As his legal defense closed today, WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning offered a brief, unsworn statement to the court. Directly addressing the judge and appearing at times to struggle with his emotions, he apologized for his actions and for what he described as a failure to work "more aggressively inside the system." He expressed hope that he could atone for his mistakes, and that he could eventually "return to a productive place in society."
After his conviction on charges under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Manning faced a potential 136 years in prison. Early in the post-conviction, sentencing phase of the trial, Army Colonel Denise Lindfound that government prosecutors had overcharged Manning; she reduced his maximum possible term to 90 years.
Manning's defense rested today; sentencing in the case could complete as early as next week. His full statement is below:
First, your Honor, I want to start off with an apology. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that I hurt the United States. At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues. Although they have caused me considerable difficulty in my life, these issues do not excuse my actions. I understood what I was doing and the decisions I made. However, I did not truly appreciate the broader effects of my actions. Those effects are clear to me now, through both self-reflection during my confinement in its various forms and through the merits and sentencing testimony I've seen here. I'm 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 three years have been a learning experience. I look back at my decisions and wonder how could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority. In retrospect I should have worked more aggressively inside the system.
As we discussed during the providence statement, I had options and I should have used these options. Unfortunately, I can't go back and change these actions. I can only go forward. I want to go forward. Before I can do that, though, I understand that I must pay a price for my decisions and actions.
Once I have paid that price I hope to one day live in the manner that I haven't been able to in the past. I want to be a better person, go to college, get a degree and have a meaningful relationship with my sister, my sister's family, and my family. I want to be a positive influence in their lives, just as my aunt Debra 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 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 a productive place in society.
Thank you, your Honor.
Update: WikiLeaks has responded to Manning's statement, calling it a "forced decision to apologize to the US government" that "must be regarded with compassion and understanding." The organization says it will continue to support Manning and campaign for his release. You can read the full response here.