FORT MEADE, MARYLAND — Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army soldier convicted of leaking 750,000 secret documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, has apologized for his actions in a bid to get a lighter sentence after being convicted of espionage. The sentencing phase of Manning's case is under way at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Manning broke his silence Wednesday, taking the stand, pulling out a piece of paper, and reading a statement in which he apologized for the leaks, which he said hurt people and the United States.
Manning, now 25 years old, told the judge he understood but did not appreciate the broader effects of his actions, which he said he believed were going to help people. Manning said he understands he must pay a price for what he did, but hopes to one day move on and go to college. He asked the judge to give him an opportunity to prove himself a good person.
His statement followed testimony by a military psychiatrist who said Manning suffers from a series of emotional problems including a gender identity disorder and symptoms of autism. The psychiatrist also said Manning suffered problems related to fetal alcohol syndrome resulting from his mother's heavy drinking while she was pregnant with him.
Manning was convicted last month of leaking U.S. diplomatic cables, military communications, and video material while serving as an army intelligence analyst in Iraq, in what is described as the largest leak of secret U.S. government files in history.
He was acquitted of the more serious charge of aiding the enemy, which carried a possible life sentence. He still faces 90 years in prison on the charges for which he was convicted.
Throughout the court martial, which began in early June, the defense has tried to present Manning not as a traitor but as a whistleblower who sought to expose what he believed was wrongdoing by the U.S. government.
Manning's lawyers hope his apology and other testimony during the sentencing phase will help convince the judge that he was naïve, immature, well meaning, and suffering from conditions beyond his control.
The judge is expected to read Manning's sentence in the coming days.