Since President Barack Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence before stepping down in January, the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst turned leaker has kept a low profile since her release. However, that’s all about to change as, in a series of interviews with ABC News and the New York Times Magazine, Manning is speaking out about what she did and why she did it. What effect her comments will have on her detractors remains to be seen, but judging by what she told the Times, it’s a good bet more Americans may at least come to understand her reasoning.
Working in what’s called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, Manning didn’t experience actual combat during her deployment to Iraq. However, as Times contributor Matthew Shaer notes, “She could hear the shudder of car bombs and sometimes ran into soldiers, dazed and dusty, on their way back from a firefight.” These occasions, combined with the intelligence information Manning was required to “skim,” introduced her to the horrors of a “ceaselessly bloody war.”
“Doing my job, you couldn’t even really read all the files,” she explains. “You have to skim [and] get a sense of what’s relevant and what’s not.” Even so, as more and more accounts piled on, inundating Manning with countless accounts of bloodshed on all sides, she broke down. “At a certain point, I stopped seeing records and started seeing people,” she continues, adding: “Being exposed to so much death on a daily basis makes you grapple with your own mortality.” As a result of these collected experiences, Manning decided she had to do something and, after trying to contact various media organizations, settled upon WikiLeaks.