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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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He took an oath
By djcameron on 11/8/2012 11:12:04 PM , Rating: 5
Manning took an oath, the same oath I took when I enlisted in the military. He violated many articles of the UCMJ, and in any era, except this one, he'd already be hanging by his neck.
Trust me, you do not want soldiers do this. Throw the little bastard in prison for the rest of his pathetic life and forget about him.

RE: He took an oath
By MechanicalTechie on 11/8/12, Rating: -1
RE: He took an oath
By Bad-Karma on 11/8/2012 11:55:46 PM , Rating: 4
I think the chin strap on your tin foil has come loose and a few transmissions are getting through. Please remember to take your meds, tighten the strap, and return to your anechoic room... ie parents basement.

RE: He took an oath
By MechanicalTechie on 11/9/12, Rating: -1
RE: He took an oath
By Bad-Karma on 11/9/2012 12:39:57 AM , Rating: 4
What have you ever given of yourself?

djcameron had the courage, honor and integrity to give of himself and serve our nation and you choose to belittle him for it? He chose to work within the constraints of the DoD & service regulations. He was not forced to do so. So your mindless robot analogy carries no weight. During a members time in service you give up certain rights. When given access to classified you further sign away more of your rights.

PFC manning had the rules explained to him, which he signed, and then willfully violated them. A firing squad is a honorable death for a military member, a public hanging would be far more appropriate for Manning.

djcameron service showed his courage, honor and integrity. These are noble and enviable traits of character, ones which apparently you do not posses or comprehend. So perhaps we should dumb it down for your benefit.

Often times soldiers come up against the realization that not all enemies are to their front. Many, like you, are what we loathingly have to call our fellow citizens. It is unfortunate that we are not permitted to effectively deal with both.

RE: He took an oath
By MechanicalTechie on 11/9/12, Rating: -1
RE: He took an oath
By Bad-Karma on 11/9/2012 1:43:07 AM , Rating: 3
And you criticize me for a lack critical thinking?

Like I said, get back in your parents basement. The real world is apparently a bit more than you can handle....

RE: He took an oath
By MechanicalTechie on 11/9/12, Rating: 0
RE: He took an oath
By SPOOFE on 11/9/2012 1:03:45 PM , Rating: 4
But he took an oath.

Congratulations on having layovers in 20 different countries. I'm sure the two hours you spent in Italy gave you plenty of opportunity to learn everything about that country's culture, so now you're like super-master-expert guy on every facet of every foreign country, ever. I'm sure it made your penis grow by several inches, and maybe even granted you the ability to fly.

But back here in the real world, the word "oath" is an actual thing with an actual meaning, and anyone who would blather on about "critical thinking" or blow his own horn about how cosmopolitan his experiences are with a handful of moments in some country that isn't the US of A would probably want to understand what the word "oath" means, and not just definitionally.

RE: He took an oath
By morob05 on 11/9/12, Rating: 0
RE: He took an oath
By Solandri on 11/9/2012 8:17:06 PM , Rating: 4
You seem to have the view that the only way to properly serve your country is to take an oath to mindlessly carry out whatever orders you are given without employing any critical thinking of your own.

This is a common (mis)belief held by those who are anti-military. On one of my software projects for the military (we were making a strategic and tactical simulator/trainer), we got a crash course on the training and decision-making process officers are taught.

The last thing the military wants is people who blindly obey orders. They want people who are able to think on their feet, assess the changing situation and create and modify plans accordingly. The "don't think and do what you're told" mentality is what the Soviets used. The U.S. military decided the best way to defeat it was empowering the individual soldier to make his own decisions. There's a strong parallel to capitalism vs. centralized planning here.

Specifically, while the overall goal (e.g. advance the army forward to this position) is determined by HQ, commanders on the field determine the best way to accomplish that (e.g. we need to take this ridge, this town, and that valley). And in turn the individual units in the field determine the best way to do that (e.g. the platoon tasked with taking the ridge decides one squad sets up diversionary fire up the ridge here, while another squad heads up the ridge on the other side to flank the defenders). And in turn the individual soldiers determine the best way to do their job (e.g. where to dig in for the diversionary fire, or what route do we take up the ridge?).

Overall, the entire process struck me as a very sensible way to maximize the mental contribution of all members of the army, from the top general down to the individual soldier, when faced with a situation which might quickly be changing and where time was of the essence. The main premise was "no plan survives contact with the enemy," so you're best off giving individual units or soldiers just a goal plus the freedom to revise their part of the plan in the field instead of forcing them to follow orders. This way, if any soldier sees an opportunity or a problem which wasn't considered when making the original plan, he can quickly change what everyone underneath him is doing to take advantage of that opportunity or to avoid the problem. His job is to accomplish the goal he was given - how he does it is up to him.

Bradley Manning has served his country far better than anyone who turned a blind eye to any of these scandals!

If Manning had picked out specific scandals and cover-ups and released those to the public, I'd probably agree with you. But he didn't do that. He indiscriminately copied everything he had access to and released it. That isn't whistle-blowing, that's throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

RE: He took an oath
By Ringold on 11/9/2012 1:00:07 AM , Rating: 2
You're making yourself look like the lowest form of ignorant fool, I'd stop while you were ahea-- well, less behind.

RE: He took an oath
By inperfectdarkness on 11/9/2012 2:41:36 AM , Rating: 3
Ok, first of all, I'm amazed that any of your posts on this topic are rated higher than -1.

Second of all, people like you--who clearly feel that governments should not keep any secrets of any kind--are more than welcome to run off to a third world country, overthrow it, and creat your own utopian paradise where there are no secrets. The rest of us in the REAL world know that Sun Tzu knew better well over a milennia ago.

Third, having a moral compass is a pre-requisite for military service--but that does not mean you can ignore chain of command, legal & lawful orders, etc. Non-disclosure agreements--required for access to classified documents--is a LEGAL AND LAWFUL ORDER.

Fourth, releasing classified information--regardless of the recipient--is treason. (I'm not referring to the process of declassification). Under the UCMJ, treason is punishable by death.

Fifth, it's discouraging that servicemembers are laying their lives on the line to defend imbeciles like you who not only lack a single clue as to how/what the military does...but also lauds traitors as "heroes".

RE: He took an oath
By superstition on 11/9/2012 2:54:36 AM , Rating: 2
Here is some substance on this subject, to counter the bloviating:

more high-level classified disclosures from an administration fixated on punishing whistleblowers
High-level Obama administration leakers disclose classified information at will, without the slightest fear of punishment . One can pick up a newspaper or listen to a television news broadcast almost every day and find examples of leaks from Obama’s high-level officials far more serious than those allegedly committed by the Bradley Mannings and Thomas Drakes of the world.

Quoting classified American intelligence reports on Syria to The New York Times is a more serious leak than any of those serving as the basis for the multiple espionage prosecutions brought by the Obama DOJ. The difference is that this is a “senior official” rather than a low-level one, and it’s not done with the intent to expose high-level corruption, deceit or illegality. Therefore, like all the other high-level crimes shielded from accountability by the Obama administration, it will be protected. Therein lies the clear lesson about the real purpose of the Obama war on whistleblowers.

The intellectual cowardice of Bradley Manning’s critics
Ellsberg — dumped 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents: the highest known level of classification; by contrast, not a single page of what Manning is alleged to have leaked was Top Secret , but rather all bore a much lower-level secrecy designation.

To the extent one wants to distinguish the two leaks, Ellsberg’s was the far more serious breach of secrecy. The U.S. Government’s own pre-leak assessment of the sensitivities of these documents proves that. How can someone — in the name of government secrecy and national security — praise the release of thousands of pages of Top Secret documents while vehemently condemning the release of documents bearing a much lower secrecy classification?

Nor is there any way to distinguish the substance of the two leaks. While the Pentagon Papers exposed the lies from American leaders regarding the Vietnam War, the WikiLeaks disclosures have done exactly the same with regard to the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, and a whole litany of other critical events.

RE: He took an oath
By inperfectdarkness on 11/9/2012 3:03:11 AM , Rating: 3
So we're the ones "bloviating" and your rebuttle is some liberal hogwash? That's rich.

I don't suppose it ever occurs to you that sometimes our government DELIBERATELY "leaks" certain types of classified information? Like, for example, information which strengthens the US position on an issue while exposing the vapor of a beligerant state's rhetoric?

For that matter, what exactly did Manning offer the world of redeeming value? What was the "corruption" he exposed? Did he have a legitimate issue to expose?

The truth is, he just did it because he went full retard. He had no justice to fight for, no truth to speak to. His random, mostly BS documents were just spilled because he wanted to do it. I'm sorry, but that's NEVER a good excuse--I don't care who you are or where you work. Judging him innocent on this is sending a clear message that the US doesn't care which Joe Blow spills state secrets--it's all fair game.

RE: He took an oath
By superstition on 11/9/2012 12:31:54 PM , Rating: 1
Your screeching insubstantial posts wouldn't be so bad if you didn't feel it necessary to respond to everything.

I don't suppose it ever occurs to you that sometimes our government DELIBERATELY "leaks" certain types of classified information? Like, for example, information which strengthens the US position on an issue while exposing the vapor of a beligerant state's rhetoric?

I notice that you utterly fail to address the issue of Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Intellectual cowardice is too kind. Extreme laziness is more apt.

RE: He took an oath
By SPOOFE on 11/9/2012 1:06:30 PM , Rating: 2
if you didn't feel it necessary to respond to everything.

I notice that you utterly fail to address the issue of

So first you criticize him for "respond[ing] to everything", but then you criticize him for NOT responding to something?

Would a little internal consistency kill ya?

RE: He took an oath
By superstition on 11/9/2012 3:15:28 PM , Rating: 2
Oh please. Either of you might make the effort to adequately reconcile Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers with your views on Manning.

Still waiting...

RE: He took an oath
By MechanicalTechie on 11/9/2012 12:10:34 AM , Rating: 2
Forgot to add... thanks for making me giggle... tin foil hats.. classic!!

RE: He took an oath
By djcameron on 11/9/2012 1:01:23 AM , Rating: 2
Clearly you know nothing about the US military. Clearly you know nothing of honor.

RE: He took an oath
By tamalero on 11/9/2012 10:51:13 AM , Rating: 2
honor != following everything like a sheep without questioning them.

RE: He took an oath
By MechanicalTechie on 11/9/2012 10:54:58 AM , Rating: 2

Someone else that gets it... hope after all :)

They get all too personal and emotional here... god forbid you think for yourself!

RE: He took an oath
By SPOOFE on 11/9/2012 1:09:51 PM , Rating: 1
They get all too personal and emotional here.

Because "KILL KILL KILL" is such an impersonal and completely emotionless way to express one's opinion.

You morons are your own worst enemies.

RE: He took an oath
By SPOOFE on 11/9/2012 1:08:22 PM , Rating: 1
without questioning them.

One can question one's orders without grossly violating the oaths they take, you ignorant baboon, and certainly can do it without leaking humongous amounts of information.

You brainless clowns just get boners from "sticking it to the man".

RE: He took an oath
By MechanicalTechie on 11/9/2012 11:55:50 AM , Rating: 2
To Bad-Karma, Ringold, Inperfectdarkness and those with similar beliefs who just refuse to accept any alternative view other than the typical government one.

Please read the following article, written by an ex Vietnam Vet its a wonderful example on what I've been trying to portray... if you won't listen to me then I hope Sanford Kelson life experience can at very least open your eyes.

With all your abuse you threw at me I dare you to read it... time to man up!

RE: He took an oath
By SPOOFE on 11/9/2012 1:10:42 PM , Rating: 2
who just refuse to accept any alternative view

Physician, heal thyself.

RE: He took an oath
By inperfectdarkness on 11/10/2012 1:54:04 AM , Rating: 2
are you capable of providing any "proof" from anywhere that isn't a die-hard, liberal douche-farm?

you sound suspiciously like the same nutjobs who think that 9-11 was an inside job and that we demolished the twin-towers with controlled explosives. if that's your "alternative views", then yes...i refuse to accept them.

for the record, i also refuse to believe that the world is flat and that the sun orbits around the earth.

RE: He took an oath
By Proposer88 on 11/10/2012 6:22:48 PM , Rating: 2
Man, that Romney debacle really affected you. You'll eventually overcome it.

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