Manning says he leaked secrets to spark war debate
By Ben Nuckols ,APFORT MEADE, Maryland -- After almost three years in custody, the soldier accused in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history said he did it because he wanted the public to know how the American military was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with little regard for human life.
March 2, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
Bradley Manning, 25, pleaded guilty Thursday at a military hearing to 10 charges that could carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. Prosecutors plan to pursue 12 more charges against him at court-martial, including a charge of aiding the enemy that carries a potential life sentence.
“I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists,” Manning told a judge.
It was the first time Manning directly admitted leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and detailed the frustrations that led him to do it. Manning read from a 35-page statement for more than an hour. He spoke quickly and evenly, showing little emotion.
The judge accepted his plea to 10 charges involving illegal possession or distribution of classified material. Manning was allowed to plead guilty under military regulations instead of federal espionage law, which knocked the potential sentence down from 92 years.
Manning said he did not believe the release of the information he downloaded would harm the U.S.
“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.
Manning said he was appalled by 2007 combat video of an assault by a U.S. helicopter that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer. The Pentagon concluded the troops mistook the camera equipment for weapons.
“The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team happened to have,” Manning said, adding that the soldiers' actions “seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.”
As for the State Department cables, he said they “documented backdoor deals and criminality that didn't reflect the so-called leader of the free world.”
“I believed that these cables would not damage the United States. However, I believed these cables would be embarrassing,” he said.
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 didn't take him seriously, and a message he left for news tips at the Times was not returned. Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said Thursday of the purported phone call: “This is news to us.”
The soldier told the court that he corresponded online with someone he believed to be WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange but never confirmed the person's identity.