Pfc. Bradley Mannin and his civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, sit before a judge (Sketch by Clark Stoeckley)

There are people in this world who should find themselves in a position where they must sit on a witness stand, look up to a judge and make a statement pleading with the judge for mercy so they are not put away in jail for the rest of their life. None of those people include Pfc. Bradley Manning and yet that is what he did on Wednesday, as he addressed a military court at Fort Meade.

It was an apology for disclosing US government information to WikiLeaks. “I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States,” Manning said, as he tried to maintain his composure while facing the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind.

“At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continuing to affect me. Although a considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions,” he added. “I understood what I was doing, and decisions I made. However, I did not fully appreciate the broader effects of my actions.”

He did not only show remorse before the judge but also that he was ashamed of who he had been and what he had thought at the time of the offenses.

“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,” Manning told the judge. “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 [have believed] I could change the world for the better or the decisions of those with proper authority.”

Prior to being convicted of multiple violations of the Espionage Act, stealing information and other offenses, he had articulated the rationale that led him to select certain information for disclosure to WikiLeaks. This statement he made in court stood in stark contrast.

It was one of the last options his defense team probably advised him that he had, since he faces a potential sentence of 90 years in prison. [cont’d.]

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."