Bradley Manning Apologizes; Defense Cites Rough Childhood, Gender Identity Disorder

Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

During a sentencing hearing for Army PFC Bradley Manning, a military court heard an apology from the soldier, tales of a tough childhood from his sister, and two experts explaining how Manning's gender identity disorder contributed to his decision to release American secrets.

"First, your honor, I want to start off with an apology," Manning told the court after taking the stand to make an unsworn statement. "I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I 'm sorry that they 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 continuing to affect me," he said. "Although a considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions."

Manning was found guilty late last month of charges including espionage, theft and fraud, and has been blamed for one of the largest disclosures of confidential or classified information in U.S. history, to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. He faces up to 90 years in prison.

Manning said that he saw the "unintended consequences" of his actions, but when he made the decision to release the trove of government data, "I believed I was going to help people not hurt people."

Looking back, Manning said, he wondered why he thought he could be the one to "change the world" better than those above him with more information. In retrospect, he said, he should have "worked more aggressively inside the system."

Manning's older sister, Casey Major, earlier told the court her and her brother's childhood was characterized by alcoholic parents and neglect, part of a day's testimony that has focused on intensely personal details of the convicted Army private's life.

She told the court their mother drank hard liquor and was drunk just about every day, but, "growing up, when you are around it all the time, you kind of think it's normal."

Her mother, she said, would start drinking around lunchtime and "it was continuous until she passed out or went to bed."

It wasn't until Major was about 13 that she realized her parents "had a problem with alcohol," she said.

Manning's sister's testimony followed testimony by Navy Capt. David Moulton, a forensic psychiatrist, that the young private's struggle with gender identity, coupled with abnormal personality traits and his "very high level of stress," led to his decision to release the information to WikiLeaks.

"He became, I think, very enthralled in this idea that the things he was finding were injustices that he felt he morally needed to right. … [It was] very in line with, I think, his belief system of righting wrongs," Moulton said. "He knew he had an oath to his job as a soldier, but this conflicted to his ideology, as well.

"Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and future wars, quite frankly," Moulton said.

Moulton testified Manning suffered from gender dysphoria, previously classified as gender identity disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as well as having traits of "narcissistic personality," "borderline personality," and "abnormal personality." Manning's family issues, deployment, and his inability to be treated for his gender dysphoria exacerbated the traits, leading to grandiose ideas and arrogance that were escalated during distress and caused "severe emotional distress at the time of the alleged offenses."

The prosecution has tried to paint a portrait of Manning as a narcissistic individual who didn't want to associate with his colleagues and rejected colleague support.

Manning's attorneys contended that their client showed clear signs of deteriorating mental health, saying his status should have prevented his commanders from sending him to a war zone to handle classified information. They presented the therapist who treated Manning to give expert testimony to that claim.

Capt. Michael Worsley, a clinical psychologist and military reservist who treated Manning between December 2009 and May 2010 and, ultimately, was the one to diagnose him with gender identity disorder, testified today that Manning was placed in a "hyper-masculine" environment with "little support or key coping skills" to deal with pressure he faced as well as his gender disorder.

"Being in the military and having a gender identity issue does not go hand in hand," Worsley testified. "I think it further serves to isolate, to create this issue with kind of defining who you are as a person."

During their first five months of sessions he testified that Manning was closed off and reluctant to share information.

However, following an incident in early May where Manning punched a fellow soldier, Worsley said they talked about an email titled "My Problem" that Manning had sent in late April to his supervisor, Sgt. Paul Adkins. Attached to the email was a photo of Manning dressed as his alter-ego, Brianna - wearing a long blonde wig. Following that reveal, "he was much more comfortable," Worsley said.

"That was a big relief for him to be able to share that," he said.

In the email, Manning wrote he felt like his "entire life feel like a bad dream that won't end," and, "I don't know what to do anymore … and the only 'help' that seems to be available is severe punishment and/or getting rid of me."

"Like I said, I don't know what to do and I don't know whats going to happen but at this point it feels like I'm not really *here* anymore and everyone's concerned about me and afraid of me. I'm sorry," he wrote in the email.

"There was nothing available [in the military] for this issue," Worsley testified, "except [therapy from] someone like me and, again, he was taking a chance."

At the time of Manning's therapy and ultimate diagnosis of gender identity disorder, being homosexual was a UCMJ violation, Worsley said, and placed a soldier at jeopardy of being court martialed.

"There would never be a time where he would able to be openly female and so seeking treatment for that," Worsley said. "Again, the treatment would be helping you adjust to that. … It's not treating it like a disorder … so that would be difficult to do in the military."

During Tuesday's testimony, Adkins, Manning's supervisor, said he "decided to deploy Pfc. Manning given manpower issues."