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Manning May Admit Sending Some WikiLeaks Files

FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - Pfc. Bradley Manning offered to "accept responsibility" for sending many government files to WikiLeaks, without formally pleading guilty, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The maneuver is called "pleading by exceptions and substitutions" in the Rules for Court-Martial. It does not mean Manning has struck a deal with the government, his lead attorney David Coombs wrote on his website after the Wednesday hearing.

"To clarify, Pfc. Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the government," Coombs wrote. "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 this is a permissible plea."

A military spokesman said this type of maneuver is known as an anticipated "naked plea."

"You're out there naked. You have no cover from the convening authority," the spokesman said.

Manning may admit to having sent files from the databases of Iraq and Afghanistan, Net-Centric Diplomacy, Guantanamo's Southcom, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, as well as a video of a Baghdad air strike that killed 12 people, including two Reuters employees, the spokesman said.

He added that the 24-year-old will not plead guilty to disclosing global address list.

Nathan Fuller, with the Bradley Manning Support Network, told Courthouse News on Wednesday that he had not heard these details, but that the distinction does not mean that Manning "released these documents and not others."

"The military alleges that Manning not only released these documents but also did it 'wantonly and willingly,'" Fuller said. "As those of us who defend Bradley Manning believe, this was strategic, calculated and therefore an act of whistleblowing, one that exposes fraud, abuse and otherwise shines a light on American empire."

Manning has not pleaded to charges of aiding the enemy, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or other offenses.

His attorney Coombs said that Manning chose to try his case before a military judge, Col. Denise Lind, rather than a jury of high-ranking soldiers.

Lind has not determined whether she will accept his plea.

Speedy Trial Witness Testimony Begins

Also Wednesday, Manning's prosecutors started calling witnesses to defend Manning's incarceration before trial, now roughly 900 days and counting, several times more than the 120-day speedy trial clock allows.

The government's first witness was Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, Manning's investigating officer during the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury.

The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, swore him in by telephone.

Almanza told the prosecutor he was raising his hand behind the closed door of his office at the Social Security Administration, his present employer.

While he investigated Manning, Almanza was deputy chief of child exploitation at the Department of Justice, which has an active investigation against WikiLeaks.

Almanza granted several of the prosecution's requests to list Christmas, New Year's, vacation days and personal time as "excludable delays," suspending the speedy trial clock.

This included time to he spent driving his son to a swimming meet and reporting to work at the Justice Department, Almanza said.

He attributed the 3-week gap between the end of the Article 32 hearing and his report referring Manning to court-martial on the complexity of the case.

"I can say that the evidence in this case was extremely voluminous," Almanza said.

He testified that he needed to commute "at least an hour door-to-door" to Ft. McNair, to view classified evidence needed for the report.

"I don't think that there was any day I was there less than eight or nine hours," he said. "The only place I could review the evidence would be at MDW [Military District of Washington]."

During vigorous cross-examination by Coombs, Almanza acknowledged that he granted the prosecution's requests without allowing time for objections.

"You did not reach to the defense to get our position on excludable delays?" Coombs asked.

"Correct," Almanza replied.

Coombs took Almanza to task for not asking for time off from the Justice Department to finish his report.

"In retrospect, you would agree that's what you should have done," Coombs said.

"Yes," Almanza said.

The prosecution then called Army security specialist Bert Haggett to testify about classification procedures that he blamed for delays. He said the time it takes to complete a classification review depends on the availability of staff and the number of people to review it.

Original classification authorities, or OCAs, make these determinations, and the Army has them in short supply because they usually hold the rank of major general, Haggett said.

Fein, the prosecutor, asked him to describe the process, if he were to inspect a pen for sensitive information.

"Assume this blue-ink pen that I am holding is classified," he said, lifting it at a precise 90-degree angle.

Haggett speculated that the length of the pen, composition of the ink and how long its mark would last could hypothetically be secret. If it were, Haggett said, "I would refer it formally to the equity holder," meaning the agency claiming ownership of the information.

In a document, one sentence could contain information from more than one such agency, he added.

"The difference in this case is the sheer volume of the data," he said.

During cross-examination, Haggett denied that over-classification was common.

"It's rare, but it happens," he said.

"Are you aware of the government passing the Overclassification Act?" Coombs asked. "At least somewhere along the line, the government thought it wasn't a very rare problem."

The defense hopes to question OCAs about this issue, soliciting their testimony either on the witness stand or by affidavit.

This round of pre-trial hearings ends Thursday.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misstated the allegations to which Manning would likely plead, as conveyed by a military spokesman.

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