Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

US soldier admits WikiLeaks charges

Bradley Manning has offered guilty pleas to 10 charges of sending secret documents to WikiLeaks (AP)

A solder arrested in the biggest leak of classified material in US history gave the first detailed explanation of his actions, offering to plead guilty to charges that could send him to prison for 20 years and saying he spilled the secrets to expose the American military's "bloodlust" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was the first time Army Private Bradley Manning directly admitted leaking the material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and detailed the frustrations that led him to do it.

Sitting before a military judge, the slightly built 25-year-old soldier read from a 35-page statement through his wire-rimmed glasses for more than an hour.

He spoke quickly and evenly, showing little emotion even when he described how troubled he was by what he had seen.

"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," Manning said.

A military judge, Colonel Denise Lind, is weighing up whether to accept Manning's guilty plea to reduced charges on 10 counts. Even then, military prosecutors can still pursue a court-martial on the remaining 12 charges. One of those is aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence. Prosecutors have not disclosed their plans.

Manning said he did not think the information would harm the US and he decided to release it because he was disturbed by the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the seeming disregard by American troops for the lives of ordinary people.

Manning admitted sending hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, State Department diplomatic cables, other classified records and two battlefield video clips to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2010 while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad.

The battlefield reports were the first documents Manning decided to leak. He said he sent them to WikiLeaks after contacting The Washington Post and The New York Times. He said he felt a reporter at the Post did not take him seriously, and a message he left for news tips at the Times was not returned.

Manning has been embraced by some left-leaning activists as a whistle-blowing hero whose actions exposed war crimes and helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring in 2010.

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