Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, center, is escorted into a courthouse May 21 in Fort Meade, Md., before a pretrial military hearing. (Patrick Semansky / AP)
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FORT MEADE, MARYLAND — The government will accept an Army private’s guilty plea to a lesser version of one of the 22 counts he faces for sending more than 700,000 classified U.S. documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, a military prosecutor said during a pretrial hearing Tuesday.
But prosecutors still will try to convict Pfc. Bradley Manning at his trial next month of other serious offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum life sentence.
Army Maj. Ashden Fein told the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, that prosecutors had changed their minds about trying to convict Manning of violating the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in connection with the release of a State Department cable known as Reykjavik-13. WilkiLeaks posted the cable in early 2010 about a meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, summarizing U.S. Embassy discussions with Icelandic officials about the country’s financial troubles.
Manning has acknowledged sending the cable to WikiLeaks after he found it on a secure government computer network while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. According to his courtroom confession on Feb. 28, Manning believed the cable indicated the United States was refusing to help the Icelandic government “due to the lack of long-term geopolitical benefit.”
The cable was the basis for a charge alleging violation of a federal law, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Manning pleaded guilty in February to lesser versions of that and other offenses, acknowledging violations of military law that, in total, carry a maximum prison term of 20 years. Prosecutors said in March they would continue to seek conviction for the more serious offenses.
Fein did not give a reason for the change.
Manning’s trial is scheduled to begin June 3.