In his first public remarks in six months, Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking 700,000 government files to WikiLeaks, told a court Wednesday that he is sorry that “my actions hurt people” and the United States, but hinted his coming to terms with his sexuality played a major role in his actions.
“At the time of the decision, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing,” Manning told the judge, Col. Denise Lind. The issues seem a clear reference to the stress his defense attorneys said Manning was under as he came to terms with his homosexuality and gender identity in the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Prior to Manning’s remarks, an Army psychiatrist testified that Manning came to him for help in dealing with gender identify disorder. Capt. Michael Worsley said Manning emailed him a picture of himself dressed as a woman in a letter titled “My problem.” In the letter, Manning said that he had hoped his military career would help him “get rid of” his “problem.”
Worsley said that Manning could expect no support from the “hyper-masculine environment “of the military. “Really, it was just me,” Worsley said.
In fact, in testimony on Tuesday, Manning’s master sergeant, Paul Adkins, acknowledged that Manning sent him a similar letter and photo, saying that gender issues were “haunting me more and more as I get older.” Adkins nonetheless found Manning fit for duty.
Manning was convicted last month on a series of charges related to the leaks, but was acquitted of the most serious charges of aiding the enemy. He faces up to 90 years in jail.
In his three-minute address to the court, Manning told the judge that he knew he should be punished for his actions, but hoped that the court would recognize that he was not a bad person.
“I should have worked more aggressively within the system,” Manning said. “Unfortunately, I can’t go back and change things,”