Army Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; JURIST news archive], who is accused of leaking confidential documents to WikiLeaks [website; JURIST news archive], offered a guilty plea on Wednesday to several of the charges that the government has leveled against him. Manning was charged for allegedly leaking more than 700,000 classified government documents to WikiLeaks, which purports to be a whistleblower website. Manning offered his plea [AP report] through a process called "pleading by exceptions and substitutions," in which the accused accepts lesser charges within the larger set of charged offenses. Manning's lawyer explained [statement] that even if the government accepts the plea offer, it could still charge Manning with more serious offenses:
If the Court allows PFC Manning to plead guilty by exceptions and substitutions, the Government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses. Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial.Manning is scheduled to be tried by a military judge in February and faces a possible life sentence.
Manning's case has engendered a great deal of controversy. In August JURIST guest columnist Philip Cave argued that the lack of transparency [JURIST op-ed] in Manning's case undermines the validity of the eventual verdict. In June Army Col. Denise Lind, the judge in Manning's case ordered the prosecution to submit to her a number of files that were allegedly withheld from the defense during discovery [JURIST report]. Earlier in June Lind denied a motion [JURIST report] to dismiss eight of the 22 charges against Manning after his defense had argued they were unconstitutionally vague. In May UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez accused the US government of cruel and inhuman treatment [JURIST report] of Manning. The US military court referred Manning's case for court-martial in February after a US Army panel of experts declared Manning competent to stand trial [JURIST reports] last April.