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article imageBradley Manning pleads guilty to 10 WikiLeaks charges

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 1, 2013 in World
A military judge on Thursday accepted the guilty pleas of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 10 lesser charges against him in a case considered to be the biggest leak of state secrets in US history.
Manning is now left to face 12 other criminal charges for allegedly leaking thousands of government documents to the WikiLeak website.
According to Reuters, Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, entered the guilty pleas prior to his court martial scheduled to begin on June 3. NBC News reports Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding in the case, accepted Manning's "naked guilty pleas" at the pre-trial hearing. This means he faces up to 20 years in prison even if he is finally acquitted of the most serious charges against him.
According to NBC News, Manning is facing 22 criminal charges the most serious of which include charges of "aiding the enemy," multiple counts of violating federal statutes and the Espionage Act. He faces a life sentence if convicted of the most serious charges against him. However, Reuters reports that the judge had earlier ruled that Manning would have his sentence reduced by 112 days in compensation for the extreme conditions of his confinement at Quantico, where he was placed in solitary confinement.
The New York Times reports that Manning pleaded guilty to 10 criminal counts which included improper handling of classified information, intentionally causing intelligence information to be released on Internet: videos of air-strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan in which civilians were killed, "logs of military incident reports, assessment files of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and a quarter-million cables from American diplomats stationed around the world."
He admitted to unauthorized possession of information and willfully communicating it to an unauthorized person. NBC News reports, however, that he only pleaded guilty in connection to certain specific categories of information:
Combat engagement video of a helicopter gunship;
Two Army intelligence agency memos;
Certain records of the combined information data network exchange Iraq (which tracks all significant acts and patrol reports);
Combined information data network exchange Afghanistan records;
Some SOUTHCOM files dealing with Guantanamo Bay;
An investigation into an incident in a village in Farah, Afghanistan;
Some Department of State cables.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges of "aiding the enemy," and violation and espionage laws. The judge also accepted Manning's "not guilty" pleas on the remaining 12 charges.
His court martial on the charges to which he has pleaded "not guilty" is scheduled to begin on June 3.
He spent more than an hour reading a 35-page statement in which he gave detailed explanation of the motives behind his actions. He said he leaked the documents to "spark a debate about US foreign policy" and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He claimed he released the information to enlighten the public about "what happens and why it happens."
The New York Times reports he said: "I believed if the public — in particular the American public — had access to the information... this could spark a debate about foreign policy in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan."
He described himself as a person with "insatiable thirst for geopolitical information" and a desire to enlighten the public about what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said he became disillusioned after he witnessed in Iraq actions that to him "didn't seem characteristic" of the U.S. as the leader of free world.
He said he carefully considered his actions in relation to the kind of information he gave out and that he took care not to release information could cause harm. He claimed that the most difficult documents for him to release were the diplomatic cables which he said revealed "back-room deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn't reflect the so-called leader of the free world."
According to The New York Times, he said: "I thought these cables were a prime example of the need for a more open diplomacy. I believed that these cables would not damage the United States. However, I believed these cables would be embarrassing."
According to Manning, he was influenced by a book about "open diplomacy" in post-World War I. He also said he thought the world would be a better place "if states would not make secret deals with each other."
He said the first documents he sent to WikiLeaks in 2012 were the daily journals documenting the "on-the-ground reality" of the war in Iran and Afghanistan. He sent the information on a public computer at a Barnes & Nobles store in Rockville while he was staying at his aunt's house in Potomac, Md., during his leave. He sent with the documents a note that said he was passing to WikiLeaks "the most significant documents of our time," and closed, saying "Have a good day."
Reuters reports Manning said that at first, he attempted sending the documents to his "local paper" The Washington Post, but the reporter he spoke to did not seem interested, so he dropped a message with The New York Times that was never returned. The he considered visiting the offices of Politico. However, a winter storm prevented him. Finally, he turned to WikiLeaks. He sent information to WikiLeaks on his personal laptop on eight separate occasions when he was at the Contingency Base Hammer in Iraq.
He released the first batch of information because he was depressed and frustrated.
AP reports he said: "I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists... I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized."
He claimed he was disturbed about the "seemingly delightful blood lust" among some members of the air crew who called civilians "dead bastards" and appeared pleased with themselves after killing large numbers of civilians. AP reports he said: "The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team happened to have...[which seemed like] a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass."
One of the more sensitive materials Manning sent to WikiLeaks was a video of an incident in Iraq, 2007, in which a US helicopter gunship killed a group of men, including two Reuters journalists, and then fired on a van that stopped to assist the victims.
Manning said he found the video disturbing, especially the act of firing on people who only stopped to help victims and who "were not a threat but merely good Samaritans."
NBC News explains that Manning's defense is expected to argue that he considered himself a "whistle-blower" and that he released the documents without any intention to do harm, although the government claims the leaks put lives at risk.
He was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq and charged with downloading and forwarding to WikiLeaks documents, diplomatic cables and combat videos.
WikiLeaks caused consternation in official circles when it began releasing the information in 2010.
Manning is viewed by some as a hero who has helped to expose war crimes and trigger the Arab Spring in 2010.
Speaking on telephone on Thursday, Assange, who is under US investigation for his role in the WikiLeaks scandal, did not admit that he had any dealings with Manning but said he (Manning) is a political prisoner. Assange remains in the Ecuadorean Embassy as part of his efforts to avoid extradition to Sweden on alleged sex-crimes.
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