There is no plea bargain on the table for Pfc. Bradley Manning, but his lawyer has indicated that Pfc. Manning is willing to plead guilty to at least some of the charges he is facing because of the tens of thousands of files he stole and gave to WikiLeaks.
The offer would create a conundrum for the prosecution. If Manning pleads guilty to the charges relating to stealing the documents and transmitting them to an unauthorized person, then the role of WikiLeaks in the thefts is off the table for the prosecution. The most serious charge Manning is facing is aiding the enemy, and at court martial, the prosecutors would have to prove that the leaked information did in fact aid any enemy of the United States.
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, explained on his website, “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 is is a permissible plea. Pfc. Manning is not submitting a plea as part of an agreement or deal with the government. Further, the government does not need to agree to Pfc. Manning’s plea; the court simply has to determine that the plea is legally permissible. If the court allows Pfc. Manning to plead guilty by exceptions and substitution, the government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses.”
The offer came during a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland. It is a very unusual offer, and military law specialists like Eugene R. Fidell of Yale Law School have no explanations for why it was made.
Should the military court accept Manning’s plea, all interest in WikiLeaks would end. Manning would be taking full and sole responsibility for WikiLeaks acquiring the documents. At that point, Julian Assange’s paranoid belief that the United States government wants him imprisoned or dead becomes even less factual than it already is.