FORT MEADE, Md. — Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is facing up to 90 years in prison for leaking 700,000 government files to WikiLeaks, apologized Wednesday for the "unintended consequences of my actions." He told the judge at his court-martial that while he "believed it was going to help people, not hurt people," he now realized that what he had done was wrong.
"I'm sorry that my actions hurt people," he said. "I'm sorry that they hurt the United States. At the time of my decision, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continue to affect me" — a reference to matters like his crisis over his gender identity, which he was confronting while on a military deployment in a combat zone.
Throughout the case, open-government activists have celebrated Manning's leaking as a heroic act to be admired and emulated even as his critics have denounced him as a traitor. And earlier in his court-martial, Manning's defense lawyer, David E. Coombs, portrayed his client as a whistle-blower, even if a naive one. But in the sentencing phase this week, Coombs has elicited testimony that depicted his client as a damaged and confused young man whose decision-making capacity was impaired by extraordinary stresses.
In his statement, Manning said these personal issues did not justify the things he did.
Manning's brief, three-minute statement to the judge, Col. Denise R. Lind, was not sworn, so prosecutors could not cross-examine him.
Under questioning from Coombs, Capt. David Moulton, a clinical psychiatrist who extensively examined his client after his arrest, described the stress and isolation that Manning was under and framed his release of the documents to WikiLeaks as the immature, even neurotic act of an idealist who thought he could end all wars.
Under such stress, Moulton said, "his abnormal personality traits became more prominent — he was acting out his grandiose ideation, his difficulties during that postadolescent period. And ultimately, when he came into contact or had contact with the information which he ended up releasing, his decision-making capacity at that point was influenced by the stress of his situation, for sure."
The court-martial will reconvene Friday afternoon.