FT. MEADE, Md. – Army Pfc. Bradley Manning pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 charges that he illegally acquired and transferred highly classified U.S. materials later published by WikiLeaks, saying he was motivated by a U.S foreign policy that “became obsessed with killing and capturing people rather than cooperating” with other governments.
“I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed unwilling to cooperate with us due to the mistrust and hatred on both sides,” Manning said, reading a 35-page, hand-written statement describing his angst over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I began to become depressed with the situation we had become mired in year after year,” he added.
In a plea arrangement with military prosecutors, Manning agreed to serve a 20-year prison sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to 10 lesser charges. But he also pleaded not guilty to 12 more serious criminal charges, including espionage, and will face a court-martial in June. If convicted, he could face a life sentence.
Manning, now 25, was posted as a low-level intelligence analyst at a base outside of Baghdad until his arrest three years ago.
He said was angered at one point when 15 Iraqis were arrested as protesters, yet none were known terrorists or involved in anti-government activities. When he complained to his superiors, he said, “no one wanted to do anything about it.”
Manning said he eagerly logged into WikiLeaks’ chat rooms and submitted material to the anti-secrecy website because he was impressed with their efforts to expose the inner workings of U.S. military and diplomatic operations.
“I routinely monitored their website,” he said. “It helped me pass the time and keep motivated throughout my deployment.”
Manning, a small, thin soldier in Army blues and eyeglasses, admitted he leaked encrypted gunsight video and audio from a July 2007 incident in which two Apache helicopters killed a dozen people, including a photographer and driver from the Reuters news agency, in Baghdad. He also leaked State Department cables, an Army field manual and documents that detailed the Army’s patrol reports in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He also admitted leaking confidential assessments of detainees at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and five classified records from a U.S. bombing in Afghanistan that killed numerous civilians.
[For the record, 8:26 p.m. Feb. 28: An earlier version of this post said Manning had leaked video of a helicopter gun battle in Iraq. There was no gun battle. The leaked video and audio were from an incident in which two U.S. Apache helicopters killed a dozen people in Baghdad.]