Maj. James King, U.S. Army
Defense guest columnist
Friday, Tom asked where Bradley
Manning's chain of command was while he was smuggling large quantities of
secret documents on "Lady Gaga CDs" from their Sensitive Compartmented
Information Facility (SCIF) in Iraq in order to hand off to WikiLeaks.
question. As an Army intelligence
officer and former troop commander, I have been wondering about this since the
whole thing started. Manning had a
history of issues a mile long. Prior to
his deployment he had problems with roommates, screamed at superior officers,
and had senior NCOs question if he was fit to deploy for fear that he could do
harm to himself or others. Once he got
downrange, the issues continued. During
a counseling session, he flipped over a table and reached for a weapon. There was even concern that Manning was a
suicide threat. The risk was thought to
be so high that his weapon was rendered inoperable by having the bolt removed
by an NCO. Had his chain of command done the right things no one would have
heard of Bradley Manning, and instead of being locked up in a prison cell at
Fort Leavenworth he would probably be laying on his parent's couch after having
been discharged from the Army for discipline and mental health reasons.
what went wrong? How did someone with so
many red flags perpetrate one of the largest leaks of classified information in
U.S. history? In my opinion, the single
point of failure was Manning's company commander, Maj. Elijah Dreher. Some may point the finger at the Brigade S-2, who is the unit's
senior intelligence officer, but he is only an advisor to the brigade commander
and has no real command authority over soldiers. Maj. Dreher did have command authority but
testified that he was not aware of the incidents and claims he was never
informed about Manning receiving mental health counseling. This begs the question, what was he doing
when all of this was going on? Part of a
commander's job, at any level, is to have an understanding of the health and
welfare of their organization. Maj.
Dreher clearly did not know what was going on in his.
Maj. Dreher been more aware of the soldiers in his organization, Manning may
have been stopped on several different occasions. Had Maj. Dreher been aware of
Manning's pre-deployment issues, he could have recommended that he not be
deployed. Col. Miller, the brigade
commander, testified that there was no pressure to deploy someone they felt was
un-deployable. I deployed to Baghdad at
the same time as Manning's brigade. The
brigade I was in left behind over 600 soldiers, the equivalent of an infantry battalion. Being short that many soldiers did not affect
operations, so being short one intelligence analyst would not have affected
if it was vital to deploy Manning, he still could have been stopped long before
WikiLeaks. Had Maj. Dreher been aware of
the welfare of his soldiers he would have known that the NCOs in his company
were so concerned about Manning's mental health that they removed the bolt of
his rifle to inhibit him doing harm to himself or others. Even if all other
flags were missed, this one should have been so big you could see it from the
moon. At this point Manning's commander
should have suspended his clearance. A
company commander has the authority to locally suspend access to classified
systems. It's a simple Department of the
Army form. The suspension does not mean
he no longer has a clearance and his access can be quickly restored. One simple form could have saved the United
States a lot of embarrassment.
to answer the other question Tom asked in his post regarding the fate of Manning's
former chain of command, what did happen? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure, but it appears that it was surprisingly
very little considering the
magnitude of what Manning perpetrated. The article that Tom links to in his
post stated that the brigade S2, Maj. Clausen, and the company commander, Maj.
Dreher, had both been relieved from their positions, but for issues not related
to the Manning case -- Dreher for "not being truthful about property reports"
and Clausen for "not providing adequate intelligence." Only Master Sergeant
Adkins lost his rank and position due to Manning.
Major Jim King is a
U.S. Army intelligence officer who has been on three-year-long deployments to
Iraq as an infantry platoon leader, advisor to the Iraqi army, and a surveillance
troop commander. Maj. King has also
served as a brigade S2 and is currently participating in the Army's CGSC
Interagency Fellowship program. This represents his personal views and are not
necessarily the views of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images