In Brief

Bradley Manning: I wanted to spark debate about cost of war

Soldier accused of biggest classified leak in US history pleads guilty in unusual move

BRADLEY MANNING, the US army private accused of the biggest leak of classified material in America's history, pleaded guilty to 10 out of 22 charges yesterday, saying he was attempting to spark a national debate about the "true costs of war". 

In a pre-trial hearing at a military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, Manning said he believed the leaked material would lead to questions about "foreign policy in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan".

His admission of guilt was "highly unusual", The Guardian notes, as it was not part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. Although the 10 charges he admitted carry up to 20 years in prison. Manning, 25, may still be prosecuted on the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, which he denies but which could bring a life sentence.

The Washington Post reports Manning spoke "calmly and quietly" as he explained his motivation for the leak, which included videos of airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan that killed civilians, logs of military incident reports, and 250,000 diplomatic cables. He downloaded the information in what The Guardian describes as a "good housekeeping" measure but decided to take the files back with him when he went on leave from his post in Iraq to stay with his aunt in Maryland in January 2010.

"The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this type of information should become public," he said in a lengthy statement to the court. "I believed the public release of these cables would not damage the United States. However, I did believe the release of the cables might be embarrassing."

Manning first tried to interest journalists from The New York Times and Washington Post in the documents before deciding to release them to Wikileaks. He uploaded the information to Julian Assange's anti-privacy site using an internet connection in a shop as the broadband in his aunt's house was down. He told the court he took "full responsibility" for his actions. His full trial is scheduled to begin on 3 June.

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