Pfc. Bradley Manning took the stand to give an unsworn statement in the sentencing phase of his trial. What he said and how he handled himself on the stand was different from when he gave a statement in military court where he pleaded guilty to some offenses in February.
“I’m sorry that my actions hurt people and I am sorry that I hurt the United States,” Pfc. Bradley Manning stated, as he began his unsworn statement to the military court at Fort Meade.
He turned in the witness box and faced the judge. One could hear in his voice that he was trying to keep his composure. He was nervous and possibly trying not to cry and lose his composure in front of the military judge.
Manning added that he had been “dealing with a lot of issues,” which are ongoing and continue to hurt him. However, those were “not an excuse” for his actions.
He told the judge that he had not truly appreciated the “broader affects” of his “actions.” He had time to reflect in his confinement in various forms. He had witnessed testimony during the trial and now had a better understanding of what he had done. He was “sorry for the unintended consequences” of his actions.
Manning believed what he was doing was “going to help people, not hurt people.” Looking back on his decision, he wondered how he could have believed a junior analyst “could change the world for the better or the decisions of those with proper authority.”
In retrospect, he suggested he “should have worked more aggressively inside the system” and had “options,” which had heard about in this trial, and “should have used those options.”
Manning admitted he had to “pay the price” for his actions, but he pleaded with her.
“I want to be a better person, to go to college to get a degree and to have a meaningful relationship with my sister, my sister’s family and my family,” he said.
He shared that he wanted to be a “positive influence in their lives” just as his aunt, has been to him.
“I know that I can and will be a better person,” Manning concluded. “I hope you can give me the opportunity to prove not through words but through conduct that I am a good person” and can “return to a productive place in society.”
This was very much the statement of a person who realizes his life is in the judge’s hands. She has the latitude to sentence him to ninety years in prison if she wants. She could very well split the difference and sentence him to thirty or forty years.
UPDATE – 5:25 PM EST
As far as some of Manning’s individual statements, what he might have been referring to when suggesting that he could have worked within the system was that Major Ashden Fein had said during closing arguments that Manning could have “exercised” his “rights under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act.” He could have gone to a congressman, but ”he did not reach out to a congressman about abuses he allegedly saw.”
How much Manning knows about whistleblowers going through the proper channels and being shut down is unknown. Manning has given no statements or testimony about his knowledge of previous whistleblowers or whistleblower laws in this case. Possibly this was included so he could maintain his conviction that his information he disclosed to WikiLeaks deserved to be public and he could have gone through channels to get at least some of it released but did not pursue those options. (This post here shows what happens to people in the US government who go through “proper channels.”)
In terms of what he said about thinking he “could change the world for the better or the decisions of those with proper authority” by engaging in the acts he committed, well, he knows what he did had great impact on the world and that some of it was positive. He knows at this point he helped fuel the Arab Spring by releasing information that made its way into the hands of Egyptians and Tunisians. He may know that other international bodies and human rights groups have used his information and it has benefited human rights in the world. Nonetheless, this was put in there because he understands his life is in the judge’s hands.
*Full Statement (as transcribed by Freedom of the Press Foundation’s stenographer)
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.
Image by Clark Stoeckley under Creative Commons license