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Bradley Manning Pleads Guilty to Some Offenses (Updates)

PFC Bradley Manning

UPDATE – 11:06 AM Court back in session. Manning to read statement under oath in military court.

UPDATE – 11:03 AM Defense entered guilty pleas into the court record.

UPDATE – 10:58 AM Military judge Denise Lind explained, “If the govt decides to go forward with the greater offenses, the government would present their evidence during the merits portion of the case” (before sentencing). They would have to present their evidence without citing evidence in pleas.

The judge could make two possible findings: guilty to lesser-included offenses pursuant to the plea or guilty of the greater offenses in the original charges. The court cannot find him “not guilty” based on his plea.

UPDATE – 10:55 AM Manning pled guilty to all that was anticipated except he did not plead guilty to releasing Granai air strike video

UPDATE – 10:50 AM Break. Manning to read prepared statement. He has been informed by the judge that he does not have to read a statement of facts. The judge could simply ask him questions. He was made aware the statement being read is voluntary. Its contents could be used against him if any aspects are found to be false or untrue. After standard procedural warning, he said he did want to go through with reading it into the record.

It will be read in full and then the judge will ask questions.

UPDATE – 10:00 AM Proceedings are about to begin. Manning will be giving his proposed pleas. I will leave this ruling from the military judge here for anyone that wants more specific and legal details on what is happening.

Original Post

Between supporters, commentators and open government advocates, there have been multiple assertions, claims and intimations about what was going through Pfc. Bradley Manning’s mind when he released information to the media organization, WikiLeaks. There will be no need to sift through chat logs and anecdotes from friends, family and soldiers who served alongside him after today’s court martial proceedings at Fort Meade. Manning is pleading guilty to committing some offenses and will be sharing what was going through his mind when he decided to send the information to WikiLeaks.

As covered previously, Manning wrote and type a thirty-five page statement and has prepared for what is called a “providence inquiry.” The judge will be having a conversation with him to elicit details and facts on the offense, which he is pleading to committing. The judge will be testing whether the pleas are “provident”—that they are being entered intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily. She will be ensuring that what he is pleading to committing are offenses in the Unform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Manning is expected to admit in his plea that he had unauthorized possession of certain information; that he willfully communicated that information and that he communicated that information to an unauthorized person; and that it is “service discrediting” or prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the military.

With regard to specific charges, he is pleading guilty to nine lesser-included offenses in the sixteen originally charged specifications under Charge II.

For example, this is Specification 2 (or Count 2) under Charge II [an Article 134 offense]:

SPECIFICATION 2:  In that Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, US Army, did at or near Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq, between on or about 15 February 2010 and on or about 5 April 2010, having unauthorized possession of information relating to the national defense, to wit: a video file named “12 JUL 07 CZ ENGAGEMENT ZONE 30 GC Anyone.avi”, with reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicate, deliver, transmit, or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, the said information, to a person not entitled to receive it, in violation of 18 U.S. Code Section 793(e), such conduct being prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces and being of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

What Manning is doing is, under advice of counsel, he is entering a naked plea. There is no agreement with the government to limit the sentence. There is no prior agreement on facts. There are only the limits of law on what the sentence could be for pleading guilty.

By doing this, his defense is attempting to take the charges and remove certain elements from them to reduce culpability. They are trying to change the wrongful act in order to remove them from being violations of federal law that would carry a maximum punishment of ten years in prison. His plea to lesser-included offenses will instead carry a maximum of a two-year sentence for each specification (or count).

He is pleading guilty to unauthorized disclosure of the following: a combat engagement video of a helicopter gunship [Collateral Murder]; an Army intelligence agency memorandum [DoD report on WikiLeaks posing a threat]; certain records of the Combined Information Data Network Exchange (CIDNE) Iraq database [Iraq War Logs]; certain records of the CIDNE Afghanistan database [Afghan War Logs]; certain files that belong to SOUTHCOM on Guantanamo detainees [“Gitmo Files”]; a number of State Department cables; a specific cable, Reykjavik 13, from Iceland; and another intelligence agency memo.

Manning will be pleading not guilty to “aiding the enemy”; Espionage Act violations, federal larceny statute violations and violations to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). He will not be pleading guilty to the theft of government documents, databases and/or videos. He will not be pleading guilty to stealing a global address list for US personnel in Iraq (emails and phone numbers).

He will not be pleading guilty to adding unauthorized software or exceeding authorized access to a computer. He is also anticipated to plead not guilty to the first four specifications (or counts) under Charge III. However, he will plead guilty, as charged, to major misconduct of improper storage of classified information.

Also changing is the fact that “unauthorized information” will go from “classified information that could harm the United States or advantage a foreign nation” to just “classified information.”

In total, if the judge accepts that his pleas are “provident” or acceptable, he would face a total maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for pleading guilty to the offenses. However, there will be elements of charged major misconduct the military prosecutors will be able to continue to pursue and take to trial. (The trial is scheduled for June 3.)

There will be no decision today from the judge on whether the court accepts his pleas. A public ruling will likely come at the next motion hearing in April.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."