The Army private accused of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 of the 22 counts he faces, admitting that he was the source of the files published by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks but denying the most serious charges, including aiding the enemy.
Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, who was a junior intelligence analyst in Iraq, is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. diplomatic cables, other classified records and two videos to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2010.
Manning, wearing his dress uniform, was allowed by the military judge to read a 35-page statement at his court martial at Fort Meade in Maryland.
He took “full responsibility” for the release of the documents and denied that anyone from WikiLeaks had pressured him to provide the secret documents.
In his statement, Manning revealed for the first time that he had offered his trove of stolen secrets to The Washington Post, The New York Times and the political newspaper and website Politico before he contacted WikiLeaks.
Manning also outlined his justification for the crime, saying that it was not his intention to harm the United States, but that he had acted out of disillusionment about the Iraq War.
Manning said his motivation for leaking was to “spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general.”
His statement also confirmed the poor state of information security at the forward-operating base in Baghdad where he worked.
Manning said he openly burned to CDs copies of the huge databases of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, known as CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A.
“I never hid the fact that I downloaded copies of CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A,” he said, adding that he even labeled and stored them openly in his unit’s tactical operations center.
Such downloading is banned by rules for the handling of classified data but was widely tolerated in Iraq because it made troops jobs easier, as The Washington Times has previously reported.
Manning admitted to the improper storage of classified information, the unauthorized possession of the documents, the willful communication of the information to an unauthorized person, and other “lesser-included” offenses. Each of the 10 charges carries a sentence of up to two years’ imprisonment, for a total of 20 years in prison.
The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, accepted the 25-year-old soldier’s guilty pleas late Thursday.
Prosecutors could still pursue a court-martial on the remaining charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence. If they pursue the case, a trial would begin in June.
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