PFC Bradley Manning apologizes for “unintended consequences” of leaks

Court room drawing courtesy of Deb Vanpoolen.

FORT MEADE, Maryland — Private First Class Bradley Manning apologized on Wednesday for the “unintended consequences” of his actions and asked the judge for an opportunity to “return to a productive place in society”.

The 25-year-old former intelligence analyst is facing up to 90 years in prison after he was convicted of 20 out of 22 charges, including the Espionage Act, for releasing hundreds of thousands of classified government records to WikiLeaks.

Read more: Military judge reduces maximum sentence for PFC Bradley Manning

“I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that it hurt the United States,” Manning told Judge Denise Lind.

In the special findings released today, Lind concluded that Manning “had knowledge” that the intelligence – such as the Iraq and Afghanistan SIGACTs – that he provided to and were published by WikiLeaks was “accessible to al Qaeda”. Lind found that Manning’s conduct was “of a heedless nature that it made it actually and imminently dangerous to others.” “His conduct was both wanton and reckless,” she wrote.

Manning explained: “I understood what I was doing and the decisions I made. However, I did not truly appreciate the broader effects of my actions. Those effects are clear to me now through both self-reflection during my confinement…and through the merits and sentencing testimonies that I have seen here. I’m sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions.”

Read more: Transcript: PFC Bradley Manning’s unsworn statement at pre-sentencing hearing

Manning told Lind that when he decided to leak the classified records – including the Apache “collateral murder” video, the “significant activities” (SIGACT) reports filed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables, and Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs – to WikiLeaks in 2010, he believed that he “was going to help people, not hurt people.

Manning acknowledged that he should have brought his concerns about wrongful acts and misconduct by U.S. troops to the attention of his superiors and “worked more aggressively inside the system”.

“I look back at my decisions and wonder how on Earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority,” said Manning. “Unfortunately, I can’t go back and change things. I can only go forward. I want to go forward. Before I can do that, I understand that I must pay a price for my decisions and actions.”

Although Manning referenced his struggles with gender identity and family issues during the time of the leaks, he emphasized that “these issues are not an excuse for my actions”.

Manning said he accepts responsibility for what he did, but asked Lind for an opportunity to prove that he is a “good person” who can “return to a productive place in society.”

“Once I pay that price, I hope to, one day, live in a manner that I haven’t been able to in the past. I want to be a better person, to go to college, to get a degree, and to have a meaningful relationship with my sister, with my sister’s family, and my family,” said Manning. “I have flaws and issues that I have to deal with, but I know that I can – and will – be a better person.”

Manning supporters claim apology was “extracted by force”

WikiLeaks and the Freedom of the Press Foundation tried to downplay Manning’s apology, denying that his actions had hurt the United States.

Both organizations described Manning’s apology as a “tactical” move to lessen his sentence.

“While the legal strategy of Manning’s attorney at this point—as it would be for any attorney—is to convince the judge to reduce Manning’s sentence as much as possible, the public should know: Bradley Manning didn’t actually hurt the United States,” according to the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “The brief discomfort that resulted from the WikiLeaks disclosures was necessary to begin the process of healing and reform…And for that, we owe Manning thanks; no apologies necessary.”

WikiLeaks continued its call for Manning’s unconditional release, claiming that his apology was “extracted by force“.

“Mr. Manning’s options have run out,” according to a statement released by WikiLeaks. “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”.

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