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Bradley Manning pleads guilty to some WikiLeaks charges (+video)

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to charges that he broke military rules in providing classified information to WikiLeaks. But he denies the more serious charges of aiding the enemy during wartime, for which he still faces a court martial.

By Staff writer / February 28, 2013

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., June 2012, after a pretrial hearing. Manning is charged with providing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Patrick Semansky/AP

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The case of the young US Army private tied to the largest leak of government secrets in US history took a major turn Thursday when Pfc. Bradley Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of 22 charges against him – specifically acknowledging in a lengthy statement that he sent hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website founded by controversial Internet activist Julian Assange.

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Pfc. Bradley Manning entered guilty pleas to some charges Thursday, saying he sent the material to WikiLeaks to enlighten the public about American foreign and military policy.

What Manning did not do was plead guilty to the more serious charges related to aiding the enemy in wartime – charges he still must face in a military court martial and for which he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Still, the charges he has agreed to – misusing classified documents – could mean a maximum of 20 years in prison for the 25-year-old Army intelligence analyst, who has been in custody for nearly three years.

To his supporters, Manning is a whistle-blowing hero whose actions in leaking documents and videos revealed war crimes, hastened the end of the Iraq war, and helped advanced the pro-democracy movement known as the “Arab Spring.”

In a 35-page courtroom statement he was allowed to make Thursday at Fort Meade, Md., Manning said, "I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.”

US military counterinsurgency strategies seemed to ignore "the complex dynamics of the people living in the environment,” he said.

"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."

Many of the cables – including frank diplomatic exchanges concerning foreign diplomats – indeed were embarrassing. In all, Manning through WikiLeaks made public hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, State Department diplomatic cables, files on detainees at the Guantánamo Bay US naval base, other classified records, and battlefield video clips – the most controversial of which showed US attack helicopter pilots killing what turned out to be a group of unarmed civilian men, including two journalists from the Reuters news agency.

To the Pentagon and the Obama administration, Manning’s actions went beyond diplomatic embarrassment to national security in wartime, beyond violating military regulations to engaging in espionage and aiding the enemy. The government’s tough line against Manning – assuming it doesn’t just accept his guilty plea to lesser charges and let it go at that – also is part of the administration’s declared goal of cracking down on leaks.

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