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Manning's court testimony: 'I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people'

Published time: August 14, 2013 18:16
Edited time: August 20, 2013 14:52

Private First Class Bradley Manning is escorted into court for the continuation of the sentencing phase in his military trial at Fort Meade, Maryland August 14, 2013 (Reuters / James Lawler Duggan)

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Bradley Manning personally delivered a statement as his trial, which could see him convicted for up to 90 years in prison, nears its end. He defended leaking 700,000 US diplomatic cables as an act of conscience and apologized for the damage he caused.

The 25-year-old, who has already been convicted on 20 charges of espionage and theft, has not made a statement since a pre-trial hearing back in February.

Manning spoke for a brief two minutes, first apologizing to the court and acknowledging that by leaking the information to WikiLeaks he risked US security. 

First, your honor, I want to start off with an apology,” he said. “I’m sorry that my actions hurt people and I’m sorry that it hurt the United States. I understood what I was doing and the decision that I made. I’m sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions...When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people."

Manning reiterated that he had been experiencing personal problems during his deployment and understands he will “have to pay a price for my decisions and actions.” 

How on Earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over those with the proper authority?” he said. “I know that I can and will be a better person. I hope that you can give me the opportunity to prove, not through words but through conduct, that I can return to a productive place in society.” 

Supporters of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning hold signs to show support during a demonstration outside the main gate of Ft. Meade July 30, 2013 in Maryland. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group to which Manning leaked the cables, battlefield reports and a combat video, issued a statement Wednesday in response to Manning’s statement. 

The only currency this military court will take is Bradley Manning’s humiliation,” it read. “In light of this, Mr. Manning’s forced decision to apologize to the US government in the hope of shaving a decade or more off of his sentence must be regarded with compassion and understanding. 

Mr. Manning’s apology is a statement extorted from him under the overbearing weight of the US military justice system. It took three years and millions of dollars to extract two minutes of tactical remorse from this brave soldier,” the statement continued.

During the sentencing hearing, which decides the length of time the former intelligence analyst will spend behind bars, Manning had a choice of what type of statement he could have made. He was allowed to either testify as a witness, make an unsworn statement (his own version of the facts of his case that cannot be cross-examined) or a sworn statement, the likeliest to be challenged by the prosecutors. 

Throughout the sentencing hearings, Manning’s defense team have focused on their client’s psychological instability and gender identity confusion at the time of the leaks in 2010. A psychologist who spent time with Manning during his stint in Iraq testified earlier this week that the gay soldier struggled in a “hyper-masculine environment”.

Manning’s lawyers have argued that their client, who had already been in counseling over a range of minor issues, was allowed to access classified data while his mental state deteriorated.

The private previously said that he had become disillusioned with the “capturing and killing” that dominated the US war on the ground, which led him to hack into US diplomatic communications network, and extract the classified cables, before passing them onto Julian Assange’s Wikileaks website, which then made them public.

While the cables did not contain the most confidential data exchanged by US officials, prosecutors say that the embarrassing revelations had a “chilling” effect on Washington’s relations with the rest of the world.

Manning was arrested in May 2010, and presiding Judge Lind has reduced his sentence by 112 days for the harsh treatment meted out upon his detention.

Bradley Manning is entitled to appeal against any verdict handed to him by the court-martial in the Army Court of Criminal Appeal within six months.

Comments (24)


John Kenny 19.08.2013 02:33

He should be tried, and shot. He endangered the LIVES of many people just because of his selfish desire to ingest the reproductive fluid of other men. (I had to clean this up or it wouldn't post.)


goedelite 15.08.2013 19:45

Many sympathetic to Pfc Manning are trying to put a good face on his apology. I, too, am sympathetic to him. But I contributed to his support for political reasons. The argument that the military judge said she would not consider the politics is not a reason for the defense to pretend that Manning's acts were not political. Casting the man as a disturbed, confused youth is a betrayal of his political cause, to make known war crimes. It is a betrayal of Julian Assange who is virtually imprisoned in the Ecuadorian embassy for political reasons. It is a betrayal of the heroism of Manning's act.


goedelite 15.08.2013 17:19

I regret the small contributions I made to Pfc Manning's defense. I think Mr Coombs defense of Manning was poor. He deprived Manning's act of any lasting significance, except to chroniclers of my country's aggression in Iraq. From an international hero, Manning has brought himself down to a mentally disturbed young man who did harm he did not intend. He cannot even be considered for a Nobel PP, which he had deserved. A disgusting spectacle Manning rendered of himself, which will not take a year off his sentence. Coombs should hide his face.

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