Facing life in prison, Manning apologizes for "hurting" U.S., supporters say leaks benefited America

Photo: "Free Bradley Manning" flyer on a pole, seen on 3rd Ave in Seattle, photo by Bryan W. Jones in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.

Yesterday at Fort Meade, Maryland, Pfc. Bradley Manning spoke in his defense in the sentencing phase of his court-martial. Col. Denise Lind, the judge in this trial, may determine that Manning must be sentenced to up to 90 years in prison for leaking government documents to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. In his statement before the court, Manning apologized for the "hurt" he inflicted on the United States, and referenced the gender identity issues that triggered a personal crisis in Iraq. Snip from his unsworn testimony:

First your Honor. I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I am sorry that it hurt the United States. At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues-- issues that are ongoing and they are continuing to affect me.

Although they have caused me considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for 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 clearer to me now through both self-reflection during my confinement in its various forms and through the merits and sentencing testimony that I have seen here.

Manning's defense is doing what any competent legal team would: trying to convince the judge to reduce the sentence as much as possible.

But Rainey Reitman at Freedom of the Press Foundation argues that while this strategy is understandable, the world should know that the 25 year old former Army intelligence analyst has nothing to apologize for because "The public has benefited tremendously as a result of Manning’s disclosures."

For years now, the government may have attempted to paint a dire picture of WikiLeaks’ potential impact, but they’ve also admitted, quietly but repeatedly, that the results have been more embarrassing than harmful.

Even when the WikiLeaks hysteria was in full swing, government officials from the State Department have briefed Congress on the impact of the Wikileaks revelations, and have said that the leaks were "embarrassing but not damaging." U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that, while some of the information may have been embarrassing, “I don’t think there is any substantive damage.”

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has admitted the leaks caused no serious damage, telling Congress that the reactions to the leaks were "significantly overwrought." He went on to say: “Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.’’

At the same time, Reuters reported that other officials were admitting in private that they were exaggerating the damage that resulted from the leaks in order to bolster the legal efforts against WikiLeaks and Manning.

This has born out in Manning’s trial and sentencing hearing. It’s why the government fought so hard to keep its official WikiLeaks “damage assessments” from being revealed in court. It’s why, despite all the government’s overwrought pronouncements early on of “blood on the hands” of those responsible, a U.S. official was forced to admit under oath in Manning’s sentencing hearing that not a single person died as a result of the releases.

Read: Bradley Manning Did Not Hurt the United States [pressfreedomfoundation.org].

Here is Boing Boing's coverage archive of the Bradley Manning trial.

Related reports from journalists/bloggers who are at Fort Meade, covering the trial:

Bradley Manning, family, and doctors take stand: report and analysis: trial day 34 [Nathan Fuller]
Manning, Facing Prison for Leaks, Apologizes at Court-Martial Trial [Charlie Savage]
Manning Gives Contrite Remarks at Sentencing [Adam Klasfeld]

• Alexa O'Brien spoke on Democracy Now today about Manning's statement. Video below.

Notable Replies

  1. It may just be a strategy to reduce the punishment, but I feel like I'm reading the last page of 1984 again:

    He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

  2. If we have learned one thing it is that whistle blowers are a natural resource and the life blood of a functional democracy and free society.

  3. Men who, by their superiors' repeated admission, were not harmed but only "embarrassed" by Manning's leaks?

    Manning violated a sacred trust to protect young men from the embarrassment of being outed as gleeful murderers. They counted on him to keep their crimes secret, and he callously betrayed them. My heart bleeds, truly.

  4. there is no doubt that Manning did not adhere to the rules and standards of the job he chose to

    And, thank God for that. The exposure of war crimes... The exposure of governmental, quasi-governmental and military overreach/corruption trump your beloved standards and practices.

    Look, if Manning had exposed Abu Ghraib or similar wrongdoing I would think this had more to do with patriotism, conscience and honor (and no, the highly edited video of the journalists being killed does not qualify in my mind as anything but a sad result of walking with heavily armed men in a war zone.)

    You have not properly researched (or been properly briefed) on the "collateral murder" video.

    the highly edited video

    First of all, many claim that the full version video was edited or hidden by Wikileaks, but that's a lie. The full version was released by Wikileaks in its entirety along with the short version at the same time on the same damn web page. The long version was NOT edited by Wikileaks and was shared just as it came to them via the leak.

    heavily armed men

    You mean some armed escorts that regularly travel with journalists (including Americans) for their protection against insurgents? And, the so-called RPG that wasn't really fired?

    I've watched the fuller version many times before and never see anything that appears to be an RPG in the video. As the camera hangs off the corner of the building, it looks like a zoom lens camera and one can even see the lens reflect light. (The Canon brand zoom lens in question was found on the scene, BTW)

    You can even hear on the audio where a soldier blurts that someone shot the so-called RPG (camera), but there's very clearly no smoke whatsoever coming from the camera nor the surrounding area. Sounds like a trigger-happy person is making any excuse to fire upon them. Have you ever seen an RPG that doesn't emit smoke? Right, you haven't.

    But, what anyone can also see very clearly (and is very DAMNING) is where the group casually walks in plain sight within the middle of the street (and this is even after one of them clearly points out the Apache helicopter earlier in the video and many look straight at it).

    I mean, look at this full version video at 1:43




    Can you tell me with even a remotely straight face this is somehow evasive behavior?

    They are fucking casually strolling in plain view of an Apache helicopter without aiming anything at it, taking cover, running, etc. They're just standing and walking around in the middle of the street in broad daylight in front of an Apache helicopter in clear view. No running. No taking cover...

    Is that the behavior of insurgents? Much less ones that just supposedly shot at an Apache helicopter with an RPG in broad daylight? It's clearly not.

    They are acting like people who have no fear of being shot unprovoked by U.S. forces. You know, just like ANY journalists would do with an armed escort?

    More on the RPG?

    Ethan McCord is the name of soldier who says he found an RPG on the scene. Since it's never shown in the video, it's extremely debatable how the RPG may have gotten there before he arrived.

    First of all, he wasn't the first soldier on the scene and it could have very well been planted there by another U.S. soldier after reports of kids and civilian adults being injured and killed already came through (to cover their asses).

    If you (or anyone else here wants to) deny that planting weapons in these situations ever happens, then you need to educate yourself. It's called "drop-weapons", look into it. Don't blame me for suspecting this, blame the corrupt soldiers that use drop-weapons on a regular basis.

    Also, the RPG he found may have been left by insurgents earlier at the scene (but I'll admit that's less likely). Either way, the evidence that this specific group that was fired upon by the Apache had an RPG is flimsy at best. And, if you watch the fuller video, no one shoots an RPG at the helicopter or anyone else.

    What's also odd, is Ethan only speaks of one RPG, but then later an internal military "investigator" said there was two RPGs, one loaded, etc. -- I guess they'll just keep adding more weapons as time goes on?

    Speaking of Ethan McCord... While he did state (after finding that possible drop-weapon RPG) that the initial attack was OK, he also stated that the attack on the van that injured the two children was WRONG.

    That's one of many reasons why many focus on the second part of the attack on the van.

    Ethan McCord is a soldier who was there who stated on the record that it was wrong, it was a mistake and it shouldn't have happened. Ethan said warning shots should have been fired first on the van. He also said he was verbally abused by commanding officers for his efforts to help the children after finding them injured. How fucked up is that?

    Civilians with kids in a van were driving to pick up family members when they stumbled upon an injured civilian in the road who asked to be taken to a hospital. For trying to help an injured civilian, the children and adult civilians in the van got injured and killed by trigger-happy war criminals ("Let me engage!", "Come on, let us shoot!).

    No weapons were found in the van after the people were massacred and there wasn't any shown in the video. The injured civilian the people in the van were trying to help had no weapon or any other sign he was an insurgent, either.

    Do you now understand the issue and why (at the very least) the attack on the van was WRONG?
    (Like most of the rest of the world does?)

    It's really sick to see Americans who keep defending this attack and it only hurts our standing (and security) around the world. At the very least, Crazyhorse 18 never should have engaged that van the way they did, period. Instead of making excuses, the USA needs to apologize for this.

    Or... I guess we can just keep persecuting patriotic whistleblowers instead, huh?

  5. My political conclusions are hardly based on my being "angry with Obama," but rather on twenty five years of observation and study of politics current and historical.

    Yet, you haven't managed to lift a finger to back up your ridiculous supposition that two Gore administrations would have been similar to two GW Bush administrations.

    I'm just supposed to take your word on it? No thanks. It doesn't work that way.

    I could make a bullet-point list of everything Obama said and did before he was President that would have predicted a Presidency

    No you couldn't. While Gore has been full of shit and flip-flopped like many politicians have, he also had a consistent track record of following through on many of his policy recommendations. Everything from arms control to climate change. Obama DID NOT before he was elected. Why on Earth do you continue to push a false equivalency of the two? What is your EVIDENCE of this?

    Don't forget, I call Gore a lesser evil than GW Bush. Gore's track record is shitty, but it's ridiculous to compare him to GW Bush:

    • Gore on renditions is shitty, but certainly not a greater evil than Reagan and most Republicans by a long shot and Bush/Cheney took torture to an entirely different level by mainstreaming torture by U.S. soldiers. Not the same thing unless we, once again, delve into false equivalence. Obama's embrace of some of Bush's policies isn't by a long shot a good comparison to Gore's track record which only consists of support of renditions (in a memoir from Richard Clarke) in certain cases.

    • Al Gore was known to engage with and listen to Richard Clarke who warned of inevitable hijacking attempts before the Trade Center/Pentagon attacks, but was blatantly ignored by the GW Bush admin who was known to be absolutely obtuse towards Clarke and other Clinton Intelligence officials. You really have to be dense to compare them there with yet another false equivalence. It's incredibly likely that Gore would have taken pre-emptive security actions based upon solid intelligence to thwart hijackings in general. Bush was obtuse, sat on his fucking hands and literally went on vacation instead.

    • If you go way back on gay rights, Gore sucked. But then you'd have to ignore that while in office he later supported the 1998 executive order banning sexual-orientation discrimination in federal civilian jobs, etc. and other things that set him far apart from the greater evil Republicans including Bush unless, once again, you want to embrace yet another false equivalence.

    • On the drug war Gore was much less evil than Republicans and even broke with Clinton during office on Medical Marijuana. To compare Gore to Bush or Obama who both ramped up the war on drugs to ridiculous extremes is yet another ridiculous false equivalence on your part.

    • Gore's vote on the Gulf War just plain sucked, but was still a lot less hawkish, lesser evil than Republicans if one is seated in reality.

    • The clipper chip was a shit idea, but one that at least required a warrant which is a much lesser evil than warrantless wiretapping, but I guess you could go with another false equivalence if you'd like.

    • Gore's support of technology. While Gore was busy helping to fund and promote our technology center and spreading access, the GW Bush administration spent much of its time protecting consolidated monopolies that hurt innovation while blustering and spreading the lie that Gore said he "invented" the Internet.

    • Music lyrics labeling. Yep, Gore supported that, but you really think that was worse than when GW Bush decided to very actively outright CENSOR climate science and political activists?

    • Enviromment ... you REALLY want to compare his track record there to Bush?? Or Obama? Are you insane?

    Also, you keep leaving out things that Obama has tried to do that has been repeatedly blocked by Republicans. And, guess who they are? The greater evil.

    The lesser evil that Gore has done doesn't cancel out his other policies of greater good on the environment, support for single payer at a time when the public was too ignorant to support him on it and the FACT that he was still a lesser evil than the Republicans were on many, many issues.

    What EVIDENCE do you have that Gore in 2000 would be just like an entirely different politician who was elected into office about a decade later after two far right-wing presidential administrations with a mostly conservative, rubber stamp congress in tow during the bulk of the time? Or, once again, are you unable lift a finger on this?

    Look, your disappointment with Obama is palpable and understandable. But, it's infantile to throw out the baby with the bathwater because he's made you angry.

    When many others were jumping for joy when Obama was elected, there were others that knew he was a lesser evil and nothing more than that. Even before Obama was elected, some of us said this:

    (scroll up to 06/24/2008 04:29 PM if Discus craps out on the link)

    You see, just like Gore, I never had any allusions about Obama in the first place. I admit that I had cautiously hoped that he'd be a second term trojan (in some regards) for various reasons, but he's blown that miserably except in a few circumstances with tepid support for gay rights, health care and such. Still, much better than anything McCain/Palin or Romney/Ryan would have done, to say the least.

    But, once again, I never had any illusions in the first place because I knew that the American public had already screwed themselves by allowing our country to go so far backwards by voting in two disastrous GW Bush terms with a disastrous rubber stamp, conservative congress to back his disastrous agenda. It's a fucking disaster. You don't go from a literal disaster to utopia in 5 years, sorry.

    Your ridiculous, baseless supposition that two Gore administrations would have been very much the same as the two GW Bush administrations isn't seated in reality and only serves to keep us all down.

    It's going to take decades to clean up this mess and that's ONLY if the American public finally pulls its head out of its ass and finally stops falling for false equivalence ignorance and spin. Whether it's false equivalence spin between the Republican party and the Democratic party or your inane comparison of Obama to Gore in 2000, it just causes us all to spin our wheels and go nowhere but down.

    How about complaining about consistently voting in lesser evils over time once we've actually tried it? Obama after two disastrous GW Bush terms with many conservative voted into Congress, etc. doesn't cut it by a long shot.

    Your false equivalency mentality hasn't worked at all and, once again, these guys absolutely LOVE it when you do that. It's why they actively support false equivalence and half-truths with their power in the media and with their "think tanks"... and here you are, like too may others.... falling for it hook, line and sinker.

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