“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.” [cont’d.]