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Private Bradley Manning Apologizes, Faces 90 Years In Prison


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene. At Fort Meade in Maryland yesterday, Pfc. Bradley Manning apologized. At his court-martial he said, quote, "I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that they hurt the United States."

He was talking about his leaking of thousands of top-secret diplomatic cables and other material to Wikileaks when he was an Army intelligence analyst in 2010. A military judge is weighing the sentence for the 25-year-old, who could face 90 years in prison after being found guilty on 19 counts brought against him, including espionage.

We're joined now by Associated Press reporter Dave Dishneau, who's covering the Manning trial. And David, welcome back to the program.

DAVID DISHNEAU: Thank you. It's good to be back.

GREENE: So you were watching Manning's statement with other reporters on closed-circuit television. What were your impressions? What did he share?

DISHNEAU: Well, he gave a very contrite apology for hurting people, and hurting the United States. He did not technically apologize for exposing the information that he exposed, but he certainly seemed very sincere in saying he was sorry for the way he went about it.

GREENE: So it sounds like he was careful not to say he did something that he regrets, but he regrets the impact of what he did.

DISHNEAU: Yes. And I noticed that this morning, that the Bradley Manning support network points out that he didn't technically apologize for exposing what he considered abuses. And sure enough, just looking at his statement, he was very careful in the way it was worded.

GREENE: Well, what prompted this? I mean, he's someone who had pled not guilty to all of these charges. What prompted this change of heart?

DISHNEAU: Well, we don't know but certainly, looking down the barrel of up to 90 years in prison would give one pause. And it's certainly not unusual in criminal cases for the defendant, just before sentencing, to apologize in hopes of getting leniency.

GREENE: And David, the judge who's going to determine Bradley Manning's sentence heard testimony from two mental health professionals. I wonder, what sort of picture is the defense trying to paint with these witnesses?

DISHNEAU: Well, both of the mental health professionals - one of whom treated him in Iraq, and one who examined him after he was arrested - diagnosed him as having gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria; that is, the sense that he was a woman living in the body of a man.

And this was, according to the testimony, at the core of his sort of stresses and mental health issues that were going on. He was serving in the military at the time that gays were not able to serve openly. One of the psychiatrists or psychologists testified that he was in great fear of being kicked out of the Army and would lose his GI benefits, including the ability to, perhaps, go to college.

He, according to the psychiatrist who examined him, had issues with a sort of narcissism that caused him to have these grandiose visions of his place in the world, combined with youthful idealism; and that all these things kind of came together and caused him to believe that he could change the world by leaking this information.

GREENE: And do you get a sense of how all this is playing with the judge?

DISHNEAU: The judge keeps a pretty tight lid on her reactions to things, but we'll find out in not too long.

GREENE: And what is the timeline for the proceedings? What's next?

DISHNEAU: Well, on Friday, there will be government rebuttal testimony, we believe, possibly including their own mental health expert to give another, perhaps very different opinion, about what was going on in Manning's head.

GREENE: All right, David. Thanks so much for this update.

DISHNEAU: Thank you.

GREENE: That's David Dishneau. He covers the military for the Associated Press, and was talking to us about an apology yesterday from Bradley Manning at his court-martial proceeding. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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