Bradley Manning is the soldier that was arrested in Iraq in May of last year on suspicion of passing classified data obtained from the US government's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network to the website WikiLeaks, but before that he was a troubled young man growing up in the Midwest, plagued by family and sexual identity issues.
Like many troubled young men, Manning found solace in technology. At six months old he would sit in his father's lap, tapping away at a computer keyboard, fascinated. Between the ages of seven and eight his father introduced him to the C++ programming language. Later his dad helped him build his own computer.
Bradley's oldest friend, Jordan Davis, recalls an early example of Bradley using computer games as a way to escape the confines of the Midwestern town he called home.
"He was always thinking outside Crescent, Oklahoma," Paden Radford said. "He was always a step ahead of most people." By middle school, Bradley was altering lines of code to transform a computer-game character's appearance, just for fun. "I don't know too many 13-year-olds who can re-skin a model," Davis said.
Bradley and Davis would play games together, prompting discussions in which Bradley's exceptional intellect would shine.
The game Call to Power II, for instance, prompted him and Davis to discuss using technology to achieve democracy. It was during one of those discussions that Bradley mentioned the concept that "information wants to be free," which had become a tenet of the hacker community. "Bradley was interested in hacking - not in doing it, but in theory," Davis said.
Call to Power II is the sequel to Civilization: Call to Power, developed by Activision as a successor to Sid Meier's successful Civilization series.
It's fascinating that a game about building a civilisation through the use of ideas and warfare would inspire the man who would one day be suspected of challenging civilisation's status quo with his ideas.
Bradley Manning is at the centre of the WikiLeaks controversy. But who is he? [The Washington Post]