Bradley Manning, the Army private arrested in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history, offered to plead guilty Thursday to charges that could send him to prison for 20 years, saying he spilled the secrets to expose the American military“bloodlust” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was the first time 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 from Oklahoma 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, Col. Denise Lind, is weighing 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 haven’t disclosed their plans.
Manning said he didn’t think the information would harm the U.S. and he decided to release it because he was disturbed by the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and American troops’ seeming disregard for ordinary people’s lives.
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 Post reporter didn’t take him seriously, and a message he left for news tips at the Times was not returned.