The U.S. government will proceed with a full prosecution of Bradley Manning, the gay soldier accused of leaking secret documents, even though he has already pleaded guilty to many of the charges.
In a military courtroom at Fort Meade, Md., Thursday, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him and offered a rationale for sharing the documents about U.S. foreign policy and military strategies with the website WikiLeaks, The Washington Post reports.
“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate over the role of the military and our foreign policy in general,” Manning said in a statement he read in court.
The charges to which he pleaded guilty were some of the lesser ones against him, but his plea was “exceptionally rare move for a defendant in a serious criminal trial,” notes London’s Guardian. “Manning gave his confession ... in what is known as a ‘naked plea’ — that is, it was proffered voluntarily and not as part of any plea bargain with the prosecution,” the paper reports. He faces up to 20 years in military prison and a dishonorable discharge on these charges alone.
Still, prosecutors indicated they will prosecute Manning on other charges, including one, under the Espionage Act, that he aided the enemy, specifically terrorist group al-Qaeda, by leaking the documents, and they said they intend to call 141 witnesses, reportedly including a Navy SEAL who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Proceeding with the prosecution is excessive, Manning’s supporters contend, saying his guilty plea should be considered sufficient. “From day one the prosecution had the option to prosecute Bradley easily for the charges he’s admitted to now,” Jeff Patterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network told The Guardian. “If they push on with the Espionage Act it’s because they want to send a political message that what Bradley did will not be tolerated.”