Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old U.S. soldier who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks, apologized to the U.S. at his court-martial on Wednesday. Manning gave an unsworn statement, which meant that he will not be cross-examined by prosecutors.
“I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that it hurt the United States,” Manning said, adding that, at the time of the leaks, he did not believe that the information would cause harm. Earlier on Wednesday, an Army psychologist testified that Manning’s struggle with gender identity in a hostile workplace caused him to feel a great amount of pressure. “You put him in that kind of hypermasculine environment, if you will, with little support and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult to say the least,” Capt. Michael Worsley said. Manning faces up to 90 years in prison.
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.
You can read Manning's full statement at The Guardian.
WikiLeaks issued a statement Wednesday in response to Manning’s statement, which it described as "forced":
Today Bradley Manning reportedly made a statement of remorse in a sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning’s statement comes towards the end of a court martial trial pursued with unprecedented prosecutorial zeal.
Since his arrest, Mr. Manning has been an emblem of courage and endurance in the face of adversity. He has resisted extraordinary pressure. He has been held in solitary confinement, stripped naked and subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the United States government. His constitutional right to a speedy trial has been ignored. He has sat for three years in pretrial detention, while the government assembled 141 witnesses and withheld thousands of documents from his lawyers.
The government has denied him the right to conduct a basic whistleblower defense. It overcharged him until he faced over a century in prison and barred all but a handful of his witnesses. He was denied the right at trial to argue that no harm was caused by his alleged actions. His defence team was preemptively banned from describing his intent or showing that his actions harmed no one.
Despite these obstacles, Mr. Manning and his defense team have fought at every step. Last month, he was eventually convicted of charges carrying up to 90 years of prison time. The US government admitted that his actions did not physically harm a single person, and he was acquitted of "aiding the enemy." His convictions solely relate to his alleged decision to inform the public of war crimes and systematic injustice.
But Mr. Manning’s options have run out. The only currency this military court will take is Bradley Manning’s humiliation. In light of this, Mr. Manning’s forced decision to apologise to the US government in the hope of shaving a decade or more off 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 United States military justice system. It took three years and millions of dollars to extract two minutes of tactical remorse from this brave soldier.
Bradley Manning’s apology was extracted by force, but in a just court the US government would be apologizing to Bradley Manning. As over 100,000 signatories of his Nobel Peace Prize nomination attest, Bradley Manning has changed the world for the better. He remains a symbol of courage and humanitarian resistance.
Mr. Manning’s apology shows that as far as his sentencing is concerned there are still decades to play for. Public pressure on Bradley Manning’s military court must intensify in these final days before the sentencing decision against him is made.
WikiLeaks continues to support Bradley Manning, and will continue to campaign for his unconditional release.
Free Bradley Manning.