Bradley Manning. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)
Pfc. Bradley Manning surprised some supporters on Wednesday with an apology and admission that he could have tried other channels today, before leading documents and videos to WikiLeaks, in court as the sentencing segment continues. Still, one had to recognize the position he is in: the judge he was pleading with, Denise Lind, could send him away for only, say, three years—or maybe, thirty. She judged him guilty two weeks ago of nearly twenty serious charges.
Posting on Twitter, Manning backers and longtime observers in the courtroom quickly expressed sympathy for him and noted that his claims of being an idealistic whistleblower—and doing much good with his leaking—remained valid.
His full statement follows, now transcribed by Freedom of the Press Foundation’s stenographer.
Below that, the WikiLeaks response (posted on its webpage), charging that Manning’s apology had essentially been “extorted,” and offering continuing support. My book on the Manning case and trial (with Kevin Gosztola).
First, your honour I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I ‘m sorry that they hurt the United States.
At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continuing to effect me. Although a considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions.
I understood what I was doing, and decisions I made. However I did not fully appreciate the broader effects of my actions.
Those factors are clear to me now, through both self-refection during my confinement in various forms, and through the merits and sentecing testimony that I have seen here.
I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.
The last few years have been a learning experience. 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 […] on decisions of those with the proper authority.
In retrospect I should have worked more aggressively inside the system, as we discussed during the […] statement, I had options and I should have used these options.
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.
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.
I want to be a positive influence in their lives, just as my Aunt Deborah has been to me. I have flaws and issues that I have to deal with, but I know that I can and will be a better person.
I hope that you can give me the opportunity to prove, not through words, but through conduct, that I am a good person and that I can return to productive place in society. Thank you, Your Honor.
Just posted at the WikiLeaks site:
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 pre-emptively 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.
Chase Madar writes about Manning's conviction and the implication for American journalism.