A US soldier accused of leaking a thousands of secret files to WikiLeaks has offered to plead guilty to some, but not all, of the charges he faces in a pending court-martial, his defence lawyer has said.
Bradley Manning, 24, “is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government,” David Coombs wrote on his blog on Wednesday.
“Rather, PFC (Private First Class) Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offences that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offences,” he wrote.
It was up to a military court to rule whether his plea was “legally permissible,” and then government prosecutors would have to decide if they would continue to pursue all the charges against Manning, he said.
“PFC Manning is not submitting a plea as part of an agreement or deal with the government,” Coombs added.
The defence relayed the offer to a military judge at pre-trial hearings being held at Fort Meade, Maryland on Wednesday and Thursday.
By making the offer, Manning indicated he was ready to plead guilty to passing government information to WikiLeaks, though it was unclear if he would admit to passing all the files cited by prosecutors.
If the plea is deemed legal by the court, it could potentially simplify the trial, which is due to start on February 4, 2013, and possibly shield Manning from being convicted on more serious federal offences related to computer fraud and the Espionage Act.
Manning had the option of being tried by a military jury but he informed the court he preferred to be tried by a judge only, according to Coombs.
Arrested in May 2010 while serving as an army intelligence analyst near Baghdad, Manning is charged with leaking classified military intelligence files on Iraq and Afghanistan and about 260,000 cables from the State Department.
The publication of the sensitive files by the whistleblowing WikiLeaks website caused huge embarrassment to Washington and angered many US allies.