As the defense neared the end of its side in the sentencing phase of Bradley Manning’s trial, the convicted Wikileaker spoke to the court himself today.  In an unsworn statement, he began with an apology, saying, “I am sorry that my actions hurt people; I am sorry that they hurt the United States.”

From the Guardian:

He added: “I am sorry for unintended consequence of my actions. When I made these decisions, I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.”

Manning told the hearing at Fort Meade military base in Maryland that he had “a lot of issues” at the time he leaked classified documents to the anti-secrecy website that continue to affect him.

But he added: “These issues are not an excuse for my actions.”

He said that the consequences of his actions were now “clear to me”, a result of the “self-reflection” during his three year confinement.

Manning spoke quickly, and it was not possible for reporters to fully transcribe his entire statement. However, at one point, he remarked: “How on earth could I, a junior analyst, believe I could change the world for the better?”

Manning conceded that he “had options” other than leaking the documents, but added: “Unfortunately, I cannot go back and change things.”

“I understand I must pay a price for my decisions and actions.” He said he wanted to become a better person, go to college and get a degree.

“I have flaws and issues that have to deal with. But I know that I can and will be a better person. I hope that you can give me the opportunity to prove, not through words, but through conduct, that I am a good person.”

In an effort to try and influence a lighter sentence, Manning’s defense team has spent the earlier part of the week presenting an argument that the Army was negligent in not recognizing the soldier’s growing instability.  The defense maintains that the army should have in turn revoked Manning’s security clearance, transferred or discharged him.

Manning’s master sergeant testified earlier that he thought the soldier was capable of handling his duties and that counseling would assist him, according to the LA Times.

Several defense witnesses testified that they believed Manning could handle sensitive material in Iraq as long as he received counseling. His master sergeant, Paul Adkins, who later was reprimanded and reduced in rank over his handling of Manning, said: “I felt that his therapy would eventually bear fruit. I certainly hoped that to be the case.”

Manning’s email and photo landed in Adkins’ inbox on April 24, 2010. The subject line said “My Problem,” and Manning addressed his struggle with being gay.

Others described his emotional outbursts, which included slamming his fists on a table and flipping it over.

Army psychologist Capt. Michael Worsley testified earlier today that Manning’s struggle with his gender identity in what was described as a hostile workplace affected him and placed pressure on him, according to the Associated Press (via Army Times).

Another witness had testified that Manning’s emotional state was affecting his ability to make good decisions (via Army Times).

Navy Capt. David Moulton, a psychiatrist who spent 21 hours interviewing Manning at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after his arrest, testified as a defense witness that Manning’s gender identity disorder combined with narcissistic personality traits, post-adolescent idealism and his lack of friends in Iraq caused him to reasonably conclude he could change the world by leaking classified information.

“He became very enthralled with this idea that the things that he was finding were injustices that he felt he morally needed to right,” Moulton said.

Still, officers were hesitant to transfer Manning and to cost him his security clearance; they also expressed concerns about staffing.  They believed counseling would adequately address the issue, according to the LA Times.

During Manning’s trial, other witnesses testified that the analyst did good work.

Just before Manning spoke this afternoon, the court heard from his sister Casey Major about his upbringing.

From The Guardian:

Major described how her mother would drink hard liquor – usually rum or vodka – from about lunchtime, and would often continue through the night until she had passed out. Asked how often she was drunk, Major replied: “At least every day.”

“She was mean, very mean. [She] yelled, screamed at you, to get her cigarettes, or make her a cup of tea,” Major said.

She said her mother drank through her pregnancy with Manning and, when he was born, it often fell to Major, then 11, to look after her infant brother, changing his diaper in the middle or the night or fetching his milk bottle.

When Manning was 12, Major said, her mother attempted suicide. She recalled be awoken by her mother, who had been drinking, and told her she had taken a full bottle of valium.

Major went on to explain that her mother continued to threaten to kill herself “every day.”   Ultimately, the parents divorced and the mother moved away with Bradley Manning to the country of Wales, before Manning returned to the US in 2005.

On July 30th, Bradley Manning was found guilty on multiple counts of espionage and theft, but not guilty of the most serious charge of ‘aiding the enemy.’  He faces a maximum potential of 90 years in prison for leaking more than 450,000 war logs, several war related videos and 250,000 state department cables.