Ex-Sergeant Skewered on Pic of Manning in Women’s Wear

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – A former master sergeant who ignored a picture of WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning dressed as a woman faced tough questions Tuesday.
     “This is my problem. I’ve had signs of it for a very long time,” Manning had said in an April 24, 2010, email to his then-supervisor, former Master Sgt. Paul Adkins. “It’s caused problems within my family. I thought a career in the military would get rid of it.”
     This point echoes the thesis of “Flight into Hypermasculinity,” a scientific study profiling transgender armed service members. The paper’s author, former Air Force psychologist George Brown, found that his patients told him that they joined the military, in their words, “to become a real man,” only to experience the return of their repressed identities. A copy of this study was found in Manning’s housing unit in Iraq.
     Speaking of hiding this identity, Manning prophetically wrote in the lengthy email, “Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it’s causing me great pain in itself.”
     The subject line of the email read, “My problem.”
     A black-and-white copy of the attached photograph, displayed in court, showed Manning wearing what appeared to have been a straight blonde wig and bright lipstick. He appeared to have taken the photograph of himself staring into a camera from inside a car.
     David Coombs, Manning’s lead attorney, has spent the better part of the two days of the defense sentencing case pressing supervisors in the intelligence unit to agree that they made the wrong choice in letting the young soldier deploy to Baghdad.
     There, Manning had unprecedented access to a huge trove of military and diplomatic files. He ultimately uploaded more than 700,000 of these to WikiLeaks, including U.S. embassy cables, Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, Guantanamo detainee profiles, and footage of airstrikes that killed civilians.
     Had this email become widely circulated, Manning would almost certainly have lost his top-secret clearance and have been discharged from the military.
     At the time of its transmission, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was still active, and a ban on transgender soldiers continues to this day. The military justifies this ongoing prohibition on so-called “medical” restrictions, which shoehorn “transsexualism” into what it calls “psychosexual conditions.” These include “exhibitionism, transvestitism, voyeurism and other paraphilias.”
     Manning said shortly after this topic first came up in his court-martial that he currently prefers to be addressed as male.
     Adkins did not forward this email to his supervisor, Capt. Steve Lim, until November, nearly half a year after Manning’s arrest.
     Justifying that decision today, Adkins said, “I really didn’t think at the time that having a picture floating around of one of my soldiers in drag was in the best interest of the mission, the intel mission, Sir.”
     As a Shia analyst, Manning had analyzed one of the most active insurgent groups in Baghdad.
     “I felt that he was still producing products that allowed us to neutralize the Shia threat,” Adkins said.
     In questioning Adkins, one of the prosecutors, Capt. Angel Overgaard, adopted a more progressive stance toward Manning’s gender identity than the military currently has on the books.
     Overgaard asked Adkins: “Regardless of his cross-dressing in that email, did you still trust him to do his job?”
     “I did,” Adkins replied.
     Nevertheless, this was not the consensus in Manning’s unit once the email first came to light. Capt. Lim told Adkins he should have immediately removed Manning from the T-SCIF, the classified information facility where intelligence analysts work, a record of that reprimand showed.
     Days after receiving the email, Adkins wrote a memorandum obliquely stating that Manning’s “instability is a constant source of concern, however, because of its inherently fluid nature.” Adkins speculated that this was “symptomatic of a deeper medical condition, unknown at this time.”
     He further opined that Manning would have been “salvageable if he receives extensive psychological therapy at least once a week on an active basis.”
     This memorandum did not mention the picture of Manning dressed as a woman, or the anxiety his gender identity caused him in the military.
     The next month, Adkins saw Manning sitting in the “fetal position” for about an hour on the floor of the supply room with the 2-inch blade of a Gerber knife exposed at his side.
     Manning had carved the words “I want” onto a vinyl chair, Adkins said.
     Though they spoke for nearly an hour, Adkins claims to have remembered little of this conversation.
     Immediately after Manning calmed down, Adkins reassigned him back to his workstation.
     “I wrongly assessed that he was stable enough to conduct his shift,” Adkins said on the stand Tuesday.
     Hours after this episode in 2010, Manning punched his counselor, then-Spc. Jihrleah Showman, in the face.
     In the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures, military investigators reduced Adkin’s rank to sergeant first class and wrote him a letter of reprimand. He is now retired.
     Adkins took the stand after Coombs grilled a string of other officers – including Sgt. Tanya Gaab, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Ehresman and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle Balonek – about what he viewed as failures within the chain of command.
     Prosecutors claim that the deployment of Manning, despite his emotional turmoil during this period, was not out of the ordinary in the Army at that time, and a sign of progress toward eliminating stigma surrounding mental health issues.
     Coombs tried to elicit testimony from two witnesses later in the afternoon that showed the military still had a shaming climate so far as Manning was concerned.
     The first of these witnesses was Sgt. Lorena DeFrank, known to Manning as Spc. Cooley before her marriage and promotion.
     DeFrank said her relationship with Manning was cordial. She sometimes drove Manning to and from work “out of kindness, helping another soldier out,” the sergeant testified.
     Manning showed DeFrank the area where he grew up, and the mall where he worked.
     Because of his 5-foot-2, skinny frame, Manning was treated like a “runt” in the S2 shop, the name for the intelligence unit, DeFrank said.
     Though she first denied that people picked on him for being gay, DeFrank later admitted that husband forced her to stop talking to Manning because of what he referred to as Manning’s “lifestyle.”
     After mid-tour leave, Manning expressed feeling a “burden” at viewing footage of a Baghdad airstrike that killed two Reuters employees and other civilians, DeFrank told investigators. Manning eventually leaked the video, which WikiLeaks published under the name “Collateral Murder.”
     The next witness, Sgt. Sheri Walsh, said she never saw Manning together with other soldiers or with a “battle buddy” to look out for his safety. “I had numerous [battle buddies],” Walsh said.
     She seemed to show more empathy toward Manning than any of the other witnesses, and was one of the few apparently interested in his relationships, family life and interactions with other soldiers. She urged Manning to report bullying she witnessed against him one night.
     Two soldiers had punched a set of doors with their fists into Manning, leaving him “dazed and confused,” Walsh testified.
     She added that Manning decided not to report the incident.
     Manning is expected to deliver a statement tomorrow.

%d bloggers like this: