Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old gay Army intelligence analyst in court today facing charges of leaking 150,000 State Department cables to Wikileaks, was connected to some important figures in D.C.'s gay political scene. Including a White House staffer he claimed tried to sleep with him.
Was a guy in the White House hitting on Bradley Manning even as he spilled America's secrets to Wikileaks? The staffer in question is White House Director of Specialty Media Shin Inouye. The 33-year-old openly gay Inouye was appointed by Obama in February 2009 to handle official communication with "specialty media outlets" including those representing the LGBT, Native American, and veterans and military family communities.
"He's a friend of mine," Manning wrote of Inouye in an August 2009 chat with the transgender blogger Zinnia Jones. "White House contact (he's tried to sleep with me, uggh)." Manning included a link to a Facebook photo of Inouye in a White House press room.
Jones provided the chat logs to New York magazine for a July profile of Manning, which published a redacted version of the logs with the reference to Inouye deleted; we've obtained a more-complete version. (Inouye and the White House didn't respond to requests for comment.)
More than a year after his conversation with Jones, Manning again name-dropped Shin Inouye in a chat with Adrian Lamo, the ex-hacker who would ultimately turn him into the authorities. This time he offered a hint of an official reason behind their connection: Manning wrote that Inouye was one of his "sources" in the White House keeping him abreast of Don't Ask Don't Tell "and the disaster that keeps going on with that," according to logs published by Wired.
Manning and Inouye became Facebook friends two months after Inouye was appointed to the White House, in May 2009, according to a copy of Manning's Facebook profile. Their public Facebook interactions were limited to a birthday wish Inouye posted on Manning's wall on December 17th, 2009, his 21st birthday. ("Happy birthday!!") By then, Manning had been deployed to Iraq and may have already been in contact with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange; two months later, Wikileaks released the first document believed to be leaked by Manning, a diplomatic cable from an American embassy in Iceland.
Of course, Manning could have been exaggerating his relationship with Inouye. In private chats he pumped himself up as a cunning sexual strategist, screwing and seducing his way to influence among D.C.'s quasi-closeted military and political scene. Manning said he slept with a Lt. Colonel from the Defense Intelligence Agency who "fixes" problems for him. To Lamo, he boasted of the apparently well-known D.C. names he had hooked up with while haunting District gay bars (names redacted by Wired, unfortunately). "I'm pretty well-connected for a ghost," he joked.
This self-portrait contrasts wildly with the mentally-disturbed, bullied and lonely Manning suggested by psychologists and military incident reports—one his attorney seems prepared to play up in his defense.
Still, there's ample evidence that Manning, who gave a quote to a reporter at an anti-Proposition 8 rally in New York and frequently posted about progressive politics on his Facebook wall, was connected in a real way to some of D.C.'s gay political institutions. Manning said he was a military source for Chris Johnson, a reporter with the D.C. gay newspaper The Blade."I feed with my sub-sources not to mention objective personal experience of DADT… and how its actually working out 'on the ground'," he told Lamo.
Johnson wouldn't comment when reached by phone, but Manning exchanged friendly Facebook wall posts with a man named Chris Johnson.
Manning was also plugged into the Stonewall Democrats, the influential LGBT-rights group. Manning and Jon Hoadley, then president of the Stonewall Democrats, repeatedly posted on each others' Facebook walls, and Manning's membership of a Facebook group called "People secretly in love with Jon Hoadley" is still visible: "♥ ya jon," Manning wrote on the group's wall in February 2009. It was through the Stonewall Dems that Manning ended up posing with San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom at a fundraiser.
When Manning was arrested in August 2010, Hoadley told a Blade reporter, "Other [than] through some stonewall events and stuff like that—and through a few friends—I didn't know him really well." (The reporter was Chris Johnson, go figure.)
Strangely, Manning's connection to the D.C. gay establishment, not to mention the White House, has been glossed over. This is certainly a relief to any influencers he knew—or "knew"—during his time on the scene but obscures the whole story of America's Public Enemy Number One. Manning wasn't just an desperate, attention-seeking soldier. He was also a young gay man with an activist bent, a presence at rallies and fundraisers, and, if his boasts are to be believed, a friend in the White House. Washington D.C.'s a small town.