From the Bradley Manning Support Network
As the defense closed its sentencing case yesterday, whistle-blower PFC Bradley Manning – facing 90 years in prison on six Espionage Act convictions – apologized to military judge Colonel Denise Lind for the way in which he exposed the horrific crimes and abuses he witnessed in America’s wars and diplomacy abroad. “I should have worked more aggressively inside the system,” noted Manning on the stand.
The defense’s cross-examination of prosecution witnesses in open court revealed that no deaths or casualties have been connected to WikiLeaks releases, despite soaring government rhetoric since 2010. The defense tried a number of times to get the judge to consider overclassification and other big picture issues affecting the case, but her ruling in the merits portion showed she was not willing to do so. In closed court, prosecution witnesses were allowed to talk about indirect harm—primarily the money and Government resources expended reacting to the release of the documents. Meanwhile, the Defense was barred from addressing the many positive outcomes of the releases. In that context, Manning stated, “I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry I hurt the United States.”
Rainey Reitman, of the Bradley Manning Support Network and the Freedom of the Press Foundation explained in an excellent statement yesterday:
While the legal strategy of Manning’s attorney at this point—as it would be for any attorney—is to convince the judge to reduce Manning’s sentence as much as possible, the public should know: Bradley Manning didn’t actually hurt the United States…. The brief discomfort that resulted from the WikiLeaks disclosures was necessary to begin the process of healing and reform. It is a process that we do not yet know will be successful, but which began with Manning’s decision to leak vital documents to WikiLeaks. And for that, we owe Manning thanks; no apologies necessary.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange noted:
Bradley Manning’s apology was extracted by force, but in a just court the US government would be apologizing to Bradley Manning. As over 100,000 signatories of his Nobel Peace Prize nomination attest, Bradley Manning has changed the world for the better. He remains a symbol of courage and humanitarian resistance…. Mr. Manning’s apology shows that as far as his sentencing is concerned there are still decades to play for.
Jeff Paterson, of the Bradley Manning Support Network and Courage to Resist added:
He certainly didn’t blow the whistle on the wrongs he saw in the correct military manner. Yet when he tried to speak up within his unit, he was told to forget about the injustices he saw. Later, he took heroic action in the midst of an illegal war. We will not relent until he is free.
More than 100 activists of the Bradley Manning Support Network packed the courtroom and overflow areas yesterday at Fort Meade, Maryland. After the session, many of us were asked by reporters, “Are you disappointed?”
We’ll have an answer after Judge Lind announces Manning’s sentence sometime next week.
Other evidence in mitigation yesterday
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. David Moulton testified that Manning has stayed “true to his principles” throughout his various statements and interviews over the last several years. He testified about Manning’s goals,
This was an attempt to crowd source an analysis of the war, and it was his opinion that if– through crowd sourcing enough analysis was done on these documents, which he felt to be very important that it would lead to a greater good– that society as a whole would come to the conclusion that the wars weren’t worth it– that really no wars are worth it.
Dr. Michael Worsley testified that Manning had “Gender-Identity Dysphoria,” the feeling that he should have been born the opposite gender, and the military’s “openly hostile” and “hyper-masculine” environment afforded him no outlet to seek help or guidance. Manning continues to ask that others respect his desire to be referred to as Brad or Bradley until he’s able to get to the next stage of his life.
Manning’s sister, Casey Manning, and aunt, Debra Van Alstyne, testified about his childhood. His mother drank heavily well into her pregnancy, and throughout his childhood, forcing Casey to care for him. Neglected and isolated, intelligent and curious, Manning felt the military’s G.I. Bill was his best shot at getting to college.
Discussing his future aspirations, Manning said yesterday, “I want to be a better person, go to college, and get a degree. I want to be a positive influence in other people’s lives.” While he faces 90 years in prison, most likely at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, military justice has no minimum sentence.