Bradley Manning apologises for 'hurting the US'
Sentencing hearing of WikiLeaks soldier is told he felt like 'a woman trapped in a man's body'
US soldier Bradley Manning took the stand at his sentencing hearing in the WikiLeaks case and apologised for hurting his country. He pleaded with a military judge for a chance to go to college and become a productive citizen.
Manning addressed the court on Wednesday after a day of testimony about his troubled childhood in the state of Oklahoma.
The court also heard of the extreme psychological pressure that experts said he felt in the "hyper-masculine" military because of his gender-identity disorder - his feeling he was a woman trapped in a man's body. The court saw a photo that Manning sent to his military therapist, showing the young soldier in a woman's wig and make-up.
One psychiatrist said Manning showed symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome and Asperger's syndrome.
"I am sorry my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that they hurt the United States," Manning said. The soldier said he understood what he was doing, but that he did not believe at the time that leaking a mountain of classified information to the anti-secrecy website would harm the US.
Manning, 25, could be sentenced to 90 years in prison for the leaks, which occurred while he was working as an army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010. The judge will impose the sentence, though exactly when is unclear. The next session, for prosecution rebuttal testimony, is today.
Manning appeared to struggle to contain his emotions several times during testimony from his sister, an aunt and two mental health counsellors.
Manning took only a few minutes to make his statement.
He said he realised now that he should have worked more aggressively to find a legal means to draw attention to his concerns about the way the war was being waged. He said he wanted to get a college degree, and he asked for a chance to become a more productive member of society.
His conciliatory tone was at odds with the statement he gave in court in February, when he condemned the actions of US soldiers overseas and what he called the military's "bloodlust".
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he believed the apology was forced.
He said in a statement: "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."
Manning's attorneys contend he showed clear signs of deteriorating mental health that should have prevented commanders from sending him to a war zone to handle classified information.
Manning finally came out to Captain Michael Worsley, e-mailing the therapist a photo of himself in a blonde wig and lipstick. The photo was attached to a letter titled "My problem", in which Manning described his trouble and his hope that a military career would "get rid of it".
Worsley testified: "You put him in that kind of hyper-masculine environment, if you will, with little support and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult to say the least."