phoenix. We had a great time then. Every day after work, I would take him out, and we had a little train, and I'd kind of push-pull him on this little train. We'd go around the block every day. ...

It's reported in the press -- and I'm here to give you every opportunity to correct what's inaccurate -- that it was a sudden breakup. Is that a fair statement? ...

... My ex-wife and I started out on a level plane. ... I was progressively, throughout the military, training all the time, you know, on electronics and other things I needed to learn for my job. But my wife, you know, basically always stayed stagnant as far as learning more things.

And when I got out and I worked full-time and went to college full-time, ... I was always on the learning. And my career advanced from a programmer, senior programmer, to a project leader and then as a manager. And again, you know, she stayed at the same point. ...

In 1994, I basically took a project where ... I'd be in Paris for three weeks and back in the U.S. about five to six days a month.

[My ex-wife] never learned how to drive. She lived four miles outside of town, so I basically had to stock her up with food and supplies and stuff for the three-week period that I'd be gone. And that was kind of a strain for her, because she was basically stranded. Our neighbors weren't real close to us. ...

Did Bradley complain about you being absent a lot? How did it affect your relationship with him?

When I would come back after three weeks, you know, sometimes he wouldn't even recognize me. It was kind of like, reacquaint myself. So that was a little bit rough on him. But, I mean, after a couple hours, it was, "Dad's home," and things were OK. ...

The straw that broke the camel's back was when the opportunity came up to go to Germany for a year. And I really looked forward to the traveling and the opportunity, both for myself and for my career. ... I could go back on, you know, the three-week, one-week, three-week, one-week. And she basically said, "No, there's no way we're going to go back in that mode." She said: "I can't handle that. This is too much load."

And [so] there was just kind of a best friend-type relationship at that time. I guess it was kind of selfish, but I said, "Well, you know, this opportunity's being put in front of me," and I took it. And that basically ended that relationship. ...

And what effect did that have on Bradley, do you think?

I think that the biggest effect on Bradley was that he had -- and again, you know, to be fair, I never prepared my ex-wife for life on her own. She never wrote a check, never handled any bills, never did anything but the checking account.

Didn't drive a car?

Didn't drive a car or anything. So when I went to Germany and kind of moved out of Bradley's life and out of her circle, a lot of the things that I had taken care of, all of a sudden, she had to rely on Bradley. So he had to kind of grow up kind of quick, you know, to handle things, basically, for me.

And he was a young kid?

Yeah. He was about 12, yeah. ...

What kind of contact did you have during that period that [Bradley was living in Wales]?

The only time I had contact is if they thought that alimony check or child support check was late, and then Bradley would call me. ...

So when he comes back, describe what happens. He decides -- he calls you up and says, "I'm going to come back and live with you"?

Basically, yes. He connected with me and said that he'd reached the decision that he wanted to come back and live in the U.S., and pretty much could we make the arrangements. And that was fine. We had a room for him set up and everything.

But that must have been a surprise for you?

It was very much a surprise. ...

How does it go?

It went fine. He didn't drive at that point. I got him enrolled at a driving school that was a mile or so away. ...

Besides taking driving tests, what was he doing?

He had found this job at Zoto, Zoto.com. Kord Campbell I believe was the owner's name. Bradley still wasn't driving at that point. I drove him down for the interview. Bradley came out, and Kord actually came out with him and came down to my car, where I was sitting.

This is right after his job interview?

Right. He was leaving the job interview, and he said, "You know, Mr. Manning, I just want to tell you, you have an extremely intelligent son," and basically, "I want to hire him on the spot. He can start whenever he possibly can." And then we made some arrangements until he got a driver's license on how we would get him to and from work. And this is, you know, very, very early on him being back in the U.S.

On my way to work, I would go down to a Starbucks, drop him off. And Kord would come from Edmond, go to that Starbucks, pick up coffee, pick up Bradley, go into the office. And then at the end of the day, he would bring Bradley back to that Starbucks, and I would pick him up and take him back to the house. So we did kind of an exchange.

And then once Bradley got his driver's license, I gave him the use of my Nissan pickup, 100 percent for his use. So therefore he was able to drive to and from work.

This is a period where there's been a lot of reporting on what was going on between you and Bradley in the household and [on] Bradley's life, his personal life. Give me your take on all of this.

When he came back, it was like a different person had come back, because his mother had put him in the position that he basically ran the household. And I hear this from her sisters that I've talked to. So it's basically, you know, that sometimes he'd be upstairs. If he wanted something, he'd just beat on the floor and yell down to his mother for a cup of tea or something, and she'd basically bring it up to him.

So he was king of the castle?

He was king of the castle. He handled all the finances and everything else like that, so when he came back to the U.S., he had a certain amount of money that she had given him to get himself established. And he didn't have to pay rent. I had supplied him with a vehicle and got him through the driving class and helped him [with] transportation to and from work.

But he had this total irresponsibility for finances. ... That was causing some real strife, because we were basically bailing him out right and left.

So that caused some tension?

It caused a lot of tension. We picked him up for everything he needed in his life, including car insurance, everything else like that, AAA coverage. All the little sundry things that come along with life, my wife and I are now picking up.

And when he'd have these overdrafts -- I mean, that caused a lot of problems, I'm telling you. You'd go to talk with him, and then he had total disregard for it. [You] just couldn't get through to him that sooner or later, the well was going to run dry.

Were there any other issues?

The other issue -- for several reasons that are personal, we had very strict rules at the house about food and drink. And that is, we had a dining area in the kitchen, and if you wanted to drink or eat something, that's where you went. I followed the rules. Everybody else in the household followed the rules.

And you go back to where Bradley's room [is], and you'd find eight or nine Dr. Pepper cans shoved under the bed. So he was blatantly disregarding that. And you tried to talk to him about it, and it's like talking to a brick wall.

And unfortunately, my current wife's father died of emphysema, so she had a real issue with smoking. And I know for a fact that he had taken to sneaking outside and smoking cigarettes in the garage. And that caused some conflict. ...

And what was he doing, most of the time, when he was in the house?

He would either be at work or be in his bedroom with the door shut.

And what was he doing with the door shut?

I don't know. The door was shut.

But he was on the computer most of the time?

Yeah. A bit, yeah, computer.

Did he have friends?

He occasionally had a friend come by that he would meet somewhere.

At what point does he tell you about his homosexuality? How does that go down?

Not long after he came back from the U.K. I can remember the conversation like we're just sitting here having it today. And he said, "You know, Dad, I just want to let you know, I'm gay." And I said, "Well, you know, I mean, that's a life choice." I said: "I don't have a problem with that. You know, it's not going to affect any relationship that you have with me or anything. And, you know, if that's your choice and what's going to make you happy, then we're fine." ...

It was just supportive. I said: "That's your decision. You know, I don't -- it's fine." ...

So it surprised you when he told you?

Well, yes. It definitely surprised -- I would say I was surprised. But just from a fact of someone, you know, throwing a bucket of water over your head, it's like: "Oh, OK. Well, I didn't know that." (Laughs.) You know, it's not something that you are involved enough where you would start seeing or having suspicions of. He had been at the household long enough that had he, you know, distributed [sic] any traits, I would have had suspicion. But there wasn't. This was just a flat-out statement that "You should know." ...

So then in March '06 there is this, as you describe it, an altercation?

Yes.

What was that?

I was recovering from radical prostate surgery. I couldn't walk without a walker, and I was sitting out in the living room. And it became an issue about some of the things that were going on. ...

What gets said?

It just basically started as a discussion on, you know, "You're going to have to follow the house rules. We don't want any of this smoking going on, and the Dr. Pepper." And things just escalate. ...

Yelling?

Yes. Yelling. He was yelling and kind of tossing some stuff around and stuff.

Tossing some stuff around?

Yeah. I think he tossed a can or something like -- you know, I can't exactly remember --

Did he throw something at her or at you?

No, I think it was just threw something. ...

What was he saying?

I don't remember exactly what it was. It was the issues of not following the house rules, and the smoking was probably the biggest one.

And he was telling you what, "Don't mess with me. Don't tell me what to do"? I mean, what was --

He was arguing more with my wife than me.

What was he telling her?

Well, you know, basically, "You stay out of my life" type of thing. And we're taking the point, "Look, you're in our household, you'll follow our rules." It just went along those lines. ...

But it just reached a point where my wife felt vulnerable. There was no way in the world I could restrain Bradley or do anything if he really did get hot or make any threatening motions or anything. And she just was scared. So she called 911. I mean, the phone was literally right there, next to her. ...

Was he approaching her?

No.

So there was no physical -- nobody hit anybody?

Nobody touched anybody. No.

Was there threats of physical violence, other than the fact that she felt like something might go down?

You couldn't tell, to be honest with you.

But had you ever seen Bradley --

I had never seen Bradley so upset. ...

But what was his case? If I was talking to Bradley right now, how would he describe that incident?

"I came back here to live. I know what I'm doing. Just leave me alone. Just stay out of my life."

So why does that warrant calling 911?

Well, as I said, it went back and forth and back and forth with -- you know, you bring up the smoking and you bring up the Dr. Pepper cans, and you bring up other little things that normally, by themselves, would just be a one-or-two-word exchange. Well, it depends on where you are on the temperature scale and as far as the discussion's going. But when things reach a certain point, you know, the boiling point, then you don't know where it's going to go. ...

[Editor's Note: Listen to the 911 call.]

That altercation, as you call it, did that change your relationship with him?

From that point on? Yes, because once the police arrived, they immediately went to the adult male in the room, think[ing] that, you know, I was somehow involved as the aggressor in the situation. And they realized that I was basically incapable of doing anything because I couldn't even walk. Then they took my wife off to the side. They took Bradley off to the side.

They? There were two cops?

I think there were two policemen, yeah. But they tried to get the story straight to see if everybody was on the same page, OK. And it became the issue, the fact was somebody had to be removed from the equation. Pretty much the decision was made to get Bradley out of there, and so they went outside. He grabbed some minimal things and left with them. I didn't know where they went.

It's been reported that you kicked him out of the house. Is that a fair assessment of what happened?

No. I just told you exactly what happened. The police took him.

... If the police didn't take him out of the house, would you have kicked him out of the house?

I don't know. ...

And when's the next time you heard from Bradley?

I think the next day, he came by the house and got the pickup truck and grabbed some of his stuff.

Did you have any words?

Nothing. We didn't have any argument or anything like that. It was kind of we reached the point of OK, it's time to move on.

He was still working at Walmart. I guess he knew the security guard, and he was sleeping in the car, or in the pickup truck. It's a Nissan pickup truck, has a soft bench, which is more than long enough for him to lay down and sleep.

So after he moved out of the house, he slept in his truck in the Walmart parking lot?

For a short period, yeah.

How long did he do that?

I would say more than a week or so. And then he decided that he would go to Tulsa and, for some unknown reason, visit some friends or do something. He just wanted to get away from Oklahoma City, so he ends up in Tulsa. And he came back two or three times, back to the house, from Tulsa. And in this amount of time, he had found this job in Incredible Pizza, and there was an apartment complex right next door to it, because there was mechanical problems happening with the truck ... because he wasn't taking care of it mechanically. ...

I put down the security deposit and the first and last months' rent and took him out to Walmart and bought everything he needed for the kitchen, and some stuff for, you know, laundry and some stuff for, you know, towels and for taking showers and things. And things quieted down for a period of time. ...

Where did you think that your son's life was going at this point?

He had no direction. He was just, you know, making a quick decision and then going off wherever that led him. ...

Would you describe Bradley at this period as naive?

Yes, very much so, because he had gotten used to having his own way.

He was spoiled by his mother. Is what you're saying?

Spoiled rotten. I will say that honestly. It came up many times, because had he just gone along with the flow, he wouldn't have had any issue whatsoever. ...

He was real good about getting a job. When he left Incredible Pizza [where he worked in Tulsa], he got a job, I think, at the mall, working at a clothing store.

Abercrombie & Fitch?

Yeah. And then it was a very short period of time to where I find that, you know, he's basically taken out some kind of a loan at a payday loan company for $500 or something and basically gotten his pickup truck with some of his stuff -- the rest of it he left in the apartment -- and took off.

He told me he was actually heading for St. Louis. ... He told me that when he reached St. Louis, he said, "I still had, you know, a lot of gas." He said, "I decided to go ahead and go to Chicago." (Laughs.) He's just, you know, making these snap decisions on the fly.

So he gets to Chicago. ... He's quick on his feet. First thing he does when he gets there is he goes and gets himself a cell phone that has a Chicago number and goes out and puts in some job applications. Well, the same day he gets a call back to the Guitar Center, which is the chain store, and they hire him that day.

And he told me, you know, in conversations while I've been up here, talking to him, he said, "Dad, you wouldn't believe how easy it is for me to get a job." He said, "With my background and my experience," he says, "I can just walk into a place and immediately I get a job." So that's kind of his ego coming in there. It's like, "Hey, I'm a really sharp kid, and I know it." ...

So anyway, he's working at the Guitar Center for a number of weeks. ... He told me he couldn't find a place to live without a roommate because prices in Chicago were much higher than they were in Oklahoma. ...

And then he moves from there to Potomac, Md.?

He contacted my sister. I guess he called her and said: "I'm up here in Chicago. I don't have any money. Can you send me some money? Can I come and stay there?" And apparently she wired him some money for gas, and he drove to Rockville, where she lives, in Potomac-Rockville area. And she welcomed him with open arms and gave him the room my mother had been living in. ... So he had his own room down in the basement. And basically he got a job almost immediately at -- what is that coffee place?

Starbucks?

Starbucks. He really loved his job at Starbucks.

So he was behind the counter making coffee?

Yes, behind the counter making coffee.

He must present very well. He has no trouble getting a job.

Right. He's just a friendly, you know, sharp-looking kid. You can tell how intelligent he is by talking to him. ...

And you were talking to him by phone [when he lived in Maryland]?

I was talking to him by phone, yeah. ... I said: "Bradley, you're really not going anywhere, you know? You haven't got transportation. You're working in a coffee shop and maybe going to go to community college. You really don't have any structure in place." And I said: "If you get into a place at Army, you know, you're going to have three square meals a day; you're going to have a place to sleep and a roof over your head. And as long as you follow the path, you know, it's all you have to do."

What was his objection?

He didn't want the controlling, and that [was] kind of the pullback I felt, you know? He didn't want to have to be told something without having the option of being able to have his say.

He didn't want rules?

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that was basically his pullback. But eventually I convinced him at least to go and investigate into it.

How did you convince him to go down and see the recruiter?

He was at the point where he was seeing some of my logic in that: "You don't have a place to live. You're camping at your aunt's house. You don't have any transportation. You're working at a dead-end job, and you're looking at going to a community college that you won't even have transportation to and from. What's your plan?"

So eventually -- I can't say I convinced him to go in. "Just go talk to them," was basically what I said. And I will just have to say that I would assume from my own experience that the recruiter took over from there, based on my own experience. I mean, they can be pretty convincing. That's their job.

How much time do you think you spent talking to him about this?

Maybe all told, maybe 35, 40 minutes over four, six weeks.

I see. So these were short conversations where you continued to remind him that he should try the Army?

Uh-huh. I used my own experiences as examples to him: the fact that joining the Navy and my five years in the Navy is what put me on a path for the rest of my life.

Now he joins the Army, and soon after training he is headed for a job as an intelligence officer] with a top security clearance?

I went down to his boot camp graduation along with -- my sister came down. And then when he went to the school down in Arizona I went to that graduation down there and saw him down there. ...

This is quite a turnaround. Now he's got a very responsible job, with security clearance?

When Bradley met with my sister and I after his graduation at boot camp, both myself and my sister saw the dramatic change in him. I mean, he was on the right path. He was a 4.0 soldier. He knew where he was going. He knew where he had to be.

A 4.0 soldier?

Yeah, you're usually rated on a zero to 4 score as far as your rating.

And he was a 4?

And he was a 4. I mean, he was crisp and freshly ironed right out of the package.

And his attitude?

Was great. He was always constantly aware. He says, "Oh, I've got to watch for time. I need to be back on base at this time," and so on, and he was taking responsibility for his own actions.

You must have been proud?

Oh, I was. I thought he was doing great. You know, I was like: "Yes, you know, I hit a home run here. I did do the right thing. I've got him set on a path, and now, you know, fly, you know? You're out of the nest. You've got a place to go. Go."

And how did it come to be that he became a private first class with security clearance?

I have no idea. ...

And what would those top security clearance procedures be? Were they contacting family, friends? How does that work?

I don't know because I was never contacted.

You were never contacted?

No.

Was his mother contacted?

I was never brought aware that she was, no.

Were any of his friends?

I don't know. I didn't know any of his friends. ...

What were his politics, would you say?

None that I know of. I used to go into Crescent every Sunday morning if we'd gone to church or not and buy a Sunday paper and get the coupons out of it and the TV guide, and everything else would go in the trash. So [he] wasn't reading any newspapers because we didn't have any option for newspaper delivery, because you don't have delivery out there in a rural address.

Did you ever discuss politics with him?

None. ... As I said, it wasn't a topic that was even brought up because no one was interested in it. ...

Bradley's joining the Army. What was his attitude toward the war in Iraq?

Never came up.

Do you ever remember a conversation with him about Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda?

No.

Iraq, Afghanistan, the Taliban?

Nothing.

No interest?

No interest at all. I don't have any interest in it so it would be like him talking to a blank wall, because I couldn't enter into a conversation where I can't respond back on it. ...

Did you worry that he might be going to Iraq?

No.

Or Afghanistan?

No.

That didn't concern you that he'd be in harm's way?

No. I mean, when I joined the military, it was the end of the Vietnam War. I knew people that had been wounded. ... I knew when I joined the military that there was a chance that I could become in some kind of danger or whatever, but that's part of what you're signing up for, you know? And I am sure that he was made aware of that by the military. He wasn't that naive. ...

[There's been] some reporting that I want to put on the table and have you react to it, and that has to do with several reported incidents where Bradley is said to have either lost his temper, thrown things -- this is when he's in the military -- and also downloaded and distributed some classified information. Do you have any way of shedding any light on this at all?

... At that time I didn't know, but later on I had heard that he got demoted. ...

You didn't know that he'd been demoted?

No. I had no idea. ...

Was he communicating with anybody in this family at this period of time? If he wasn't communicating with you, was he communicating with anybody?

The only time I know he communicated was when he was stationed up in New York. If he was going to come down, get some leave, he may call my sister or whatever and let her know, but nothing when he was overseas. ...

During the time that he's either in training here in the U.S. or after his deployment overseas, you had no communications with him?

None.

And knew nothing about any troubles that he might be having?

Nothing. Not an e-mail, not a text message, not a letter, nothing.

Did you write to him?

Nope.

Did you ever --

I don't even know his address. ...

Did you ever follow him on Facebook?

I posted one post on his Facebook. ... I'd sent him a portable DVR reader/player as a combined Christmas-birthday gift, and I was a bit peeved that he had never even responded back that he even got it, because I didn't know if he got it.

Where did you send the DVD player?

To an FPO address.

While he's in Iraq?

Yes.

So you did have a way of sending him stuff if you wanted to?

Yeah, I think I called somebody or asked somebody where it was. ...

What kind of stuff did you see [on his Facebook page]?

He had made some comments that I thought were pretty incriminating as far as "don't ask, don't tell" criteria. ... I can't tell you exact quotes, but some one-liners he'd throw out there kind of sounded like, you know, he was kind of asking for trouble. ... I don't remember the context. It had to do with his being gay, you know? And I thought that was pretty risky.

Did you post anything back to him?

No. Nothing on that.

But you were worried a little bit that he was putting it out there for everybody to see that he was gay?

That goes back to me saying that he could be naive, you know? ... Hey, you know, aren't you going against the policy that's in place where you're at? ...

So the next news you have from Bradley is what?

From Bradley? Nothing.

About Bradley?

I think I got some communication from I think it was [Bradley's friend]. ... I think this is something I did get off his Facebook, and it's like, "Has anybody heard" or something "from Bradley? He's not answering any instant messaging since" yada yada yada date.

... Did you respond to that?

No.

And then the next communication you had about Bradley was what?

I don't recall. It may have been a conversation with someone in my family. I don't remember. But the military never talked to me until I was made well aware of it from other sources, and they arrived to interview me. ...

... What did you understand he had been arrested for, and who told you?

I think the actual specifics of it was when the men from intelligence came to talk to me.

Can you describe that visit?

Just that they basically sat with me and --

Two men?

Three.

Came to your door?

Came to my door, showed us some credentials, and sat down with my wife and I.

And did you know what Bradley had been arrested for at that point?

Vaguely I can say.

And you knew vaguely what?

At that time the only thing I was aware of was that he allegedly had sent some -- released some video of a helicopter attack that some American correspondents were either wounded or killed.

Some Reuters correspondents. The "Collateral Murder" video. Have you ever seen it?

Yes.

And what did you think when you saw that?

I was confused. I was quite shocked [at] what I was watching, you know? But then, when you see something that's posted on the Internet, you don't know if it's something that's real or off YouTube or whatever. So I took it with a grain of salt, said, "Yeah, you know, this looks like something, but is it?"

What do you think now about that video?

Well, as much press as it's gotten, you know, adds to its credibility.

Knowing Bradley like you know him, as his father and knowing him, seeing him grow up, how do you think he would have reacted to that video?

I really don't know. I mean, as I said, when I saw it myself, it was upsetting. It was like, you know, "This can't be real"-type deal. ...

When the three military officers came to see you, did anything they said or presented to you change the way you were thinking about what these charges were and if they were true or not?

No. And I'll be rather pointed about this. They were very concerned -- and I would say the number one thing that was on their minds is that they were concerned that I or someone in my family had received something in the mail from Bradley from Iraq.

That was their major point, like coming back for: "Are you sure you received nothing -- no packages, no letters, no e-mails? Can you think of anything?" And we kept going back and said: "No. We don't have a street address. We have a P.O. box. If we had received something, there would be a record of it at the post office. And you guys are free to check, you know, but we haven't received anything."

Did they want you to hand over your computer so they could sweep it to see if any e-mails had come to you?

No, sir.

So they never asked for that?

No. ... Had they asked, we would have just said, "Go right ahead," and follow up if they want to. They're more than welcome to.

And how long did they talk to you?

I would say probably maybe 90 minutes. But it kept coming back to the same thing: "Did you receive anything? Are you sure?" It was repetitious at points.

Did you learn anything new?

No. They offered minimal information. I had been warned somewhere to expect someone to be visiting me.

Who warned you?

I don't remember. I believe it may have been a member of my family. ...

What's your best guess as to what's happened here?

When I look at it from the point of view of the perception of his work environment and where he's in a small area where all the computer screens are visible, they're all a bunch of techies, you know? Like you're supposed to be on a buddy-buddy system.

Everybody can see everybody's screens. Everybody knows what's going on. This possibly couldn't happen. I mean, just -- you couldn't do it. I mean, that's the way it's set up. It's supposed to be failsafe. Somebody always knows what the other person is doing in such a security environment.

Therefore, how could you possibly be spending all your time surfing around looking for classified information, much less putting it on some kind of media and taking it off the base or back to your quarters or whatever? I mean, I just can't imagine that happening.

But he had the right to look at classified information and secret information?

Right. But if you were sitting next to your wife, would you bring up a porn site? I mean, put it in perspective. (Laughs.) You wouldn't be able to do that without somebody else knowing.

But, I mean, it was part of his job to look at this information. It wouldn't have been like sitting next to your wife and looking at a porn site. It was looking-appropriate. It was looking at stuff that he -- I mean, perhaps not diplomatic cables, but the Iraq and Afghanistan logs were part and parcel of his job, right?

But copying something to media is not something that you can just do in a snap of a finger.

So that should have been caught by a colleague?

Oh! One would think. ...

There's no question that documents have been divulged through WikiLeaks into The New York Times and other outlets. Do you think it's plausible that Bradley was involved in this?

No.

You think it's implausible?

I think it's implausible.

So then somebody is framing him?

I have never seen anything where anybody's actually saying he's done anything. It was always "allegedly."

Well, I think until anybody has a trial, it's alleged, right?

Right. But again, going back to what we talked about just a few moments ago, given the area that he was working in and the close confines and the number of people there, you know, I cannot conceivably see somebody doing something like that without somebody else knowing, which is why this system was set up in the first place, to prevent something [like this from] ever happening.

How do you explain, though, that there's no other suspect that's talked about?

Well, if you have a scapegoat already, you stop looking.

And why do you think your son became the scapegoat?

Probably because of the previous alleged infraction he had by striking somebody. I think, you know, overall it's the tone of what I've gotten on the things I've read early on was that, you know, "He wasn't playing well with others" would be a basic statement.

Does that sound like Bradley to you?

Not usually, but based on circumstances, you know, under pressure it may have been true.

Do you know who Adrian Lamo is?

I know of him, yes. ...

Have you seen the chat log that he handed over to authorities and to the media?

Yes.

And you've read that chat log?

Yes.

What do you make of it?

It sounds like someone, you know, writing about something. It sounds like boasting and bragging.

On whose part?

Not on Adrian's part.

So on whoever is labeled in there as Brad Manning?

Yes.

You don't think that's Brad Manning?

I don't know. To me the whole thing sounded like, you know, someone out there childishly boasting.

About having handed over more than 200,000 documents?

Exactly.

And do you think it's possible that that chat log is real?

That I don't know.

Do you think it's false?

Whatever number you can put in a chat log, I mean, if you're boasting, you could say, "I beat up a 500-pound guy," you know?

What are you saying here? Are you saying that this might be a chat with Adrian Lamo from Brad, but that it's just boasting?

Yeah, exactly. To me that would sound more accurate than any other thing you could propose to me.

That that's an actual chat log between Adrian Lamo and Brad Manning?

No. What I'm saying is that the other person on there that allegedly is Bradley was someone that was out there boasting.

Do you think it's not Brad Manning?

I don't have anything to base it on whether it was or not, because I don't have any comparable chat logs that I've ever had with Bradley because I've never chatted with him.

But is there anything in there that you see that signals to you that that's not your son?

I'll give you the opposite. There's nothing in there that I can say pins that to my son. ...

It's got to be hard to feel that somebody has scapegoated your son?

Well, yes, it is. I mean, never -- any conversation I ever had with Bradley would even make me even think he would ever do something like this. ...

Have you asked him?

No.

Why not?

We don't discuss anything concerning his case.

Because it's just not wise at this point given that those conversations are taped?

Well, yes, that, and I mean, we don't know anything about it.

Well, I mean, who knows? It's hard to know, because you can't discuss it with him.

Right. But even the possibility of discussing it has never even been a topic of discussion between any of the visits I had with Bradley.

... You've had how many visits? Approximately?

Between seven and nine visits, I'd say.

And what is it like to see your son in shackles in that situation?

You kind of have to remove that, because again, there's things that you can take responsibility for and things you can control, and there's things you can't. So, you know, once you step on to the base, you expect to see certain things and certain environments. So once you've accepted that, you just move on.

So I walk in, you know, to a room normally where I'm seated once I've gone through the fact that I don't have any metal items or whatever. And usually once I'm seated, someone will bring Bradley to me. And he's usually glad to see me and [in] pretty good spirits, and we'll sit and talk, you know?

Some of the initial visits he was worried that sometimes the conversation sounded like I was leaving, you know, going to cut the visit short, and I'd say: "No, no, no. I'm not going to leave. I'm still going to stay here and visit you until the time's up." ...

Even once I was here near the base, it took me additional two weeks and two trips down to Quantico before they finally let me in. So I was glad just to finally get to see him in the first couple of visits.

As time went on, he seems to be more adjusted to his living conditions and doesn't complain about them. I've asked him blatantly, you know: "Are things going OK? Are they treating you OK or food OK? Any problems with the bedding?" "No, everything's fine. They treat me OK." That's it. He has no complaints. ...

And this time I would say the overall tone of my visits with Bradley was that he was exhausted of talking to people, because he's not used to seeing so many people so many weekends in a row. So he was exhausted. Plus, he'd come down with that cold. ...

What do you talk about during all that time?

This time when we talked about some books that I've read, the whereabouts of some of my science fiction books and if he'd read them or not.

A lot of the conversation this time is I wanted to know how his visits with his mother [were], because he hadn't seen her, you know, in such a long time. ...

We spent a lot of time talking about ... the open-source software that's out there and what version I was using and the fact that he thinks I'm using the wrong version because I was complaining it was too slow. And we were talking about the differences in speed between version 2 and version 3. He thinks I'm using version 2 and I should upgrade to version 3. But we did a lot of techie talk, you know, which is the normal conversation Bradley and I would have. We've always gone back and forth about Mac as opposed to MS-DOS, you know, Windows-based. ...

How does he feel about his future?

I feel very encouraged by the way that things are coming together. I'm very encouraged about the way he's being treated, the fact that he doesn't have any complaints when he's pointedly asked by his own father.

What does he think is his likelihood of conviction?

He's never mentioned it. We do not discuss anything.

What kind of emotions are expressed in those visits?

It depends. I mean, sometimes, you know, he gets excited if we're talking about something like, you know, Linux and Unix and when it comes to just you know, techie talk. ... Those are the things that, you know, we're interested in together, so we can talk about it. ...

There was a mention in the chat log that Bradley saw a mental health specialist when he was in the service. Are you aware of this --

No.

-- or any of the issues that would have led to that?

No, I really don't.

Had you heard about it?

Uh-uh.

This is the first time?

First time I've heard. ... And see, I had no information. I mean, I don't even know he'd gone to Iraq. I don't remember that ever even coming up that he'd actually gone.

You don't remember hearing that he was going overseas?

No.

He didn't get in touch with you to let you know?

No. My sister may have told me, but, you know, it wasn't something that I put a pushpin on and said, "OK, this is when somebody told me something was going to happen."

But, you know, most people listening to this would say: "That sounds strange. That's a big deal when somebody's son goes to a war zone."

OK. Let me put this in perspective, OK? I got out of boot camp in Florida, got on a plane, flew out to California, visited with my family for eight or nine days, got on a plane, flew off to the U.K., and they never heard from me again. ...

To viewers of this interview, you're going to sound very detached from your son. Is that fair or unfair?

No, that's very fair. I mean, at this point in his life, once he left my household and left my direct control, you know, when I had a real influence on his life, there was not a lot I could do.

But now he's been put in the brig, he's in jail awaiting trial, and you visited him seven to nine times? So you've made efforts since then to reconnect with him. Why?

Well, because I feel he needs my support now. When someone's flying free and doing well, you leave them alone. But now, where he's in a situation where if there's something I can do for him or I can at least lend my support, you know, and take some time and visit with him, you know, to break the monotony until there's some kind of resolution of this, I'll do that whenever I can. ...

Are you involved in his defense strategy?

No. No. Not one bit. I have never even talked with his attorney.

Why not?

Because I'm not an attorney. My sister's an attorney. I let her talk to him. I mean, it's legalese. I can't add anything. ...

Would you rather see this tried in the civilian courts?

Yes.

Why?

Because I believe they'd see the human side of him and they'd realize that this is just a sharp, witty kid, who can be a smartass and boast sometimes. ...

[Editor's Note: The following is from a second interview with Brian Manning, conducted on March 7, 2011, while his son was still being held in solitary confinement at a military brig in Quantico, Va. Bradley Manning has since been moved to a medium-security facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.]

You decided that you wanted to sit down and talk today because you want to complain publicly about the conditions of [Bradley's] imprisonment.

Yes.

And, in short, again, those conditions are that he's --

Well, his clothing is being taken away from him, and he's being humiliated by having to stand at attention in front of people, male or female, as far as I know, you know, that are fully clothed. ...

Who tells you that?

I read it in the statement that was put out by his civilian attorney. ...

Tell me what you thought when you read that.

I was very upset. I really was. And that's one of the things that prompted me to come out and go forward. ...

I mean, they worry about people down in a base in Cuba, but here they have someone on our own soil, under their own control, and they're treating him this way. You just can't believe it. ...

It's shocking enough that I would come out of our silence, as a family, and say, now then, this -- you know, you've crossed the line. This is wrong. I just can't stress any more than that you have really crossed the line this time. ...

Did Bradley ever say anything to you about treatment like this?

No. Every time I've met with Bradley I've looked him in the eyes, and I've asked him: "How are they treating you? Is everything OK? Are you sleeping all right?" And every time he's responded to me -- I visited him last weekend ... twice, and both times he said everything was fine; he's sleeping well; there's no issues; the food's fine. He had no complaints whatsoever.

So what do you make of the contradiction between what his attorney is saying and what Bradley has told you?

Well, apparently these events have happened since I saw Bradley. ... And this has all come about seemingly to coincide with the addition of the other 22 counts that they put against him. ...

They've even said that he's been a perfect inmate. He follows the rules, doesn't cross any lines, and he's gotten along fine with everyone.

What did you think?

Like I said, I was in shock. I couldn't imagine this happening to Charles Manson. ...

He's only been accused of these things; he hasn't been tried or anything. And to put him under such punitive things, having to, you know, sleep naked and stand naked in front of people, it's unbelievable. ...

You say you're shocked by it?

I'm amazingly shocked. I mean, this is someone that has not gone to trial or been convicted of anything. In their own notes, they're saying he's been a perfect prisoner; he doesn't cross the line; he behaves himself; he doesn't have any disruptions. And yet any chance they get, they ... just pile more on. ...

How many times have you visited him?

Approximately eight or nine times.

And during those visits, has he ever mentioned any complaint of any kind to you?

No, I always am conscientious enough to look him straight in the eyes and ask him a direct question: "How are they treating you? How are you sleeping? Is the food OK?" And he's always responded that things were just fine.

How does he look?

He looks good.

Can you describe what he's wearing, the conditions of your visits?

Oh, he basically has a dark blue shirt on. I don't really see his trousers, because when he comes in and out of the room, I'm normally not there. So he sits at his stool behind the glass, and I sit on the other side. And he sits on a stool that's fastened to the floor, where it can't be moved. [He's] shackled. ...

And he doesn't complain about being shackled?

No, he doesn't complain at all about anything, which, I must be honest, you know, I'm surprised. If I was in the same circumstances, I think I'd be a little bit more forthcoming if something was wrong. ...

And how does he explain that he's there?

He actually doesn't really indicate he even knows, because we never discuss it. I imagine through his civilian attorney he's had discussions on what he's allegedly done, but he and I, we never discuss anything having to do with his case whatsoever.

Why not?

Because I don't know anything about his case to add to the conversation. And the last two times I went in to visit him, I was put in a different room, where now I have to sign a form that says that I'm agreeing to the fact that I'm being videotaped and recorded during the visitation, which previously, in all the other visits, I'd never had to sign that form. ...

Is there any reason that Bradley wouldn't confide in you if things were tough for him there?

No. There's none at all. I mean, I've always been straight-up with him, and he's always been straight-up with me. ...

From talking to you, you don't wear your emotions on your sleeve. If you're feeling something about his situation, I'm not hearing it.

There's a certain point, you know, when you reach, where you can either accept things and try and do as much as you possibly can, and then there's no point in dwelling upon it. There relatively is nothing I can do at this point except support him, as a father would support a son that's in this situation.

But that's a very rational answer. Emotions don't respond to that kind of logic.

Well, I guess I'm just a right-brained person. You know, I think logically. ...

But you raised this kid. You changed his diapers; you fed him; you played with him. Now he's sitting in a prison, facing severe penalties, very, very serious charges pending.

That's correct.

I would guess that that is very hard to square, to make sense of, for you.

Well, as I said, you know, you can rationalize it to the point that -- as I said, all the things I could possibly do, you've done, and [you] just wait for the next move on the chessboard. I mean, all's I can do is support him.

But it's not a chess game. I mean, this is the life of your only son.

I know, but what would be gained by, you know, carrying it around on my sleeve? I mean, I can't see where that would help in any way possible. ...

It wouldn't be surprising for somebody in solitary confinement to be suffering a bit.

Oh, I'm sure.

It's surprising to me that you describe him as somebody who's doing well.

He comes across to me as doing well.

He's in solitary confinement. That's tremendously difficult, psychologically and physically.

I understand that.

Are you surprised that he's doing as well as he is?

I'm happy that he's doing as well as he is.

Are you surprised?

Yeah. I don't think I'd do as well as he is doing. ...

So he never confides in you that he feels the weight, the burden of what he's undergoing?

No. And any time he feels like we're going off, you know, toward the fringes of something that may be having to do with something he doesn't want to talk about or shouldn't talk about, he will deliberately steer us away from it.

... Describe the situation, when you talk to him.

You're talking about a room that's the size of normal bathroom, cut in half, with a glass wall. There's a door behind me that's closed, a door behind him that's open. And seated behind him is a guard well within range of everything I say and everything Bradley says.

And is it tape-recorded, your conversation?

Well, I assumed before that they were. But now, because I'm having to sign a release form, I know that they are. ...

The country is kind of divided over Bradley. There are a number of people that think he's some kind of a hero, and there's others who think he's some kind of lowlife. Where do you stand?

I just don't think he did it. Therefore, I'm on the side that I support my son. ...

And as you know, we spoke previously, when people describe the circumstances which he was working in, in a tight team, I cannot see it even being credible where someone could offload information in these vast quantities and walk out of there without anybody else knowing.

Well, I've been in many of those facilities in Iraq, and they're not all that tight. I mean, there are a number of times when people are working without somebody looking over their shoulder. So it does seem possible that Bradley could have downloaded material.

Well, I'm just going [on] the basis of the fact that they had normal security procedures in place, as one would expect for top-secret information.

Well, the fact that this information was made visible to so many, half a million people had access to this kind of information, does it surprise you that Bradley had access to this much information?

Yes. To put it in my own perspective, as I've said before, I was in the Navy; I had a secret clearance. And there were times when I would write a message but did not have the clearance or the need to know to read the same message I wrote. ...

And what will you say to Bradley if it turns out that he did this, that he leaked these documents?

I don't know. I'm not even letting those thoughts come into my head. I'm thinking positively.

Is that always easy to do?

Yes.

What more would you like to say? You've got an audience right now, listening. We've got a country that feels -- many people feel a lot of anger about what's happened.

Well, I feel whomever released these documents, OK, I believe that it was the wrong thing to do. I mean, we don't know and may not ever know the impact of what these documents released will have done. Fortunately, a lot of it is just old data about things that happened in the past, is my understanding. ...

But you had a security clearance when you were serving in the Navy.

Yes, I did.

And what did you understand was the seriousness of a breach of that trust?

It was black and white. Either you never, ever, ever mentioned anything about work and what you did, or you crossed over into the black, and you were totally wrong.

And if you would ever leak any information that you had gleaned from your work?

If guilty and found convicted, as I said, we lived by the rule back in -- at least in the time I was in, in the '70s, was, you know, any time you looked at that, it was 10 years and $10,000. It's [as] black and white as that. You just don't go there. ...

You don't think he had it in him to do this?

I don't think that the amount, the volume of things and the environment he worked in, no, I don't think so.

You don't think it's possible he could have had this kind of intent?

I don't know why he would do that. I really don't.

Was he patriotic?

I don't think he followed any regime of any kind.

You don't think he was a patriot of the United States?

I imagine he was just as much as you and I.

Well, he's your son. You knew him. Was he patriotic?

It never came up. I mean, he never said anything anti-American.

He joined the Army.

At my twisting his arm, yeah.

So he joined the Army because you made him do it?

I didn't make him. I twisted his arm and urged him as much as a father could possibly urge somebody.

He didn't want to join the Army?

No, he did not, and he had expressed that.

Why did you make him, or why did you twist his arm to join the Army?

Because he needed structure in his life. He was aimless. And I was going on my own experience. When I was growing up, that's the only thing that put the structure in my life, was by joining the Navy, and everything's been fine since then. ...

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Posted May 24, 2011

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