Jose Luis Magana / Reuters file
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted in handcuffs as he leaves the courthouse in Fort Meade, Maryland, on June 6.
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning released classified documents to WikiLeaks in an effort to "spark a domestic debate on the role of our military and foreign policy in general," according to a statement he will seek to read in a court hearing Thursday.
The lengthy statement, which Manning has already submitted to the judge presiding over his case at Fort Meade, Md., will be his first public account of his motivations for leaking hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports relating to U.S. operation in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as State Department diplomatic cables.
The statement appears intended to bolster the defense his lawyer plans to use at his court martial now slated for June -- that Manning was acting as a whistleblower intending to expose government misconduct.
Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, is facing 22 criminal charges that include "aiding the enemy" and could result in a life sentence. He will seek to plead guilty to lesser charges -- such as unauthorized use of his government computer -- at the pre-trial hearing Thursday.
Prosecutors have objected to Manning's partial plea -- it is not the result of a plea bargain -- and made clear that they fully intend to bring him to trial.
In reading his statement, Manning also "will speak to larger issues affecting his case" and will expand upon his guilty plea to establish that he acted from a “noble motive,” according to a news release Wednesday by the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Although the group did not release the text of the statement, it cited an exchange in a hearing earlier his week in which prosecutors objected to Manning being allowed to read some portions of his statement -- including the passage in which he talks about his desire "to spark a domestic debate."
Prosecutors quoted some of the wording in Manning's statement during the hearing, saying the passage -- and another one relating to leaking information about corruption within the Iraqi Federal Police -- should not be allowed because it would be an admission by Manning to "uncharged misconduct." For example, admitting that he intended to provoke a public debate could expose Manning to an additional charge of intending to "discredit" the U.S. military, prosecutors argued.
Manning's case has been shrouded in secrecy by the military. On Wednesday, the Pentagon released 84 pretrial documents, bowing to public records requests by news organizations, including NBC News. The documents are the first of about 500 that the Pentagon said it will release in response to the requests.
But in the documents released so far, the name of the presiding judge, Col. Denise Lind, has been redacted.
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