AP and AFP
FORT MEADE, Maryland — U.S. soldier Bradley Manning took the stand Wednesday at his sentencing hearing in the WikiLeaks case and apologized for hurting his country, pleading with a military judge for a chance to go to college and become a productive citizen.
He addressed the court after a day of testimony about his troubled childhood in Oklahoma and the extreme psychological pressure that experts said he felt in the “hyper-masculine” military because of his gender-identity disorder — his feeling that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body.
“I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States,” Manning said.
“I want to go forward,” he said. “I understand I must pay the price.” The soldier said that he understood what he was doing but that he did not believe at the time that leaking a mountain of classified information to the anti-secrecy website would cause harm to the U.S.
Manning, 25, could be sentenced to 90 years in prison for the leaks, which occurred while he was working as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010. Though he often showed little reaction to court proceedings during most of the two and a half month court-martial, Manning appeared to struggle to contain his emotions several times Wednesday during testimony from his sister, an aunt and two mental health counselors, one who treated him and another who diagnosed him with several problems.
Speaking quickly but deliberately, Manning took only a few minutes to make his statement Wednesday. He appeared to be reading it from papers he was holding and looked up a number of times to make eye contact with the judge. It was an unsworn statement, meaning he could not be cross-examined by prosecutors. Appeal for Clemency
He said he realizes now that he should have worked more aggressively to find a legal means to draw attention to his concerns about the way the war was being waged. His conciliatory tone was at odds with the statement he gave in court in February, when he condemned the actions of U.S. soldiers overseas and what he called the military’s “bloodlust.”
Defense attorney David Coombs told Manning supporters that Manning’s heart was in the right place.
“His one goal was to make this world a better place,” Coombs said.
Manning’s apology could carry substantial weight with the military judge, said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale.
“He faces extraordinarily long confinement and if he is coming across subjectively as contrite, I think that may do him some real good with the sentencing,” Fidell said.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the only currency the military will take is Manning’s humiliation, and he believed the apology was forced.
“Mr. Manning’s apology is a statement extorted from him under the overbearing weight of the United States military justice system. It took three years and millions of dollars to extract two minutes of tactical remorse from this brave soldier,” Assange said in a statement. ‘Difficult to say the least’ Manning eventually came out to Capt. Michael Worsley, emailing the therapist a photo of himself in a long, blond wig and lipstick. The photo was attached to a letter titled “My problem,” in which Manning described his trouble and his hope that a military career would “get rid of it.”