US SOLDIER Bradley Manning has apologised for hurting his country by leaking classified government material to the whistle-blowing organisation WikiLeaks.
Private Manning opened with an apology during his sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland. The soldier faces up to 90 years in prison following his conviction for leaking information while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010.
“I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that it hurt the United States,” he said.
“I’m apologising for the unexpected results of my actions. The last three years have been a learning experience for me.”
He said he understood what he was doing and the decisions he made. However, he added he did not believe at the time that leaking the information would cause harm.
Last month, military Judge Colonel Denise Lind convicted Manning of 20 charges including espionage, theft and violating computer regulations.
He had already admitted passing hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, a non-profit organisation which publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources.
Since June last year, its founder Julian Assange has sought sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, having claimed political asylum fearing extradition to the US in relation to his organisation’s activities.
Earlier during yesterday’s hearing, which took place in tight security, an army psychologist said Manning’s struggle with his gender identity in a hostile workplace put incredible pressure on the soldier.
Manning eventually admitted his homosexuality to Captain Michael Worsley and e-mailed the therapist a photo of himself wearing a wig of long, blond hair and lipstick.
The photo was attached to a letter titled “My problem”, in which he describes his issues with gender identity and his hope that a military career would “get rid of it”.
Cpt Worsley testified at Manning’s sentencing hearing, saying that the soldier had little-to -no support base in what was a ”hyper-masculine environment”,
Manning’s lawyers contend that the soldier showed clear signs of deteriorating mental health that should have prevented commanders from sending him to a warzone to handle classified information.
Navy Captain David Moulton, a psychiatrist who spent 21 hours interviewing the soldier at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after his arrest, testified as a defence witness that the soldier had decided he wanted to become a woman.
In psychiatric terms, he said that Manning has a “gender-identity disorder”, or “disturbance of one’s gender”, a condition that was different from being gay, he added.
“Gender is very much at the core of our identity,” he said, adding that when a person is uncertain about his or her gender, the whole world seems “off-keel”.
Amid this turmoil Cpt Moulton said Manning also became disillusioned about the US war in Iraq and was trying to correct what he perceived as “injustices”.
“Manning was under the impression that the leaked information was going to change how the world saw the war in Iraq,” the psychiatrist testified.