Bradley Manning Willing To Admit To Leaking Info To Wikileaks, Hoping For More Limited Trial
from the ongoing-process dept
As the Bradley Manning court martial trial moves forward, Manning has apparently submitted a plea notice more or less looking to speed up the process by effectively admitting to the fact that he leaked the info to Wikileaks, without pleading “guilty” to any of the charges. The idea appears to be a procedural move to try to take a shortcut to focusing on some lesser charges by admitting some factual things, and leaving some of the most serious charges off the table. This isn’t a “plea bargain” in which both sides make an agreement — but rather an attempt to effectively say “here’s what we agree to, without having to go through the effort of proving it, and then let’s focus on these lesser charges.” The judge does not need to accept this offer, however.
Manning did not plead guilty to the charged offenses in the plea notice. However, significantly, he did indicate with this notice that he is willing to admit to the fact that the act of providing information to WikiLeaks did occur or that the government has evidence that would prove he did commit the act and so he is willing to plea to it.
The notice was a plea to lesser-included offenses—charges with different elements that the judge could agree upon if there is no evidence for the more severe charges. Pleading to lesser-included offenses makes it possible to not plea to committing offenses under the Espionage Act or Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Importantly, he can plead guilty without accepting the government’s charge that he “aided the enemy” or “exceeded authorized access” on his computer
Notably, that report, from Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola, points out that even if this goes through, Manning could still end up with life in prison for “aiding the enemy.”
Meanwhile, Andy Greenberg notes that merely making this offer does not bind Manning into this admission — especially if the government doesn’t accept the deal (the judge has to accept it first). He can rescind it, and it can’t be used against him. It’s basically an attempt to speed up the process, along with the recognition that Manning almost certainly is going to be found guilty of something, so the attempt is to narrow down the possible charges to things that aren’t quite as severe.