Bradley Manning pleads guilty to 10 lesser offenses, claims whistleblower status
A military judge on Thursday accepted guilty pleas by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 10 lesser charges against him, leaving the ex-intelligence analyst to face 12 other counts for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of government documents to the WikiLeaks website.
The acceptance of the "naked guilty pleas" -- meaning there is no agreement between the government and the defense that would limit the sentence – at a pre-trial hearing means that Manning faces up to 20 years in prison, even if he is ultimately acquitted of the most-serious charges against him.
So, at the least, the Army managed to get him on those charges. But Manning was in sort of a catch 22 as far as defense strategies. He could either claim he hadn't done those things, and force the Government to prove each of the elements of the thefts and such, OR he could argue that he was a whistleblower, and try to get out of the major charge which is "aiding the enemy." Technically in the law you can actually argue both, even though from a standpoint of logic it doesn't work. So, in a court you could say "I didn't steal that bicycle, but if I did, it was for a very good reason." Everyone with an IQ north of an eggplant knows you either stole a bike or did not, but the law allows you to argue two different and competing theories, one of which has to clearly be false.
Now, the excellent blogger Jazz Shaw who writes at Hot Air has a great piece up this morning, but I do take issue with him in one small regard:
At this point, one has to wonder who benefited from the extensive time which ticked by while Manning’s defense team dragged out this circus for years as he cooled his heels in the brig. The Army, in their usual, calm, quiet way, essentially said, “Thanks for the guilty pleas. Now we’ll try you on the rest of the charges.”
Not only has Manning copped to charges which can earn him two decades behind bars if the military really feels like throwing the book at him, (and at this point, well…) but he got nothing in return. Further, the “lesser” charges he owned up to have effectively removed any and all question as to whether or not he did what everyone has been alleging he’d done all along. This leaves little to the imagination other than whether or not the Army will consider dumping three quarter million classified documents out where Al Qaeda could get them as being a case of, “aiding the enemy.”
The one part of what Jazz writes I disagree with is that Manning "got nothing in return." From the NBC news article:
More than an hour of Thursday's hearing was consumed by Manning's composed reading of a 35-page prepared statement that offered his first public explanation of his motives for leaking the government documents to WikiLeaks. He said he did so to “spark domestic debate” on foreign policy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning painted himself as a young man with an "insatiable thirst for geopolitical information" and a desire for the world to know the truth about what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he said he became increasingly disillusioned after being sent to Iraq by actions that "didn't seem characteristic" of the U.S., the leader of free world.
I think this is what he truly wanted at this point. He was never going to get out of those 10 charges anyway, and his supporters needed some more red meat to keep them going. I think he has been bristling that he's not allowed to tell everyone what a "hero" he is. Pretty insane, I agree, but that seems to have been the goal here. Look at his support website, and what they had said two days ago:
This Thursday, Feb. 28, from 9:30am in the courtroom at Ft. Meade, MD, Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is expected to publicly explain his reasons for releasing classified information through WikiLeaks.
This will be only the second time that Manning has testified in open court since his arrest in May 2010.
Manning’s testimony this Thursday will speak to larger issues affecting his case as a whole, and expands upon a plea proffering responsibility for releasing information with noble motive, while contesting the most serious charges. Spectators in the courtroom earlier this week got a brief preview of Manning’s statement, which included reference to a pivotal incident in Iraq that caused Manning to question the military’s methods there, in addition to a general statement that he’d hoped releasing information would ‘spark a domestic debate on the role of our military and foreign policy in general.’ His testimony will consist partially of reading from a written statement, in addition to taking questions from the Judge.
Notice they don't even mention that he's pleading guilty. To them what he did was no crime, because he was doing it for some altruistic cause. No one in their right mind would agree that Army Privates should be able to decide what should be in the public domain on their own, but we aren't talking about particularly rational people here.
Either way, one step closer to getting this guy in jail for a LONG time. Let's hope the prosecutors don't drop the ball on this one like some others in the past. (Ehren Watada for example.)