Man­ning says sorry for leak of se­cret files

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Fort Meade, United States

US Army pri­vate Bradley Man­ning apol­o­gized on Wed­nes­day for leak­ing se­cret in­tel­li­gence files to Wik­iLeaks and ad­mit­ted for the first time that he has harmed his coun­try and oth­ers.

The 25-year-old, con­victed last month of es­pi­onage for pass­ing a huge cache of clas­si­fied US bat­tle­field re­ports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with diplo­matic ca­bles, said he was ready to face pun­ish­ment.

“I’m sorry that my ac­tions have hurt peo­ple and have hurt the United States,” he told a mil­i­tary judge, Colonel Denise Lind, at a sen­tenc­ing hear­ing at Fort Meade, north­east of Wash­ing­ton.

“I want to go for­ward,” he said. “I un­der­stand I must pay the price.”

Man­ning faces up to 90 years in prison for his of­fenses, which also in­clude com­puter fraud and breach­ing mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline. He was ac­quit­ted of a more se­ri­ous charge of de­lib­er­ately “aid­ing the en­emy,” chiefly al-Qaida, which could have landed him in prison for life with­out pa­role.

Wed­nes­day’s dra­matic court state­ment marked the first time Man­ning has pub­licly ex­pressed re­gret over the leaks, the big­gest in­tel­li­gence breach in US his­tory, which led to his ar­rest in 2010.

Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange sug­gested in a state­ment on be­half of the an­ti­se­crecy web­site that Man­ning’s tes­ti­mony has ef­fec­tively been co­erced, af­ter the stress of a lengthy trial and more than three years in jail.

“The only cur­rency this mil­i­tary court will take is Bradley Man­ning’s hu­mil­i­a­tion,” As­sange said. “In light of this, Mr Man­ning’s forced de­ci­sion to apol­o­gize to the US govern­ment in the hope of shav­ing a decade or more off his sen­tence must be re­garded with com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing.”

Man­ning, a for­mer in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst who ob­tained the files when he was de­ployed in Iraq, has be­come a hero to his sup­port­ers, who see him as a whis­tle-blower who lifted the lid on US for­eign pol­icy.

More than 100,000 peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing for him to be nom­i­nated for a No­bel Peace Prize.

But the US govern­ment has painted him as a reck­less traitor who put his fel­low soldiers and coun­try in dan­ger when he handed over some 700,000 doc­u­ments to Wik­iLeaks, which pub­lished them.

Man­ning’s de­fense team has ar­gued that he was a naive but well-in­ten­tioned young man who hoped to spark a pub­lic de­bate over the con­duct of US diplo­mats and troops abroad.

“Bradley is cer­tainly a per­son who had his heart in the right place and he was think­ing about you, … the Amer­i­can pub­lic,” de­fense lawyer David Coombs said Wed­nes­day.

“His one goal was to make this world a bet­ter place.”

The de­fense con­tends that Man­ning’s su­pe­ri­ors ig­nored re­peated signs of his emo­tional dis­tress and should never have al­lowed him to de­ploy to Iraq or re­tain his se­cu­rity clear­ance.

In poignant tes­ti­mony on Wed­nes­day, Man­ning’s older sis­ter Casey Ma­jor and his aunt De­bra van Al­styne talked about the sol­dier’s trau­matic child­hood, when he was of­ten aban­doned by his al­co­holic par­ents.

They de­scribed his mother as be­ing very mean and sui­ci­dal, say­ing he was of­ten left alone on the fam­ily’s ru­ral farm in Ok­la­homa and fed baby food un­til he was 12.

“It’s amaz­ing how much he ma­tured. I just hope he can be who he wants to be — just be happy,” his sis­ter said.

Ear­lier at the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, ex­perts tes­ti­fied that Man­ning was plunged into a soli­tary anguish as he strug­gled over his sex­ual iden­tity while liv­ing in a “hos­tile” mil­i­tary en­vi­ron­ment.

“Be­ing in the mil­i­tary and hav­ing a gen­der is­sue does not ex­actly go hand-in-hand,” Cap­tain Michael Worsley, a mil­i­tary clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, told the court.

“At the time, the mil­i­tary was not ex­actly friendly to­ward the gay com­mu­nity.”

Worsley di­ag­nosed Man­ning with a per­son­al­ity dis­or­der and then a “gen­der iden­tity dis­or­der,” and said the sol­dier would have faced an ag­o­niz­ing plight in the ma­cho world of the mil­i­tary.

“The pres­sure would have been in­cred­i­ble in an al­most openly hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment,” the doc­tor told the court.

Man­ning “was su­per-crit­i­cal of him­self. He was feel­ing he was never good enough.”

An­other wit­ness for the de­fense, David Moul­ton, a psy­chi­a­trist and ex­pert in mil­i­tary crim­i­nal cases, said Man­ning was fac­ing “hy­per stress” at the time of his il­le­gal ac­tions.

The sol­dier was un­der se­vere emo­tional stress when he be­gan con­sid­er­ing liv­ing as a woman, he said.

Striv­ing for “some­thing great” in his life, Man­ning be­lieved he was ful­fill­ing a moral obli­ga­tion with his leaks, Moul­ton said.

US Army Pfc Bradley Man­ning

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