Judge accepts terms for Manning plea

2012-11-30 09:01
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Fort Meade - A US military judge on Thursday accepted the terms under which army private Bradley Manning could plead guilty to some but not all charges that he passed secret documents to WikiLeaks.

But Judge Denise Lind's decision focused solely on the wording of a proposal from Manning and did not represent formal acceptance of a plea, which could come at future proceedings.

Lind said Manning could plead to some lesser offenses that carry less severe penalties, as the defence has proposed.

The plea proposal from Manning would allow him to admit responsibility for leaking a trove of military intelligence logs and State Department cables, though not for every offense claimed by the government.

The massive leak to the secret-spilling WikiLeaks website triggered a diplomatic firestorm that embarrassed US officials and rankled Washington's allies.

If the plea goes ahead, government prosecutors would have to decide whether to press ahead with the full list of charges levelled at Manning.

Worst security breach

Under the proposal, Manning would not plead guilty to the grave charge of "aiding the enemy", which could send him to prison for life.

And he also would not admit to charges he stole the electronic address list of US forces in Iraq, bypassed government computer systems or added unauthorised software to his computer, officials said.

The proposal would have Manning accept responsibility for leaking a video of a helicopter attack without permission, passing along a cache of military intelligence logs and State Department cables, and carrying out unauthorised storage of material, according to a military legal officer who briefed reporters.

But the offenses would be defined mostly within the military's legal code instead of more serious federal crimes that cite damage to national security and reckless intent, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lind approved the wording for eight counts facing Manning, accused of the worst security data breach in American history.

The former intelligence analyst also faces 14 additional counts and military authorities would have to decide whether to press those charges.

The counts would carry a maximum punishment of 16 years in prison, the judge said at a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, north of the US capital.

The decision came on the third day of a six-day pre-trial hearing, in which the defence is arguing for the case to be thrown out due to alleged unlawful punishment during Manning's detention July 2010 to April 2011 in Quantico, Virginia.

Read more on:    wikileaks  |  chelsea manning  |  us  |  espionage
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