On Thursday Pfc. Bradley Manning confessed in court to providing a huge archive of sensitive military and diplomatic files to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks stating that it was his intention to release the information to enlighten the public as to “what happens and why it happens” and to “spark a debate about foreign policy.”
Manning, appearing before military judge Col. Denise Lind , read a prepared statement summarizing his military career and how he came to the decision of actually releasing the files from a secure computer network and uploading them to Wikileaks. In his testimony, which lasted only about an hour, Manning fell on his own sword and explicitly exonerated WikiLeaks of pursuing him for the files:
“No one associated with WLO[wikileaks organization] pressured me into sending any more information,” Private Manning said. “I take full responsibility.”
Prior to his statement Manning plead guilty to 10 counts in connection with the massive amount of information he leaked which includes nearly a quarter of a million confidential cables, logs of military incident reports, videos of airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan and assessment files of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Manning described the diplomatic cables as portraying “back-room deals and seemingly criminal activity.”
Those charges alone will most likely cost Manning 20 years in prison, but the military is also pushing for more serious charges including aiding the enemy and multiple charges of violating the Espionage act.
“I believed the public release of these cables would not damage the United States,” he said. “However, I did believe the release of the cables might be embarrassing. I believed if the public — in particular the American public — had access to the information” in the reports, “this could spark a debate about foreign policy in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.
Manning said he used a broadband connection at a Barnes & Noble store to send his first installment of files to Wikileaks because the house where he was staying in Maryland had lost its Internet connection in a snowstorm.
In February 2010 – after he returned to Iraq – Private Manning then sent more files to WikiLeaks including the now famous helicopter attack video of a 2007 incident in Iraq in which American forces were depicted firing on a group of Iraqi citizens.
Manning has developed a very large base of supporters consisting of whistle blower advocates and anti-secrecy proponents who have vocalized their support for both Manning and the concept of full transparency and disclosure of government activities. Opponents insist that divulging sensitive information jeopardizes the national security of the United States and further endangers the lives of U.S. troops.