Bradley Manning Hints at Guilty Plea in WikiLeaks Case

Watch WikiSecrets, FRONTLINE’s investigation into Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and the largest intelligence breach in U.S. history, and The Private Life of Bradley Manning, a profile of the early years of the young soldier now accused of leaking more than half a million classified U.S. government documents.

Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accused of providing thousands of military records and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, has signaled he may plead guilty to a portion of the 34 charges currently facing him.

Manning made the offer, a move known as “pleading by exceptions and substitutions,” through his attorney, David Coombs, at a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday in Fort Meade, Maryland. If accepted by the court, Manning could avoid prosecution for some of the more serious charges he is accused of, including alleged offenses under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

“To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government,” Coombs wrote in a statement. “Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses. The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea.”

Even if the court OKs Manning’s offer, the prosecution can still decide not to accept it. If so, Manning would be free to rescind the offer without having it used against him in trial.

Manning also told the court Wednesday he is electing to stand trial by military judge, rather than a trial by jury, according to blogger Kevin Gosztola, who was at the hearing and first reported on the defense’s offer.

Manning is charged with leaking more than 260,000 diplomatic cables, 90,000 intelligence reports on the war in Afghanistan, and a video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed two employees of the Reuters news agency along with several other civilians. If convicted, he faces life in prison. His trial is scheduled to begin in February.

Bradley Manning, right, is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md in June. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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