Therapists Explore Manning's Idealism
FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - Repeating a diagnosis made famous by the 1995 film "Clueless," a forensic psychiatrist testifying in defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning on Wednesday emphasized that the WikiLeaks source was in a "post-adolescent idealistic phase."
The phrase is unrecognized in clinical psychiatry.
"It's a period of time when people are more focused on, become focused on making a difference in the world, societal changes, things like that," Navy Capt. David Moulton testified. "That transition period [where] you still are holding on to some of that idealism from youth, and you get exposed, as you become an adult, to things in society and you think you can make a difference."
This "drives a lot of activism on college campuses, and the riots that eventually throughout history happened on campuses," Moulton added. "[It] leads a lot of people to the Peace Corps and all sorts of various things like that. It's a normal stage of human development."
Turning to this case, the doctor surmised: "Pfc. Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was really going to change how the world views the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and future wars actually."
This thinking was unavoidable in Manning's "post-adolescent ... little world," Moulton said.
Columbia University professor Paul Appelbaum said in an interview, however, that this theorized psychological phase "is not a generally accepted clinical term in psychiatry."
"Many young people are idealistic, but so are many older people," added Appelbaum, referred to Courthouse News by the American Psychiatric Association.
Tagging a "pseudo-diagnostic" string of polysyllables on a defendant's behavior is a common practice in court proceedings, he said.
"The assumption is that if a label can be placed upon a person and linked to their behavior, that will help to excuse their behavior," Appelbaum said. "It has an exculpatory impact."
On the witness stand, Moulton said that he did not diagnose Manning with any "personality disorder," but several "personality traits," including narcissism, borderline behavior, a mild form of Asperger's and symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Both of Manning's parents were alcoholics, said Moulton, whom prosecutors will cross-examine this afternoon.
Like many other witnesses, Moulton confirmed that Manning has gender dysphoria, meaning a discomfort with the gender he was assigned at birth. He failed to add that not all transgender people meet the criteria for this diagnosis.
Many transgender advocates have raised concerns about this line of defense, which they fear can set back advancements toward depathologizing gender identity issues.
Appelbaum, the Columbia professor, told Courthouse News that this defense could be legitimate in describing Manning's isolation in the military.
Still, he said that it would not be valid to use the diagnosis in and of itself as a mitigating factor in any criminal case.
An earlier witness Wednesday described Manning's seeming relief when divulging his exploration of a female identity, shortly before the world discovered the young soldier had also been disclosing secrets to WikiLeaks.
"If you share any secret, it's shared, it's no longer a secret," said Capt. Michael Worsley, who treated Manning in Iraq for six months. "You shine light on it, and it's done. It's out there, and I think that it was a big relief to share something like that."
Worlsey was describing the female identity of Breanna that Manning privately explored in the Army during the time of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Though he currently prefers to be identified as male, Manning said that his self-identification as female during his deployment caused him "great pain" and "dire" consequences.
Manning's lawyers have focused on that personal anguish at the sentencing phase to minimize the prison time he could face for committing the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history. The July 30 conviction on several counts leaves 25-year-old Manning facing up to 90 years imprisonment.
Capt. Worsley said Manning divulged his gender identity secret to him but not that he had been sending hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents to WikiLeaks, including battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. embassy cables from around the globe, and footage of air strikes that killed civilians.
Manning first turned up in Worsley's office voluntarily in December 2009, roughly two months into his deployment.
"From the beginning, he was somewhat guarded," the therapist recalled.
Worsley recommended regular appointments, which were interrupted by mid-tour leaves.
Trust issues continued cropping up over the next few months because of Manning's cagey allusions to issues of his identity, Worsley added.
"I think this was a cryptic way of saying he was questioning things about himself and what was going on," the therapist said.
Unable to pinpoint a problem, Worsley eventually assigned Manning with a "not otherwise specified" personality disorder.
"To be honest, it's a really horrible diagnosis, really a catch-all," he conceded.
By late March, Worsley continued to be struck by Manning's guardedness, a trait that he believed to be an occupational hazard of working as an intelligence analyst.
"Obviously, I was a therapist, but he was still guarded with me," Worsley said. "It was this thing, 'Who can this guy share with? Who can he have?'"
Then on April 24, 2010, Manning sent Worsley a picture of himself dressed as a woman and a call for help.
Master Sgt. Paul Adkins, who supervised the intelligence unit where Manning worked, received the same message but ignored it. Worsley said he initially did not receive the email.
About a week later, apparently overcome by the repression of his identity, military officials found Manning curled in a fetal position on the floor of the supply room where he had carved the message "I WANT" onto a vinyl chair with a Gerber knife.
Later that evening, Manning punched his counselor, Spc. Jirleah Showman, in the face, and was sent to Worsley's office after 1 a.m.
It was in that early morning session that Worsley learned Manning's gender secret.
"Being in the military and having a gender identity issue does not go hand in hand," Worsley told the court Wednesday. "At this time, the military was not exactly friendly to the gay community, or anyone who held views as such. I don't know that it's friendly now either, but it's getting toward that point."
Manning was arrested later that month for his disclosures to WikiLeaks. At the time, one could be court-martialed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for being gay, Worsley noted.
Even today, the military prohibits transgender enlistment under so-called "medical" restrictions, which shoehorn "transsexualism" into what it calls "psychosexual conditions." These include "exhibitionism, transvestitism, voyeurism and other paraphilias."
These facts limited how Manning could open up about his gender exploration.
"There was nothing available, except for someone like me, and really he was taking a chance with that," Worsley said.
Manning was also cut off from exploring an important part of his identity, the therapist said.
"Maybe some time in the future, gender won't matter that much," he said. "Right now, it's a key issue of who we are and how we function."
Echoing the defense's sentencing arguments, he said the military missed "red flags" that Manning's emotional turmoil could have impacted his work.
"I questioned why they wanted to leave someone in that position with the issues that they have," Worsley said. "You put him in this environment - this kind of hypermasculine environment, if you will, and with the little support and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult to say the least. It would have been incredible."
Manning is expected to deliver a statement Wednesday, and his sister and aunt will also testify.