'I wanted to start a debate': Bradley Manning admits leaking WikiLeaks files but will fight charge of aiding enemy

'I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan was a target that needed to be engaged and neutralised'

Bradley Manning has admitted for the first time that he was responsible for the biggest leak of government secrets in US history, after he supplied vast amounts of classified material to the Wikileaks website. In a court martial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland on Thursday, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges of which he is accused, though he plans to fight the most serious charge, of aiding the enemy.

Appearing before military judge Colonel Denise Lind, The 25-year-old Army Intelligence Private waived his right to a jury trial, in favour of being tried by a judge alone. It is thought he pleaded guilty to the lesser offences so as to be given the opportunity to explain his actions and motivations – an opportunity previously denied to him in the more than 1,000 days since he was arrested in Iraq in May 2010.

Dressed in full uniform, Manning testified that he had passed classified material to Wikileaks because he believed, “if the general public... had access to the information... this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general.”

Speaking under oath for more than an hour, he explained that he had first tried to pass the files to The Washington Post, The New York Times and Politico, but that none had taken him seriously. He spoke to a reporter at the Post, and left a voicemail message for the ombudsman of the New York Times, which was never returned. He tried to visit Politico’s Washington DC office, he said, but was thwarted by “weather conditions”, and so turned instead to the Wikileaks website, beginning a lengthy online exchange with a Wikileaks member who went by the web pseudonym “Ox”, and whom he now believes was the site’s controversial founder, Julian Assange.

According to journalists at the base, who watched the court proceedings via a live feed, Manning said he chose to leak documents that he believed would be embarrassing to the US, but would not harm national security. “I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan was a target that needed to be engaged and neutralised,” said Manning, suggesting that he had "accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience.”

The Private was allowed to read aloud from his 35-page explanatory statement, only the second time he has been permitted to speak in public since his arrest. In November 2012, he told a court about the harsh conditions of his imprisonment at Quantico marine base in Virginia. For months, he was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day and kept on suicide watch, which called for regular naked inspections, and obliged him to sleep without darkness or bedclothes. In January, Judge Lind ordered that any sentence handed down to Manning be reduced by 112 days to reflect the illegal pre-trial treatment he was forced to endure.

Manning will admit at his court martial to having leaked classified documents including those relating to the US detention camp at Guantanamo; Iraq and Afghanistan war logs; State Department Cables; Department of Defence memos; and the so-called “Collateral Murder” video, which shows the death of Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and several others in Baghdad, in a 2007 attack by a US Apache helicopter.

Manning said he was “horrified” by the apparent bloodlust of the US military personnel heard communicating in the clip, which thrust Wikileaks to the forefront of the public consciousness when it was posted online in April 2010. The site’s subsequent steady release of classified US government documents throughout that year, in conjunction with newspapers including The New York Times, was based on the data allegedly leaked by Manning.

The disclosures shocked the public, spelled humiliation for many diplomats and, claimed outraged US officials, endangered the lives of Americans and their confidential sources in Afghanistan and elsewhere. His prosecutors claim that Manning “indirectly” abetted Al Qaeda by making such information public. Yet Manning’s supporters also say his exposure of corruption in many governments helped to set off the Arab Spring.

In the years since Manning was jailed, Wikileaks itself has suffered a series of high-profile internal disputes and defections. After he was accused of alleged sex crimes in Sweden in August 2010, Assange spent 10 days in Wandsworth Prison, before being placed under house arrest at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk. In June last year, apparently fearing extradition to Sweden, and thence to the US, he sought asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has remained ever since.

Manning faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the 10 lesser charges to which he pleaded guilty, which include unauthorized possession and wilful communication of information from military databases, including the Combined Information Data Network Exchange Iraq and Combined Information Data Network Exchange Afghanistan. If convicted of the headline charge of aiding the enemy, however, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment. His trial is due to commence on 3 June.

Manning's full statement can be read by clicking here

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star