Ed Pilkington in New York
New online conversations between a gay activist and Bradley Manning, the US soldier suspected of passing secret diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, allege Manning was being bullied in the military over his sexuality.
The 2009 weblogs, sent from Fort Drum, the upstate New York barracks where Manning was preparing to be sent to Iraq as an intelligence analyst, give new insight into his state of mind around the time he is alleged to have contacted WikiLeaks.
Using the online pseudonym Bradass87, Manning used AOL's instant messager for several exchanges with a 19-year-old man called Zachary Antolak, who lived near Chicago. Antolak adopted a female persona on the internet, ZJ Antolak.
In the weblogs, never before made public, Manning tells ZJ of bullying he endured as a gay man serving in the army under "don't ask, don't tell", the discriminatory policy towards gay soldiers. Though he tried to hide his sexuality, it was soon discovered by others in his platoon.
"It took them a while, but they started figuring me out, making fun of me, mocking me, harassing me, heating up with one or two physical attacks," Manning wrote to ZJ.
The logs were uncovered by Steve Fishman, a journalist at New York magazine who wrote a profile of Manning for the latest issue.
The new material adds to the understanding of Manning, who has spent more than a year in military prison awaiting a court martial on charges that he sent hundreds of thousands of confidential documents and videos to WikiLeaks. Manning has become a cause celebre in the US, where protests are regularly held outside Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he is in custody.
In the cyber conversations with ZJ Manning also says he was shocked by life in the army when first recruited.
"The army took me, a web dev, threw me into a rigid schedule, removed me from my digital self," posted Manning. "The army … threw me in the forests of Missouri for 10 weeks with an old M-16, Reagan-era load-bearing equipment and 50 twanging people hailing from places like Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi … joy. What the hell did I put myself through?"
In October 2009 Manning was deployed to Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles from Baghdad. There his feeling of isolation grew more intense. "It's awfully stressful, lonely," he wrote.
As part of the profile piece, Fishman interviews a counsellor who saw Manning in November 2009. At the sessions they discussed a previously unknown incident in which Manning appears to have felt responsible for a US military operation in Iraq that led to the death of a civilian.
Manning told the counsellor he was trying to find out why two groups of Iraqis were in a particular area. A US army unit was dispatched and Manning later learned that a man connected to them was killed. Manning, the counsellor said, "was very, very distressed". He also claimed Manning discussed wanting to have a sex change.
In previously disclosed weblogs he expressed anger at the apparent lack of concern shown by his superior officers in Iraq about the treatment of civilians.