Army Private Bradley Manning, accused by the Pentagon of leaking classified cables and intelligence reports on the Afghanistan war to the web site WikiLeaks, was featured on Monday's front page in a profile by reporter Ginger Thompson: "A Soldier's Path Toward a Leak Investigation - Friends See a Smart Misfit, Searching for His Place."
After some overly sympathetic opening paragraphs, the story revealed Manning as someone less a free speech hero than a sexually confused loner with major ego problems and an inability to deal with people who disagreed with his liberal and aggressively atheist viewpoints.
He spent part of his childhood with his father in the arid plains of central Oklahoma, where classmates made fun of him for being a geek. He spent another part with his mother in a small, remote corner of southwest Wales, where classmates made fun of him for being gay.
Then he joined the Army, where, friends said, his social life was defined by the need to conceal his sexuality under "don't ask, don't tell" and he wasted brainpower fetching coffee for officers.
But it was around two years ago, when Pfc. Bradley Manning came here to visit a man he had fallen in love with, that he finally seemed to have found a place where he fit in, part of a social circle that included politically motivated computer hackers and his boyfriend, a self-described drag queen. So when his military career seemed headed nowhere good, Private Manning, 22, turned increasingly to those friends for moral support.
And now some of those friends say they wonder whether his desperation for acceptance - or delusions of grandeur - may have led him to disclose the largest trove of government secrets since the Pentagon Papers.
The most interesting portion of the piece are the two photos, both taken by Astrid Riecken of the European Pressphoto Agency, featuring a total of nine protesters arguing for Manning's release, accompanied by the caption: "Demonstrators in Quantico, Va., expressed their support for Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking government secrets and is being held there."
In keeping with current Times tradition, the paper doesn't identify the hard-left groups orchestrating the protests, though the website address of one of the groups is visible on the posters held by the activists. It's our old friends at the Stalinist, pro-North Korea ANSWER Coalition, again teaming up with the aggressive anti-war leftists at Code Pink led by Medea Benjamin (as identified in a report by CNN).
It's the second time in under a month that protesters from the two groups have been pictured by the Times at a rally without being identified, the first time being in support of Agriculture Dept. employee Shirley Sherrod.
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