I Am Bradley Manning…
If you don’t already know who I am, my name is Brian Penny. On Black Monday (March 15, 2011), I leaked confidential Bank of America emails to the media and public through Anonymous. The information I leaked has been utilized by various financial regulators to levy huge fines against the banks. The financial sector considers me a villain, while Main Street views me as a modern day Robin Hood-style vigilante hero.
I see myself only as Bradley Manning…
The methods I used as a civilian keep me on the right side of the law. The corruption I fought was in the private sector. By supporting Anonymous, my name reached the tables of the rich and powerful while I walk free, albeit monitored by the military, police, and various other entities. Bradley doesn’t share that blessing of freedom with me. As Manning committed the same “crime” I did as a human being, I’m obliged to question which of our fates is unusual.
Manning definitely trumps me on the cruel, but it’s not as simple of an answer as you’d think. Being left on the outside, cut off from the outside, my entire life was with the bank. Nearly everyone from my old life turned their back on me. I found what I loved in fighting for and promoting ethics. Finding a way to make a living off it was difficult. The life of a whistleblower is difficult.
In the three years since I leaked confidential bank information, I crossed a lot of obstacles the machine throw at you. I was targeted by the police, the government, the IRS, and in my personal life, all because of my war against the banks. I’ve done nothing wrong, yet I have a longer police record than many people in prison. I’ve seen a drone fly over my head on U.S. soil. I had my iPhone manipulated. I met special ops guys who were there for me. I have more attorneys than I care to talk about. I fought violence with non-violence, and I saw dozens of points where many have failed, and I luckily survived. My struggle is nothing compared to Manning’s though… I beat those odds because I have my freedom…
I may have been down… Many people assumed I was out… but at the end of the day, I post this story on the internet today standing up as a free man.
But I can never be truly free as long as my fate is so intertwined with another human being on this planet who did the exact same thing I did for a different employer. Bradley Manning wasn’t as lucky as me because I was fighting corruption in the finance and insurance industries. He fought corruption in the Army. Let’s not involve the government, but only the Army.
I grew up in a military family spanning generations. I know how all the systems work. At the age Bradley Manning was when he allegedly leaked information to Wikileaks, the Army and the government exist as two different entities. Bradley Manning never attacked the government. He attacked the Army on behalf of the United States government. This is why he is NOT a Benedict Arnold.
Bradley Manning is a soldier in a war much bigger than any of us, and he had no way of knowing how deep he was in. I was 30 when I leaked the Bank of America emails. I submitted testimony to every State Attorney General and was told by my lawyers that I couldn’t possibly understand what I’m involved in. I had a general idea, but to be frank, I didn’t. I didn’t learn exactly what I was involved in until I spent three years researching Wikileaks, working with Anonymous, and following my own story while becoming a professional financial writer at Jim Cramer’s MainStreet publication.
I couldn’t have accomplished that in prison. I especially couldn’t have accomplished that in a military prison… nor in my 20s. It would be impossible for Bradley Manning to have fully understood the legalities of what he was doing, but ignorance of the law is no excuse for violating it. This is why it’s important to understand Manning psychologically could not possibly understand the reality of what he was doing with the perspective he had when he leaked the documents he did.
So I again am left to ponder… why is he not in the same position I am?
We did the same thing. Attorneys saved me. Why are they making an example of Bradley Manning?
And what fate would you have us suffer together?
Because if we allow a human being to so publicly be killed in front of all of us on the media… and we’re all being watched… and bullets are scarce… how many of us are we willing to let die before you join Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Anonymous, and myself using nonviolence to defend our human rights in a world gone mad?
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, freelance consultant, and troll. He’s a frequent contributor to The Street, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company, Huffington Post, Mainstreet, Lifehack, and HardcoreDroid.