Bradley Manning Offers to Plead to Lesser Charges in Wikileaks Trial

Bradley_Manning.jpg
U.S. Army
Pfc. Bradley Manning pleaded guilty to some charges in military court this morning.
After 1,007 days in jail, Private First Class Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old soldier accused of leaking classified material to Wikileaks, appeared in military court at Fort Meade today to plead guilty to modified versions of some of the more minor charges against him.

Specifically, Manning admitted to leaking State Department cables, video that appears to show the killing of civilians by a helicopter gunship in Iraq, and the secret assessment files of Guantanamo detainees.

But Manning maintained his not-guilty plea to the most significant charges, including "aiding the enemy." He told the court he chose the leaked material because he believed that while it would be embarrassing for the United States government and might provoke policy changes, he "was absolutely sure [they] wouldn't cause harm to the United States"

Manning was allowed to read a 35-page statement to the court, in which he said that nobody from Wikileaks pressured him to leak the materials. In fact, before he turned to Wikileaks, he tried to interest press outlets including the New York Times, Reuters, the Washington Post, and Politico.

The court is in recess, but when it reconvenes this afternoon Judge Denise Lind will question Manning and determine whether to accept his guilty plea. If she doesn't, prosecutors can still pursue all of their initial charges -- charges which, at maximum, could theoretically carry the death penalty, though prosecutors are (only!) seeking life in prison. If the judge accepts Manning's guilty pleas to diminished versions of the more minor charges, he could face a maximum 20 years in prison.

Manning's lengthy pre-trial detention and treatment in prison that the United Nations determined to be torture speak to a larger federal assault on whistleblowers, leakers, and transparency activists.

Julian Assange, a leading figure in Wikileaks and the recipient of Manning's alleged leak, is himself the subject of a grand jury inquiry in Virginia, and has spent the last eight months inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London avoiding extradition to Sweden.

Before he killed himself last month, 26-year-old Aaron Swartz was facing 50 years in prison over charges that he intended to distribute for free academic articles currently hoarded behind a paywall by the digital library JSTOR. Why was the United States Attorney hell-bent on sending Swartz away for so long? According to congressional staffers who sat in on a presentation by Justice Department officials last week, it's because Swartz had written a manifesto explicitly exhorting people to fight the privatization of knowledge, and, "in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture."

Meanwhile, another criminal defendant, Jeremy Hammond, is facing upwards of 30 years in prison over charges he hacked into the corporate intelligence company Stratfor.
As we wrote last week from his trial, Hammond's judge is married to someone whose information was released in the hack, and whose law firm represents numerous companies affected by it. Even so, the judge, Loretta Preska, denied a motion asking her to recuse herself from the case.

But despite the significance of Manning's case, coverage of the trial by the mainstream media has been scant. Independent journalists like Alexa O'Brien and Kevin Gosztola have provided excellent ongoing coverage, but the New York Times -- which partnered with Wikileaks to publish the materials leaked by Manning -- didn't bother to send a reporter to cover the trial until chastised by the paper's own public editor, Margaret Sullivan.

As Alexa O'Brien tweeted from inside the courtroom this morning, the Manning trial "in one regard is a trial of established American media. How it will be remembered. Mark my words."

Previous Coverage:

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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4 comments
silvia_actualidad
silvia_actualidad

when a person joins an organization thinking he is going to give everything, even his life to bring peace to this world and then finds out that some people are not doing things right, he has the right to tell, first to his superiors and if they don´t do anything then to bring it out to the press, things work this way, when you find something is not working properly you first try to solve it within the organization, then out. If he did it this way, if his intentions were good, he is not guilty but a brave person.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

The military judge needs get this case wrapped up as quickly as possible. I submit that Bradley Manning's actions were as a whistle-blower. He plead guilty to several lesser charges. That is good enough IMHO. What he did definitely did not cause Exceptionally Grave Damage To The Nation. Most of what he put on Wikileaks were things that already happened, not plans for future operations. Basically stuff that is embarrassing as hell, and didn't put any American lives in danger as has been claimed. Find him guilty, sentence him to five years minus time served. Then let him go. Holding him up as an example is not going to work.

jocosity
jocosity

Bradley Manning took an oath as a soldier to uphold the constitutional laws of the United States of America and to fight to defend them. That oath included safeguarding "Secret, and Top Secret Documents" that might come into his possession or he might be privy to. The crime he committed has nothing to do with whether or not the war we are in engaged in is 'popular', how much collateral damage caused, etc..

This soldier swore to perform the duties he was hired to do. He failed to do that and committed the crime of treason when he not only stole Top Secret documents, but transferred them to a foreign entity. By doing so, he placed his comrades in danger and undermined the security of the United States of America and every American citizen. He deserves no leniency.

Michael

maidsalamode

Debra J. Gordon
Debra J. Gordon

I'm glad we *know* about this infraction (at least).

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