FORT MEADE, MD. — Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s violent outbursts and a photo of him dressed as a woman ideally should have blocked him from working with classified information in Iraq, but the Army needed his skills, the soldier’s former boss testified Tuesday.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Paul Adkins testified as a defense witness at the sentencing hearing for the former intelligence analyst. Adkins said that in April 2010, Manning emailed him a picture of himself in a blonde wig and lipstick attached to a letter titled, “My problem.” Defense attorneys have characterized the email as a sign of the soldier’s gender-identity crisis at a time when homosexual soldiers couldn’t serve openly.
The emailed started: “This is my problem. I’ve had signs of it for a very long time. It’s caused problems within my family. I thought a career in the military would get rid of it. It’s not something I seek out for attention. And I’m trying very, very hard to get rid of it by placing myself in situations where it would be impossible. But it’s not going away.”
Manning was convicted of disclosing reams of classified information through WikiLeaks. He faces up to 90 years in prison.
Adkins, who handled administrative duties for Manning’s workgroup, testified Manning’s “mental instability” was “a constant source of concern.” But instead of initiating disciplinary action that could have led to suspension of Manning’s security clearance, Adkins urged psychiatrists to give him more treatment so he could keep working.
Adkins didn’t’ reveal the email to his commanders until June 2010, after Manning had punched a female soldier in the face and been arrested for leaking classified information.
Adkins and others have testified the unit deployed with a shortage of junior intelligence analysts, such as Manning, to help commanders understand the enemy’s tactics.
“In a perfect world, I think, if I could have left him behind, to make sure that he was getting behavioral health care on a consistent basis, I would have,” Adkins said.
He said “there was the indirect pressure of making sure everyone who could physically deploy was deploying.” Adkins said another member of the unit was unable to deploy because of a recent heart attack, and he couldn’t justify holding Manning back “especially with a non-physical health issue.”
In a series of memos to mental health workers, Adkins described Manning’s worrisome behaviors, starting with an angry outburst after he was scolded for missing a physical training formation in the summer of 2009, and another when he was disciplined for losing his room key.
In December 2009, about two months after deploying, Manning was scolded for tardiness and overturned a table and had to be restrained. Because someone suggested he had made a move toward a gun rack, Adkins removed the firing bolt from Manning’s rifle but allowed him to keep working.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure of his stability and I wanted to send him a message that behavior like that, you know, was not acceptable,” Adkins said.
Adkins testified he was reprimanded and demoted for failures involving Manning.
Under cross-examination, Adkins testified that the early outbursts were minor misconduct. He also said he took other measures aimed at reducing Manning’s stress level, including switching him to a night shift with a lighter workload and suggesting he talk to a chaplain and keep a journal.
Manning, a 25-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., gave more than 700,000 documents and some battlefield video to WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. He was convicted July 30 of 20 counts, including six federal Espionage Act violations, five theft counts, and a federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act charge.
Manning says he leaked the material to expose wrongdoing and provoke discussion about U.S. military and diplomatic affairs.