FORT MEADE, Md. — After almost three years in custody, the Army private accused in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history said he did it because he wanted the public to know how the American military was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with little regard for human life.
Bradley Manning, 25, pleaded guilty Thursday at a military hearing at Fort Meade, Md., to 10 charges that could carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. Prosecutors plan to pursue 12 more charges against him at court-martial, including a charge of aiding the enemy that carries a potential life sentence.
“I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists,” the former intelligence analyst in Baghdad told a military judge.
He added: “I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized.”
It was the first time Manning directly admitted leaking the material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and detailed the frustrations that led him to do it.
The slightly built soldier from Crescent, Okla., read from a 35-page statement through his wire-rimmed glasses for more than an hour. He spoke quickly and evenly, showing little emotion even when he described how troubled he was by what he had seen.
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, accepted his plea to 10 charges involving illegal possession or distribution of classified material. Manning was allowed to plead guilty under military regulations instead of federal espionage law, which knocked the potential sentence down from 92 years.
He will not be sentenced until his court-martial on the other charges is over.
Manning admitted sending hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, State Department diplomatic cables, other classified records and two battlefield video clips to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2010. WikiLeaks posted some of the material, embarrassing the United States and its allies.
He said he did not believe the release of the information he downloaded onto a thumb drive would harm the United States.