Hi. In 2009, I had a series of online chats with Manning after he found me through my YouTube channel. This was all prior to his alleged leaks (background on Manning here). This has become of some relevance now that his court martial is coming up - it was first delayed until March, and now until June. This week, his defense informed me that I'd been approved as a witness, and they believe that my testimony about our chats can show that he didn't intend to aid the enemy. This is the charge that could lead to a life sentence without parole for him (details on the charges here), so they obviously have an interest in countering it.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian and Alexa O'Brien, journalists at Manning's current pre-trial hearings, reported this week that I'd be called as a witness, and Kevin Gosztola confirmed it to me personally. Here's a full copy of our chat logs and the associated New York Magazine story, which use my old name and online alias. I've also sent in proof of my identity, both old and new name, to the IAmA mods. I can also confirm this via my Twitter.

So, if you have any questions about my conversations with Manning, the ongoing case, my expected testimony, or anything else related to this, ask away. I'm not well-versed in every aspect of the case, but I'll answer all your questions to the best of my ability.

Comments: 2771 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

Chubbstock164 karma

our chats can show that he didn't intend to aid the enemy.

I hope to god this doesn't change a thing. I personally was in the military for 7 years and I worked in cryptology, granting me TS:SCI clearance and I can tell you one thing for sure: Any time anyone ever gets within range of using a siprnet machine like Manning used, there are CONSTANT trainings, briefings, letters of understanding, etc. which explain one simple thing: if you mishandle or even move secure information from the siprnet to the niprnet, your ass no longer will belong to you, it will be in jail for eternity and you will be an enemy of the state regardless of intent. So regardless of how you feel about the country's procedure when it comes to secure information, he can not for a second claim that he didn't know exactly what he was doing and what would happen.

Fun Fact: I just had to re-take the Information Awareness course and guess who's name is now in it as an example of what not to do? PVT Manning.

I have zero sympathy for that man.

kungfoojesus35 karma

I suppose I sympathize with his treatment in solitary confinement, but as to his actions preceding that, he deserves a very harsh sentence.

He knew exactly what he was doing. he knew it was wrong. He knew it could endanger people's lives. Like you said, he was trained over and over about this exact thing. I can't believe people are saying he should be set free.

Concern over his possible mistreatment is another matter, it was not mishandling of his case and thus grounds for dismissal. I know our view point isn't the popular one, but it's all good.

LaurenM111 karma

I believe he was aware that what he was doing violated numerous laws and regulations - I mean, how could he not be? I don't know the details on what standard of proof is required for him to be convicted on the charge of aiding the enemy. If any experienced lawyers or servicemembers can chime in on that, I'd appreciate it.

athoesen37 karma

Are you planning on saying "You can't handle the truth!" at any point during your testimony?

LaurenM115 karma

If it came to that point, I imagine things would have gone significantly off the rails already.

stayclose24 karma

is it your educated opinion that manning prefers male pronouns? it must be a terrible to be going through this while going through that.

LaurenM116 karma

It's really difficult to know this for certain. The full versions of his published chats with Adrian Lamo seem to indicate that, at least at that time, he identified as a woman, felt he had gender dysphoria, and wanted to transition and had even set up online accounts under female names. At the same time, Rainey Reitman of the EFF, who works with the Bradley Manning Support Network, has reported that everything they're aware of indicates that he prefers to go by Bradley and male pronouns. When I asked the prosecution and defense about this, they also said he identifies as male. Obviously none of this is conclusive - trans people already have plenty of reasons not to come out, let alone in a circumstance like this - but that's just what I know.

sky651223 karma

Why did Manning contact you in the first place?

LaurenM17 karma

He found me through my YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/ZJemptv) and contacted me on AIM. He told me he found my videos interesting - particularly the ones about atheism, LGBT issues and information theory - and believed that we were of a sort of similar mindset. That seemed to be the extent of it. I suppose he just wanted to talk to someone who he felt was like him.

ccims18 karma

What is your opinion of the Government's case again Manning?

LaurenM112 karma

If he did leak the documents he's accused of leaking (US diplomatic cables, the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Logs, and so on), then I imagine those charges would stand or fall on the facts of the matter (I am not a lawyer - I may be entirely clueless about these things, so take it all with a grain of salt). But the charge of aiding the enemy seems like it would be much more nebulous. I don't think Manning had any intention of assisting "the enemy" in his actions. When I spoke with him, he seemed like someone who was concerned for the welfare and safety of US troops as well as foreign civilians in war zones. However misguided or ill-considered his actions were, I really don't think he was trying to "aid the enemy", but I'm not entirely clear on what standard of proof the government would have to meet to succeed in convicting him of that.

AnImbroglio15 karma

What role, if any, did Julian Assange play in all this? Could one argue he led him to commit treason?

LaurenM10 karma

I think the issue of whether Manning was ever in contact with Assange, and to what extent, is still being argued (see here). I'm not really familiar with this, so I couldn't speak to that aspect of this.

kungfoojesus9 karma

Do you believe Manning deserves to be punished for leaking classified information?

LaurenM13 karma

I do think it was rather indiscriminate and without much consideration for whatever sensitive material might have been contained in all of the documents that he hadn't seen but allegedly leaked anyway. The facts of the matter on what he did and when seem to be pretty clear. I find it difficult to accept that someone who, on their own, chooses to leak almost a million classified documents without knowing whether the vast majority contain truly sensitive and potentially dangerous material, should face no consequences for that. I personally would consider it irresponsible, I think there should be an incentive against that kind of thing, and I think it's clear why it's against the law. However, I do hope that he gets far, far less than a life sentence.

ChrisHallquist9 karma

I know you've answered this elsewhere, but so that Reddit can hear: are the rumors about Manning being trans true?

LaurenM14 karma

His chats with Lamo do seem to indicate that, at least at the time, he identified as a woman, felt he had gender dysphoria, wanted to transition and had set up online accounts under a female name. That would seem to be pretty solid evidence pointing in that direction. However, people involved with the Bradley Manning Support Network who've been in contact with him have reported that he prefers to go by Bradley and male pronouns, and the prosecution and defense have confirmed that as well. For the time being, I'm just going by his stated preferences, insofar as this has been reported accurately.

Thompson_S_Sweetback7 karma

In your opinion, forgetting all official classifications or laws, did anything you discussed have the potential to endanger the security of the U.S. or NATO and their military?

LaurenM12 karma

I don't believe so. Our chats have been published in full by New York Magazine and the Guardian, and I don't think we talked about anything that was a national security matter, at least not that I know of. If anything else can pick out material in our chats that would be sensitive information, I'd be interested to know about it.

HerAffliction7 karma

I heard about Manning's horrible treatment in prison in a vid of yours. Could you explain to the rest of the redditors here the condition Manning is/was being held in?

LaurenM14 karma

Details of his treatment at Quantico can be found here, explained probably much better than I could. Briefly, he was kept on the restrictive conditions of suicide watch which he believed was unnecessary (obviously Quantico thought it was necessary), sometimes required to stand naked at attention, required to ask for toilet paper and then return it, deprived of any personal items, allowed only 20 minutes outside a day and barred from any work duty, being woken up at night whenever they couldn't see his face, having the lights kept on at night, and more really unpleasant stuff like that.

ToasterP6 karma

Has his treatment while in custody improved any? What is your opinion on the manner in which his detention and isolation have been handled prior to the court martial?

LaurenM12 karma

He was moved from Quantico to Leavenworth in April 2011, where he was removed from any kind of suicide watch, treated as a medium-security detainee and allowed much more freedom than at Quantico. His attorney describes the conditions at Leavenworth here.

I do think it's been taking way too long for this to come to trial, but given the volume of the evidence - that is, the leaks - I can imagine it does take a while to sort through all that, see what if anything supports certain charges against him, figure out what needs to be redacted, and so on. It's been a hell of a long time to keep him in pre-trial detention, though.

ChrisHallquist5 karma

How do you feel about testifying? Have the defense lawyers talked to you a lot about what to expect, or done other things to help you prepare?

LaurenM15 karma

Not really. We haven't reached that stage of things yet, and they've just laid out what their very general idea is: that my chats show someone who cared about his country, and that there's no way he was actually trying to aid the enemies of the US. How do I feel? Well, it'll take a bit of a chunk out of my week having to fly there and back, and I'll have to find someone to watch the kids during the day, but other than the practicalities of it all, I have no problem answering whatever questions they want to ask me. I'm hoping it'll be a relatively civil and sedate affair, not all dramatic like TV courtroom dramas. I'm also hoping the news won't sensationalize it too much - you know how the media gets with their "transsexuals!" stories.

wefreemen5 karma

What's your opinion of what Manning did and why?

Also, I love your videos, been watching for a long time now, and wish you all the best with the continuing transition!

LaurenM12 karma

I think it had less of an impact on global events than he may have expected at the time he did it, and if he knew that would be the case, I kind of wonder if he would have reconsidered - if he would have still felt it was worth it.

I can see that the leaking of the "Collateral Murder" video was justified - there's plenty of reason to suspect wrongdoing there. As for the rest of it, though, it seems to me that it's pretty indiscriminate just to leak the whole of US diplomatic cables and middle eastern war logs merely because you figure there has to be something revealing and criminal going on in all of that.

If I were in that position, I imagine I would have been more selective, seeking out specific incidents, before I blew the whistle on anything. At the same time, these are nearly a million documents and would of course take a while to go through, but that seems like it would make it even more risky to make them all public without knowing whether there might actually be anything dangerous in them. Basically, I'm not sure how I could arrive at the belief that all of it had to be put out there. I can't speak to Manning's motivations, however.

And thank you for your support.

200StoneJesus4 karma

Lauren, I've been quietly following you on YouTube and FB and I just want to thank you for this and for all that you do. The world is a better place with you in it.

LaurenM16 karma

Thank you. I try to do the right thing, as I see it, and I think that's just about all anyone can do.

TompanX4 karma

Did he do anything bad or is it just government propaganda? Also I love your content.

LaurenM18 karma

Thank you. I suppose that depends on how you define "bad". Different people have characterized the impact of his alleged leaks in different ways: either as a reckless act that potentially revealed sensitive information to enemies of the US in a time of war; or as a completely warranted exposure of information on US activities that the world deserved to know and which possibly even sparked revolutions (the Arab Spring and so on). Personally, I don't think either is entirely true. The impact on US security seems to be minimal, and yet the cables don't seem to have effected that much global change, either - or if they did, then it's not in a way that's directly attributable to the leaks. I'm not saying the truth is somewhere in the middle, but I think the impact has been overstated in a lot of ways.

_man_bear_pig4 karma

Now correct me if I'm wrong but he has been in solitary confinement for 4 years is there anything left of his sanity? Can a person come back from something like that?

LaurenM13 karma

He did testify at the pre-trial hearing about the conditions of his confinement last year. He seemed relatively upbeat and well-spoken according to reports (see here and later posts in the series), which did surprise me after everything he's been through. I hope he gets through this with his mental well-being intact. Driving people out of their minds is in no way a legitimate purpose of incarceration.

writingtoreachyou4 karma

Thanka for the AMA.

My question is in your opinion and based on both your conversation with Manning and evidence that has been given during the trial so far, were his reasons for leaking purely altruistic, a result of personal and professional stress, or a combination of the two.

Also, from what I have read military courts aren't exactly known for their impartiality, do you think this is/ will be the case?

LaurenM12 karma

From what I've seen of his conversations with Adrian Lamo (Manning never mentioned to me or suggested in any way that he would do something like this), he did seem to believe that this would be good for the world in some way, that we could all benefit from this information being out in the open. For all I know, that could have been a pretense and he was motivated by something else, but I'm really in no position to speculate on that. It does seem that he was under a lot of stress almost the entire time he was in the military, a lot of which has been reported in the media (see here). I don't really doubt that had some bearing on what he did, but of course I wouldn't attribute his actions solely to that.

I don't know much about military courts - the last time I was in a court was just for a name change and it took 5 minutes - but I do hope the evidence is weighed fairly and he's treated fairly as well. Whatever happens, I just hope the decision is really well-reasoned given what's at stake here.

WaywardWayfarer3 karma

Are you related to Robert McNamara?

LaurenM10 karma

No. I acquired this name intentionally, I didn't inherit it. I took it from my partner's family. She may be related to him, but only distantly, in the sense that all the McNamaras are related somehow.

politicalcustard3 karma

I've asked a question previously, so feel free to skip.

Can Adrian Lamo be forgiven?

LaurenM15 karma

I don't know very much about Lamo, but I find it hard to criticize him for his actions. If I had kept talking to Manning, and he had kept talking to me, it's certainly possible that I would have been the one he told about his leaks first, rather than Lamo. And if I were in that situation, I don't know that I wouldn't have also informed authorities about someone who apparently was leaking lots of classified material. At the same time, a lot of what he said to me struck me as bragging or exaggeration, as it's hard to tell whether someone's being honest when they tell you online that they're a military intelligence analyst and so on. I may have just dismissed it as not genuine, if he had come to me about it - I hate to be cynical, but I've had a lot of people mislead me online before.

I think it's important to see that we have the benefit of hindsight now. We can know now that informing the authorities led to Manning being detained for years while the trial plods along, and possibly facing life without parole (of course, that's not to say that he wouldn't have been discovered eventually through some other means). But at the time, I can imagine that Lamo didn't know any of this. And I wouldn't have either if I were in that situation. It might have been just a false alarm, or someone bragging. It might turn out that they hadn't actually done anything yet. At the time, there was a lot less certainty than there is now, and I don't see how Lamo can be held accountable for the full extent of what happened - as though he knew every bit of what would follow over the next few years. I wouldn't have known that.

atc_guy3 karma

Were you and Bradley in a platonic relationship or could the prosecution contrue you as a lover who is covering for him?

LaurenM12 karma

I can't imagine any possible way that we could be considered more than mere acquaintances. I only knew him online, and we didn't talk that often. I don't know if he had any such feelings for me - if he did, he never made it evident in any way - and I certainly didn't have any for him. I'm pretty well attuned to people trying to hit on me online, and I generally don't react well to it.

ErnieFraze2 karma

Shit. I am always afraid I'll witness a wreck or something and then have to testify as a witness. I'm mostly scared because people like to place the blame on someone, and I wouldn't want someone to think my testimony prevented them from getting what they wanted. Are you afraid of men in black suits will come and take you away?

LaurenM12 karma

No, not really. I don't consider it that big of a deal. I'll just go there, answer whatever questions they have, and be done with it. They've already talked to me about what it'll be like to go there and so on, and I don't really know how I could conceivably be blamed for any of this - he stopped talking to me long before any of his alleged leaks, and never hinted to me that he would do anything like this. I was very surprised when I saw his chat logs with Adrian Lamo - I'd heard the name Bradley Manning before, but didn't even remember him until I saw the username and recognized that I'd talked to this person before. It was completely unexpected.

FinickyPenance2 karma

You say that the defense plans to prove that Manning never intended to aid the enemy. Do you honestly believe that he thought that no harm would be done by releasing hundreds of thousands of pages of classified military intelligence?

LaurenM13 karma

From his conversations with Adrian Lamo, it seems like he felt whatever good he believed would be done was important enough that potential harms didn't really enter into it. But I can't speak to the considerations that went into his decision, as he never spoke with me about any of this or even hinted that he would do this. He may well have believed this was a net good, perhaps that anything that happened as a result of this information being exposed needed to happen - at least, that's a common reason I see from people who approve of the leaks, but this really is just speculation.

As I see it, people are capable of working themselves into apparently genuine beliefs about things even if those beliefs aren't especially well-founded or warranted. People are really good at ignoring things that challenge what they want to believe, and only listening to things that confirm what they want to believe. Or, as W.K. Clifford put it in The Ethics of Belief:

It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in no wise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts. And although in the end he may have felt so sure about it that he could not think otherwise, yet inasmuch as he had knowingly and willingly worked himself into that frame of mind, he must be held responsible for it.

Let us alter the case a little, and suppose that the ship was not unsound after all; that she made her voyage safely, and many others after it. Will that diminish the guilt of her owner? Not one jot. When an action is once done, it is right or wrong for ever; no accidental failure of its good or evil fruits can possibly alter that. The man would not have been innocent, he would only have been not found out. The question of right or wrong has to do with the origin of his belief, not the matter of it; not what it was, but how he got it; not whether it turned out to be true or false, but whether he had a right to believe on such evidence as was before him.

I can't say that's what Manning did - for all I know, he honestly did think he was doing good - just that people's genuine beliefs about things maybe shouldn't always be given so much weight. Personally, if I were in that position, I wouldn't have risked publishing every single one of the documents, because I don't know how I could be certain that damage wouldn't be done due to something I'd failed to consider.

politicalcustard1 karma

How do you feel about how the trans/gay issues have been dealt with in the media and by politicians generally?

A good example being Hiliary Clinton:

"Hillary told staff that she could not fathom how an army private, Bradley Manning, with psychological problems and a drag-queen boyfriend could single-handedly cause the United States unprecedented embarrassment just by labeling massive downloads as Lady Gaga songs.” quote from Vanity Fair article.

Thanks for coming on Reddit to answer questions. :)

Oliver - Queer Friends of Bradley Manning

LaurenM12 karma

Any time LGBTQ issues show up in the mainstream, especially relating to a hugely controversial event like this, it provides so many opportunities for prominent people to trip up and reveal just how ignorant they are. The trans dimension of this has often been either sensationalized or ignored entirely, although the latter seems more justifiable given the ambiguous history of how he identifies - I don't think it's possible right now to state conclusively that he's trans. If he's gay, then I don't think that should be all that relevant either. As I've said before, plenty of LGBT people serve in the armed forces of many countries around the world, and they do their jobs well. It may have been a part of his personal history, but that doesn't mean it had anything to do with his actions. If those were really Clinton's remarks and they've been relayed accurately, then that's ugly and obnoxious. Look out everyone - drag queens! Seriously now.

7o01 karma

Do you believe the military is sticking to the letter of the law in terms of the case as a whole (not necessarily his treatment), or is he being treated differently because of motives stemming from political or general-public perception interests?

LaurenM11 karma

I haven't been following the details of the case all that closely - there's an incredible amount of legalese of course, there's no public record, and there's one single independent journalist there (Alexa O'Brien) who's struggling to transcribe it all (doing a damn good job, though). It makes it hard to get a sense of the general tone of things. I imagine if the prosecution feels that the law is to their advantage here, they'd want to take advantage of that as much as possible.

gmalissa0 karma

No question. Just wanted to say I'm very happy Bradley has your voice of intelligence speaking at his trial. He deserves to be free.

LaurenM19 karma

Personally, I'm really hoping he doesn't end up spending the rest of his life in prison.

Middleman790 karma

Be careful you don't say too much and screw yourself up legally for court

LaurenM14 karma

At this point, everything about my history with Manning is already out there, and there's pretty much no as-of-yet-unrevealed facts that are going to be a bombshell or a secret weapon at the trial. It's all just a series of 12 online chats over a span of months, and they've all been published online by New York Magazine and the Guardian over a year ago. You can read them all, if you want. My interactions with him weren't any more extensive than that - they just believe this could be relevant to the case.

athoesen0 karma

Isn't it awesome when you stick to the truth? The prosecution is gonna have a fun time trying to dispute this.

LaurenM13 karma

That's pretty much my approach to this. I'll present the facts as they are, and whatever either side makes of that is up to them.

BEZthePEZ0 karma


LaurenM11 karma

Only groceries.

Source-Bot-2 karma

Are you afraid for your life? At all?

LaurenM13 karma

Not really any more than I usually am. I would hope that there isn't really anyone out there with a strong interest in killing me over this. I have a family to take care of.

Rove-2 karma

No questions just good luck and i hope he becomes free

Steven_Work0 karma

Same - wishing the best for you and manning. He should get the Nobel Peace prize Obama didn't deserve. Again - good luck to you both. If you can - tell Bradley that there are people like myself who tell our children about what is moral, and I consider him a role model.

LaurenM14 karma

I do hope I'll get a chance to see him, even if only for a moment.

mariesoleil-3 karma

This is /u/rmuser.

What's with the new account? Don't you think it's relevant to mention during an IAMA that you are a prominent user of this site.

LaurenM12 karma

I don't really know how I'm prominent, but I thought it was obvious from the post that I'm Zinnia Jones. It's not really a secret or anything, it's right there in the news stories. If I'm so prominent then I figured everyone knew this already.