Manning, 25, admitted on Thursday to handing over a trove ofclassified documents to WikiLeaks. He voluntary plead guilty to 10relevant charges, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years.The move was a ‘naked plea’ – unlike a plea bargain, there is noarrangement with the prosecution to drop other charges. It did,however, give prosecutors the option to only purse the charges towhich Manning confessed, and proceed straight to sentencing.But after the judge accepted the plea, military prosecutorsannounced they would pursue the 12 other charges, including therarely used indictment of aiding the enemy. The crime is punishableby the death sentence, but the prosecution earlier ruled that out,saying they would seek life in prison without parole.“Given the scope of the alleged misconduct, the seriousnessof the charged offenses, and the evidence and testimony available,the United States intends to proceed with the court-martial toprove Manning committed the charged offenses beyond the lessercharges to which he has already pled guilty,” a statement fromthe Washington Military District said.The court martial will begin on June 3, with 141 prosecutionwitnesses scheduled to testify. The prosecutors reportedly plan toreveal that some of the documents leaked by Manning were found bythe Navy SEAL team that raided Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in May2011.Manning’s plea appears to give him little advantage in thetrial, apart from probably winning some points from the judge, Col.Denise Lind, for not forcing the government to prove his role inthe leak and his breaking the law in the process.But there may be more strategic consideration, explained MichaelNavarre, a former Navy judge advocate and military justiceanalyst.”He’s laying the groundwork for a more lenient sentence andlaying the groundwork for a potential defense to the aiding theenemy and the espionage charges,” Navarre told AP. “You endup with a more reasonable starting position — ‘I admit I did it,but I didn’t think it was going to harm anyone.’”Manning has many supporters, who see him as a hero for puttinghis well-being on the line to expose morally questionable secretsof the US government. The Bradley Manning Support Network hasraised more than $900,000 for his defense. A vigil in his honor washeld in front of the US embassy in London on Friday.The case could set a worrisome precedent for free speech:Manning’s alleged crime of aiding the enemy constitutes publishingclassified documents on the Internet, allowing enemies of the US toread them. A guilty sentence would mean that any leak of governmentsecrets that ends up on the Internet, event through traditionalmedia, could be subjected to similar charges.
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