Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History Hardcover – Jun 1 2012
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Review“In telling the story of how the intelligence analyst Bradley Manning came into contact with the self-promoting anti-secrecy radical Julian Assange under the pressure cooker of the Iraq war, Denver Nicks has written a page-turner that reads like a cyberthriller. It’s simultaneously a coming-of-age story, a coming-out story, an X-ray of American culture in the Homeland Security era, a well-researched history of espionage, an exposé of the routinized cruelties of the 21st-century US military, and a meditation on the human costs of the cult of secrecy.” —Ned Sublette, author of The World that Made New Orleans
“WikiLeaks accomplice Brad Manning was a gay geek in the military at a time when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ defined the war on all kinds of freedoms, not just sexual ones. Denver Nicks has given us a suspenseful, sensitively drawn account of righteous rage, vigilante justice, and the young man who risked his future to make the truth known.” —James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker
“Brad Manning’s ordinary existence becomes extraordinary through the fine writing of Nicks. The conversations between Manning, his confidants, and others are expertly woven together in a way that propels this story along like a thrilling, suspense-filled novel.” —Randy L. Schmidt, author of Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter
About the Author
Denver Nicks is a writer based in New York City. Originally from Oklahoma, he has developed a reputation for intrepid reporting in challenging contexts. Nicks has written about street art in Poland, a failed coup in the Philippines, post-coup Honduras, and the hidden working-class underbelly of Wall Street in the midst of the financial meltdown. A Fulbright Scholar, he holds a Master of Science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Daily Beast, AlterNet, The Nation, and other publications.
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The intro/prologue is a lost art. In most cases I've experienced, the intro is simply a poorly named Chapter 1. Sometimes though, it's a clever non-sequitur that gives away the book's ending. I was, however, totally hooked by the intro to Private. I mean, a courtroom trial setting that seemed to put my favourite parts of A Few Good Men and A Time To Kill onto the same page and then demands the question, "Who is Bradley Manning?"
Nicks pulls a nice Steinbeck via segmentation, balancing the personal minutiae of Bradley Manning with the greater and longer historied cultural landscape that made way for this chain of events. If you honestly interview most people, I'd wager you'll find a decent enough biography somewhere in the details. With Manning, the pieces are all there in dramatic fashion so it struck me as odd that the more I read, the more I found myself wanting to skip to the chapters about the hacker code of ethics and this digital Andy Warhol fellow, Julian Assange.
Nicks goes into great detail about the circumstance and life of Bradley Manning, the outsider in a small town, the emotionally damaged boy, the superiority/inferiority complexed individual, the gay enlistee in a DADT Army, and, to me, it ultimately doesn't matter. And that's important. Read the biographies of Kurt Cobain and John Lennon. These are two men who had well-documented histories of volatile, random, manic, aggrandizing and deprecating behavior but do we really care or remember them for that? We remember them not for who they were but for what they did.
After reading this even-handed account, I'm still not sure how I feel on the situation. The frustrating part of the book is that it feels like it ends when it's all really beginning but I guess those are the breaks when you're reading about present reality. The leaks are still ocurring and Manning is still on trial and we still don't have an ending. The only thing I am sure of is that we'll see Mr. Nicks' name somewhere in the producer/screenwriter credits of the movie when it comes out.
But the most important part of this book is not the how -- it's the why. Nicks sketches out Manning's world, his development as a person, and the entirely understandable impulses that convinced him that the only option was to release these documents to the public.
It's a deft portrait of a human being -- but an even more important document of what has happened to that human being in this period of American history in which secrecy and paranoia are the dominant official impulses.
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