Wikileaks founder Julian Assange lashed out at Bradley Manning's apology on Wednesday, calling it a "forced decision." Manning announced at his sentencing that he was "sorry that his actions hurt people" and "the United States" after he had been found guilty of 19 of the 22 charges brought against him, chiefly among them theft and six counts of espionage.
The former U.S. Army intelligence analyst's apology comes off as a face-saving attempt in light of facing nearly a century in prison. It is a 180 compared to previous statements he made in the past less than six months ago at a providence inquiry, where he stated that he acted in order to "show the true cost of war." Assange has asserted that Manning's apology was forced out of him by an overbearing military justice system, and in his words, "It took three years and billions of dollars to extract two minutes of tactical remorse from this brave soldier."
Assange also went after the United States government over their treatment of Manning from his initial arrest all the way to trial. He states that Manning's defense team was unable to mount a "basic whistleblower defense" and that the government purposely overcharged Manning. The former accusation is important considering that Manning's lawyers were not allowed to detail his motives for leaking classified material, and as a result, were forced to take their defense in another direction.
Assange's statement implies that the abuse Manning underwent during his pretrial detention influenced the apology, particularly the excerpts in which he says he harmed the United States. The court found Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, nor did the court believe his actions harmed any American citizen. Assange does have the right to be aggrieved over the apology. But despite his disappointment, the end of Assange's statement specifically stated that he and Wikileaks will continue to fight for Manning's release from prison.
The end of Manning's apology is more telling than the excerpts found in the headlines, however. He speaks about his desire to prove himself as a good person and how he would like to "return to [a] productive place in society." With this statement, it appears as if Manning is hoping that an apology will be looked at with favor once the sentence comes in, as he is potentially facing 90 years in prison. Or perhaps Assange is right in believing that the apology was forced upon him as another means of humiliating him.
We may never really know whether Manning feels genuine remorse for his actions or whether his apology was "conditioned" into him; only Manning knows that.