The Air Gap by Steve Water

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Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 6 October 2012
In May 2010 Bradley Manning, a soldier in the US Army, was arrested and accused of releasing classified information to Wikileaks. He believed that it was his public duty to do so, as it told the truth about American foreign policy in Iraq: the material included videos of the July 2007 air-strike, and the 2009 strike in Afghanistan, 250,000 diplomatic cables, and 500,000 reports.
Manning was arrested and taken to a military prison in Quantico, Virginia, held in solitary comfinement and, it is alleged, suffered maltreatment at the hands of the army authorities.  After two and a half years, his trial has been scheduled for February 2013.
Set in the Quantico facility, as well as the operating base near Baghdad where Manning was posted, The Air Gap concentrates on the events leading up to his arrest, as well as what happened afterwards.  Steve Water constructed the play in a series of flashbacks; it began with Manning's arrest, and subsequently juxtaposed his interrogation by a series of army officials with the events leading up to the arrest. As performed by Greg Wohead, Manning came across as a fundamentally good-hearted soul, who was genuinely shocked by the ways in which the US Army conducted its military affairs, and believed that it was his duty to make the facts available to the public.  He certainly did not deserve the kind of treatment meted out to him in prison, which included a series of ritual humiliations, as well as the kind of pointless psychological examination that looks good on paper but which served to disinform rather than inform anyone about Manning's state of mind.  The ordeal of being prison obviously got to him; but Manning sustained himself by reading Kant, especially the idea of moral autonomy as the central tenet of humanity.  However even that privilege was eventually taken away from him, as an officer quite literally reduced Manning into a "poor naked wretch" by having his clothes and flip-flops removed, and taking the book away.
Boz Temple-Morris' production packed a powerful emotional punch, even though sometimes it seemed a little bit like Midnight Express transposed to an American context.  This time it was the US Army, rather than the Turkish police, who were the aggressors, treating Manning like an animal in the service of their patriotic cause.