Pfc. B. Manning pleads guilty to misusing classified data; pleads not guilty to aiding the enemy under the Espionage Act
February 28, 2013
The U.S. Army private accused of providing diplomatic cables and other secret documents to the WikiLeaks website pleaded guilty on Thursday to misusing classified material, but denied the most serious charge in the case, aiding the enemy.
Private First Class B. Manning, 25, entered the pleas prior to the court martial, which is set to begin on June 3, in a case that centers on the biggest leak of government secrets in U.S. history.
"I believe that if the general public … had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general," Manning, dressed in full military uniform, testified calmly.
Reading from a 35-page statement as they remained seated next to their lawyers, the short, slight private described their feelings after they submitted the secret information to WikiLeaks.
"I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience," said Manning, who spoke under oath for more than an hour.
At the hearing, Manning pleaded not guilty to the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, through their attorney. Manning, who has been jailed at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia for more than 1,000 days (Note: the legal limit is 120 days), could face life imprisonment if convicted of that charge.
Manning pleaded guilty to a series of 10 lesser charges that they misused classified information at the hearing before military judge Colonel Denise Lind. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison for those charges.
Under a ruling last month by Lind, Manning would have any sentence reduced by 112 days to compensate for the markedly harsh treatment they received during their confinement. While at Quantico, Manning was placed in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day with guards checking on them every few minutes. (Plus psychologically tortured, which is rarely mentioned)
Manning admitted to unauthorized possession and willful communication of information from military databases, including the Combined Information Data Network Exchange Iraq and Combined Information Data Network Exchange Afghanistan.
They also admitted to misuse of documents from the U.S. Southern Command pertaining to Guantanamo Bay, a memo from an unnamed intelligence agency, and records from a military operation in Farah province in Afghanistan.
Manning, an Army intelligence officer, was arrested in May 2010 while serving in Iraq and charged with downloading thousands of intelligence documents, diplomatic cables and combat videos and forwarding them to WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks began exposing the U.S. government secrets in the same year, stunning diplomats around the world and outraging U.S. officials who said damage to national security from the leaks endangered U.S. lives.
Manning faces life in a military prison for exposing war crimes while those who actually commited the war crimes have not been arrested, let alone charged.