Manning admits to leaking secrets; court-martial on aiding-the-enemy charge up next
FORT MEADE, Md. — Bradley Manning, the Army private arrested in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history, pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges that could send him to prison for 20 years.
Manning had said he was trying to expose the military's “bloodlust” and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military prosecutors said they plan to move forward with a court-martial on 12 remaining charges against him, including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.
It was the first time Manning directly admitted leaking the material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and detailed the frustrations that led him to do it.
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, accepted his plea to 10 charges involving illegal possession or distribution of classified material. Manning was allowed to plead guilty under military regulations instead of federal espionage law, which knocks the potential sentence down from 92 years.
Manning will not be sentenced until his court-martial on the other charges is over.
He admitted sending hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports; State Department diplomatic cables; other classified records; and two battlefield video clips to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2010.
Manning said he was disturbed by the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the way that American troops treated the populace. He said he didn't believe the release of the information would harm the United States.
Manning said he was appalled by 2007 combat video of an assault by a U.S. helicopter that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer. The Pentagon concluded the troops mistook the camera equipment for weapons.
“The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team happened to have,” Manning said, adding that the soldiers' actions “seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.”
As for the State Department cables, he said they “documented backdoor deals and criminality that didn't reflect the so-called leader of the free world.”
“I thought these cables were a prime example of the need for a more open diplomacy,” Manning said. “I believed that these cables would not damage the United States; however, I believed these cables would be embarrassing.”