By Ian Simpson
FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) – U.S. soldier Bradley Manning apologized on Wednesday for handing state secrets over to the WikiLeaks website in the biggest breach of classified data in U.S. history.
“I’m sorry I hurt people. I’m sorry that I hurt the United States,” the 25-year-old Army private first class told the sentencing phase of his court-martial. “I’m apologizing for the unexpected results of my actions. The last three years have been a learning experience for me.”
Manning faces up to 90 years in prison for providing more than 700,000 documents, battle videos and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, hurling the pro-transparency website and its founder, Julian Assange, into the world spotlight.
Defense lawyers making a case for a milder sentence sought to show the judge that the soldier’s superiors ignored signs of mental stress, with an Army psychologist testifying that Manning felt isolated because he was wrestling with his gender identity.
Captain Michael Worsley, who treated Manning from December 2009 to May 2010 during his deployment in Iraq, testified that the stress Manning had felt from his job as a low-level intelligence analyst was compounded by being in a “hyper masculine environment” of a combat zone.
A military spokesman said Judge Colonel Denise Lind would most likely sentence Manning next week at the earliest.
The prosecution will be given an opportunity to rebut the defense case. Manning’s main lawyer, David Coombs, was expected to finish his case on Wednesday at Fort Meade, Maryland, asking for a lenient sentence after calling a dozen witnesses.
(Additional reporting by Tom Ramstack; Editing by Grant McCool)