FORT MEADE, Md. – Pfc. 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 mans body.
I am sorry that my actions hurt people. Im sorry that they hurt the United States, he said as he began.
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. The judge will impose the sentence, though exactly when is unclear.
Manning gave an unsworn statement, which meant he could not be cross-examined by prosecutors. He spoke for only a few minutes and appeared to be reading from a statement he was holding.
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. He said he wants to get a college degree, and he asked for a chance to become a more productive member of society.
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 militarys bloodlust.
Mannings attorneys contend he showed clear signs of deteriorating mental health that should have prevented commanders from sending him to a war zone to handle classified information.
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.
Worsley testified Wednesday that the soldier struggled amid extreme conditions.
You put him in that kind of hyper-masculine environment, if you will, with little support and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult to say the least, Worsley said. It would have been incredible.