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One of the most controversial military espionage cases is about to take an interesting turn

At a hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland on Wednesday, David Coombs, attorney for U.S. private first class Bradley Manning, announced that his client was willing to enter a partial guilty plea.

I. A Plea -- But to What?

He wrote on his blog:

PFC Manning has offered to plead guilty to various offenses through a process known as "pleading by exceptions and substitutions."  To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government.  Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses.  The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea.

He adds:

[T]he Government does not need to agree to PFC Manning's plea; the Court simply has to determine that the plea is legally permissible.

Bradley Manning has been charged with 22 counts and faces the prospect of court martial and imprisonment.  Mr. Manning is accused of leaking videos and tens of thousands of field logs from Afghanistan and Iraq.  He also is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of State Department cables, some of which were classified.

The leaks were released in scattershot fashion.  Most of the information proved relatively uninteresting, although Wikileaks tried to highlight a handful of cables and logs that it felt were incriminating.

Bradley Manning
PFC Bradley Manning is accused of masterminding the worst data breach in U.S. Military history. [Image Source: Facebook]

Some news outlets (namely Newsweek) have claimed that militant fundamentalist groups in Afghanistan used the leaked information in the field to hunt down and execute U.S. allies.  Of course, such claims are inherently hard to validate, as the militants could easily have just made up the story as an excuse to kill someone they already were targeting.

II. Manning, Assange Face Legal Minefield Ahead

The maximum penalty the charges against PFC Manning could theoretically carry would be the death penalty, although prosecutors have indicated they will not seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.

In interviews, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is accused of saying that those who allied themselves with U.S. forces are "traitors" and "deserve to die".  Mr. Assange calls the quotes attributed to him by David Leigh -- an editor at England's most prestigious newspaper, Guardian -- "lies" and accuses the world media and social networks of a vast conspiracy to villainize him.

Leak -- blood
Sources have claimed that Mr. Assange celebrated the fact that the leaks might cost the lives of U.S. allies.

Mr. Assange is currently holed up at the Ecuadorean London embassy, which is granting him temporary asylum while he fights extradition charges.  He's currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) who has sought to extradite him to testify before a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia.  It is believed that the DOJ may move to charge him under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 (see: 18 U.S.C. § 793), however such an approach could raise serious free speech concerns.  

Instead, Mr. Assange believes that U.S. prosecutors are pushing Mr. Manning to testify against him, directly linking him to the leaks so that he can instead be brought to trial on cybercrimes charges.  Regarding PFC Manning, Mr. Assange claims, "[They're trying] to break him, to force him to testify against WikiLeaks and me."

Mr. Assange claims to expose global wrongdoing, however his site appears to be primarily fixated on embarrassing the U.S., with approximately 95 percent of its leaked documents involving the U.S.  

Julian Assange
Julian Assange has accused the U.S. government and global media of a grand conspiracy. 
[Getty Images/AFP]

Wikileaks does not reveal its funding sources.  In a previous brief interview with Julian Assange, I asked him directly whether he could verify that his site is not funded by hostile nation states such as North Korea or Iran.  He refused to offer any such promise, instead accusing the media of conspiring to discredit his work and warning me that there "will be consequences" for the questions I was asking.

III. Substitutions are Pretty Standard Fare in U.S. Military Court

Returning to PFC Manning's plea, it's unknown, exactly what PFC Manning plans to substitute in the charges, and which charges he plans to accept (deny).  Past comments make it seem unlikely that PFC Manning would agree to implicate Mr. Assange, whom he expressed a fiery admiration for.  However, faced with the prospect of hard prison time anything is possible.

Typically substitutions are designed as a way of pleading guilty to a lesser offense. For example CNET points to a June ruling by the The U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, in which an airman accused of using cocaine and other narcotics agreed to substitute (plead guilty to) vicodin abuse (a Schedule III drug), but except (deny guilt) of Percocet use (a Schedule II drug).  The maneuver reduced his jail time, although the substituted offense still earned him a dishonorable discharge.
Substitutes and exceptions are fairly standard practice in military cases.
[Image Source: Unknown]

Such hybrid pleas are described in the U.S. Military's 2012 Manual for Courts-Martial (PDF), which says that defendants can plead "not guilty to an offense as charged, but guilty of a named lesser included offense" and "not guilty of the exceptions, but guilty of the substitutions."

Sources: David Coombs, CNET

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RE: With any luck...
By MechanicalTechie on 11/8/2012 10:45:10 PM , Rating: 2
Huh? Do you live on planet Earth?!?

Without public scrutiny of government actions no one is held accountable for their actions... or do you seriously believe power doesn’t corrupt?

Perhaps you should read a bit more history.

RE: With any luck...
By Ringold on 11/9/2012 1:12:29 AM , Rating: 1
This has nothing to do with public scrutiny. The media already gets enough information. We already know, for example, almost everything that happened by the minute in Benghazi, despite almost zero info coming out officially from the US. Thank tireless reporting from a multitude news agencies and people on the inside that leak *relevant* information.

Speaking of that, there are whistleblower laws to protect legitimate instances. Take, for example, the ATF agents conspicuously NOT in jail for blowing the cover off of Fast and Furious. If even that isn't enough, and Manning was aware of something specific, there's always the "Deep Throat" route.

But no, he took no such measures, because he, and you, are full of shit if you're hiding behind some veil of accountability. Manning was just an anti-American, juvenile spy, and Assange was he spymaster. Both deserve something between life in jail and a noose.

Important distinction, too, is that aforementioned leakers and the routes they could take leaked out of love of country, moreso then loyalty to their mortal, direct superiors. Manning, again, took no such route, because he had no such feelings. If you're also not aware of all the various responsible leaks and whistleblowers of the last 30, 40 years, then you're the one ignorant of history, but your kind usually are. History only exists to you from 2001 to 2008, with only a vague notion of everything outside that, except that everything else is Bush's fault.

RE: With any luck...
By MechanicalTechie on 11/9/2012 1:34:23 AM , Rating: 1
Educate yourself

You might learn something... probably not thou... sadly

Also for
We already know, for example, almost everything that happened by the minute in Benghazi

really are you that naive?

RE: With any luck...
By SPOOFE on 11/9/2012 1:13:43 PM , Rating: 1
Educate yourself

You first. Start with "A is for Apple", you intellectual black hole.

RE: With any luck...
By inperfectdarkness on 11/9/2012 2:52:38 AM , Rating: 2
How in the holy heck do you have ANY positive ratings on ANYTHING in this thread?

Public accountability is not something to be judged by a random young 20-something with no jurisdiction in IA. Your head is so far up your own a$$ it would be amusing if it wasn't so dangerous to watch you spread your venomous lies.

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