The United States Army private accused of downloading classified materials while serving as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad and passing them to WikiLeaks should never have been deployed to Iraq in the first place because he was mentally unfit, a soon-to-be-released Pentagon report will conclude.
Bradley Manning, 23, who is facing eight charges of breaking federal law in connection with the WikiLeaks affair, was serving at Fort Drum in New York when mental specialists advised against his deployment to Iraq. But his immediate superiors ignored the advice, according to an internal Army investigation . The report, which will be delivered formally to Robert Gates, the US Defense Secretary, later this month, also faults officers at the intelligence analysis facility in Baghdad for failing properly to supervise the soldier and to maintain a proper degree of security to protect secrets.
Some details of the findings were leaked to The Washington Post. "There were serious leadership failures within the unit chain of command and gross negligence in the supervision of... Manning in Iraq," one Defense official familiar with the Army probe told the newspaper.
The revelations coincide with a new chorus of complaints that the soldier is being held in almost inhumane conditions at a Marine base in Virginia pending his trial. Earlier this week Amnesty International called on the British Government to pressure Washington to improve the conditions of his confinement. Pte Manning should be considered British, Amnesty said, because he has a Welsh mother.
"We would also like to see Foreign Office officials visiting him just as they would any other British person detained overseas and potentially facing trial on very serious charges," Kate Allen, the UK director of Amnesty, said.
The Army probe into the circumstances of the security breach is separate from the criminal investigation that is being headed by the US Justice Department. So far, no charges have been filed against Pte Manning or anyone else in relation to the latest burst of leaked diplomatic cables. The eight charges he faces already are linked to earlier materials disseminated by WikiLeaks, including video footage taken from a gunship helicopter.
The Army investigation, headed by Lt-Gen Robert L Caslen, found that while Pte Manning had no discernable emotional problems when was first recruited to the military, he came under some kind of mental stress later, possibly because of relationship problems. "Something happened in his personal life after he joined," the official said.
The investigators apparently found evidence of Pte Manning spiralling into rages while still at Fort Drum, which helped persuade the mental specialists that deploying him would be a bad idea. It is alleged that the recommendation was ignored because of a shortage of intelligence analysts in Iraq at the time.
First to seize upon the findings will be Pte Manning's defence team led by David Coombs, his private lawyer. Reports of the Army's findings seem clearly to demonstrate "the failure of the Army to take care of the soldier", Mr Coombs said.