Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History
Beginning in early 2010, Chelsea Manning leaked an astounding amount of classified information to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks: classified combat videos as well as tens of thousands of documents from the war in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands from Iraq, and hundreds of thousands more from embassies around the globe. Almost all of WikiLeaks’s headline-making releases of information have come from one source, and one source only: Chelsea Manning.
Manning’s story is one of global significance, yet she remains an enigma. Now, for the first time, the full truth is told about a woman who, at the age of only twenty-two, changed the world.
Though the overarching narrative in media reports on Manning explain her leaks as motivated by the basest, most self-serving intentions, Private paints a far more nuanced, textured portrait of a woman haunted by demons and driven by hope, forced into an ethically fraught situation by a dysfunctional military bureaucracy. Relying on numerous conversations with those who know Manning best, this book displays how Manning’s precocious intellect provided fertile ground for her sense of her own intellectual and moral superiority. It relates how a bright kid from middle America signed on to serve her country and found herself serving a cause far more sinister. And it explains what it takes for a person to betray her orders and fellow troops—and her own future—in order to fulfill what she sees as a higher purpose.
Manning’s court-martial may be the military trial of the decade, if not the century. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the woman behind it all.
About the Author
Denver Nicks is a writer based in New York City. Originally from Oklahoma, he has developed a reputation for intrepid reporting in challenging contexts. Nicks has written about street art in Poland, a failed coup in the Philippines, post-coup Honduras, and the hidden working-class underbelly of Wall Street in the midst of the financial meltdown. A Fulbright Scholar, he holds a Master of Science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Daily Beast, AlterNet, The Nation, and other publications.
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Chicago Review Press (June 1, 2012)
“In telling the story of how the intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning came into contact with the self-promoting anti-secrecy radical Julian Assange under the pressure cooker of the Iraq war, Denver Nicks has written a page-turner that reads like a cyberthriller. It’s simultaneously a coming-of-age story, a coming-out story, an X-ray of American culture in the Homeland Security era, a well-researched history of espionage, an exposé of the routinized cruelties of the 21st-century US military, and a meditation on the human costs of the cult of secrecy.” —Ned Sublette, author of The World that Made New Orleans
“WikiLeaks accomplice Chelsea Manning was a gay geek in the military at a time when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ defined the war on all kinds of freedoms, not just sexual ones. Denver Nicks has given us a suspenseful, sensitively drawn account of righteous rage, vigilante justice, and the young woman who risked her future to make the truth known.” —James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker
“Chelsea Manning’s ordinary existence becomes extraordinary through the fine writing of Nicks. The conversations between Manning, her confidants, and others are expertly woven together in a way that propels this story along like a thrilling, suspense-filled novel.” —Randy L. Schmidt, author of Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter
A profile in courage; 21st century style.
We live in a time when revealing government wrongdoing and having evidence to back it up can put one in a lockup. I rated it this way because it takes courage to do what this young private did. He didn’t reveal troops or positions, just the actions that would be considered violations of human rights. At the same time it revealed a prison treatment that was clearly a violation of basic rights.
Simply an Excellent Book
This is a really well written book that without being too long goes into a lot of depth covering the issues involved. I’ve never read anything by by the author before but he is clearly a talented writer.
This whole case is sad. It’s sad that legitimate secrets are so easily breached by low level analysts. It’s said that most of what the government classifies as secret does nothing to protect national security or anyone except the authoritarian government elites themselves. It is sad that the government went after Manning in such a punitive way – clearly designed to prevent others from undressing the emperor in the future.
With the latest revelations by Snowden it is clear that government secrecy is unraveling and revealing continuing misconduct by our alleged leaders. Regardless of where you stand on any of these issues this book is highly informative and very well done. It should be widely read. Highly recommended.
(can’t out-clever the book’s title)
When I began reading Denver Nicks’ account of the Bradley Manning/Wikileaks story, Private, I must admit, I knew little more of the actual story than somebody had leaked volumes of classified material to a website. I remember, at the time the events in the book were initially being reported on, having conflicting feelings on what could be considered either a national betrayal or a naïve step towards the revealing power of the truth. I found the debate fascinating. So, as most of us did, I forgot all about it sometime between the season finale of Modern Family and learning that the World Cup was in fact infested with vuvuzelas and not a massive swarm of bees.
The intro/prologue is a lost art. In most cases I’ve experienced, the intro is simply a poorly named Chapter 1. Sometimes though, it’s a clever non-sequitur that gives away the book’s ending. I was, however, totally hooked by the intro to Private. I mean, a courtroom trial setting that seemed to put my favourite parts of A Few Good Men and A Time To Kill onto the same page and then demands the question, “Who is Bradley Manning?”
Nicks pulls a nice Steinbeck via segmentation, balancing the personal minutiae of Bradley Manning with the greater and longer historied cultural landscape that made way for this chain of events. If you honestly interview most people, I’d wager you’ll find a decent enough biography somewhere in the details. With Manning, the pieces are all there in dramatic fashion so it struck me as odd that the more I read, the more I found myself wanting to skip to the chapters about the hacker code of ethics and this digital Andy Warhol fellow, Julian Assange.
Nicks goes into great detail about the circumstance and life of Bradley Manning, the outsider in a small town, the emotionally damaged boy, the superiority/inferiority complexed individual, the gay enlistee in a DADT Army, and, to me, it ultimately doesn’t matter. And that’s important. Read the biographies of Kurt Cobain and John Lennon. These are two men who had well-documented histories of volatile, random, manic, aggrandizing and deprecating behavior but do we really care or remember them for that? We remember them not for who they were but for what they did.
After reading this even-handed account, I’m still not sure how I feel on the situation. The frustrating part of the book is that it feels like it ends when it’s all really beginning but I guess those are the breaks when you’re reading about present reality. The leaks are still ocurring and Manning is still on trial and we still don’t have an ending. The only thing I am sure of is that we’ll see Mr. Nicks’ name somewhere in the producer/screenwriter credits of the movie when it comes out.