The Mind of Bradley Manning

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md. Patrick Semansky/AP

Bradley Manning said he was sorry for hurting the United States during his sentencing hearing at Fort Meade on Wednesday, saying, "I only wanted to help people, not hurt people." But hours of testimony presented earlier by his defense team showed that wasn't Manning's only reason for downloading thousands of classified documents and giving them to WikiLeaks. Manning, they said, felt isolated, and showed signs of mental instability, suffered from gender identity disorder, had a mild type of Asperger's, and showed symptoms of slight fetal alcohol syndrome. Capt. David Moulton, a Navy psychiatrist, said Manning was in a "post-adolescent idealistic phase," which is a line from Clueless.

The goal of the defense testimony, of course, is to evoke sympathy in the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, in order to get a lighter sentence. Some of the testimony seemed more likely to do the trick than others. Nevertheless, it offered a fascinating portrait of who Manning was before his leak. The defense suggested there were three things affecting his mental state that influenced his decision: that he was a naive idealistic kid, that he had biological mental disorders, that he was that he was transgender.

The last produced the most arresting evidence. In an April 24, 2010 email to his supervisor at the time, Master Sgt. Paul Adkins, Manning confessed he was transgender, and that he joined the Army, basically, to "get rid of it." He included this selfie, in which he's dressed as a female with long blonde hair. The subject line was "My Problem." The email said,

This is my problem. I’ve had signs of it for a very long time. It’s caused problems within my family. I thought a career in the military would get rid of it. It’s not something I seek out for attention, and I’ve been trying very, very hard to get rid of it by placing myself in situations where it would be impossible. But, it’s not going away; it’s haunting me more and more as I get older. Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it’s causing me great pain it itself…

I don't know what to do anymore, and the only "help" that seems available is severe punishment and/or getting rid of me.

Adkins had written memos in December 2009, April 2010, and May 2010 about Manning's instability.

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