An Army psychologist testified
Wednesday at Manning's sentencing hearing that Manning's private struggle with his gender identity in the hostile, "hyper-masculine" military environment put incredible pressure on the young soldier, who leaked hundreds of thousands of pages of classified military and diplomatic documents to the whistleblower website Wikileaks
"You put him in that hyper-masculine environment... with little support and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult, to say the least," testified Capt. Michael Worsley. "It would have been incredible."
Pfc. Manning, who is gay, came out to Capt. Worsley, sending him the photo of himself dressed as a woman attached to a letter titled "My Problem" in April 2010. In the letter, Manning details his struggle with gender identity and expressed his hope that being in the Army would "get rid of it."
Another one of Manning's superiors who saw the letter and the photo, Sgt. Paul Adkins, was asked
by Manning's defense team on Tuesday why he failed to inform senior officers about the troubled soldier's issues. Adkins said that he did not want the image to be "disseminated among brigade staff."
"I really didn't think at the time that having a picture floating around of one of my soldiers in drag was in the best interests of the intel mission," Adkins testified. "I thought at the time that it was something that was being handled by the therapists and, had I forwarded it [to commanders], I was concerned that the photo would be disseminated among the staff."
Capt. Worsley testified that Army leaders were not very adept at handling issues relating to troops' mental health, asserting that some officers in Manning's brigade "had difficulty understanding" doctors' recommendations regarding the mental health needs of some soldiers.
"I questioned why they would want to leave somebody in a position with the issue they had," Worsley said.
Manning's defense attorneys argue that the soldier demonstrated undeniable signs of deteriorating mental health which should have prevented commanders from deploying him to a war zone and granting him access to classified material.
Manning, who was acquitted
of the most serious charge against him-- aiding the enemy-- but found guilty
on 19 of 22 charges against him, faces as many as 90 years in a military prison. On Wednesday, Manning took the stand and apologized
for harming his country by leaking classified information.
"I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that they hurt the United States," he said.
Earlier in his court-martial, Manning explained that he leaked the documents in order to expose the US military's "bloodlust" and disregard for the lives of innocent civilians in the countries it attacked, invaded and occupied. Among the material he leaked are files detailing US and allied war crimes and atrocities in Iraq
, as well as documents proving that innocent men and boys were knowingly imprisoned
in the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The leaked files also detail US cover-ups of child rape
, the killing of civilians
, State Department spying
on US allies and the United Nations, and other offenses.
Manning, who was subjected to harsh conditions
during his military imprisonment which the UN described
as "cruel, inhuman and degrading," is a deeply polarizing figure. While many consider him a hero for blowing the whistle on US war crimes-- he has even been nominated
for the Nobel Peace Prize multiple times, many Americans, especially conservatives, have branded him a traitor
, with some even calling for his execution.