Bradley Manning, the Army private arrested in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history, pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 charges that could send him to prison for 20 years, saying he was trying to expose the American military's "bloodlust" and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military prosecutors said they plan to move forward with a court-martial on the 12 remaining charges against him, including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.
"I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists," the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst in Baghdad told a military judge.
He added: "I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized."
It was the first time Manning has directly admitted leaking the material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and detailed the frustrations that led him to do it. The slightly built soldier from Oklahoma read from a 35-page statement through his wire-rimmed glasses for more than an hour. He spoke quickly and evenly, showing little emotion even when he described how troubled he was by what he had seen.
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, accepted his plea to violating military regulations.
Manning admitted sending hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, State Department diplomatic cables, other classified records and two battlefield video clips to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2010.
He said he was disturbed by the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the way American troops treated the populace. He said he did not think the release of the information would harm the U.S.
"I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general," Manning said.
The Obama administration has said the release of the documents threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America's relations with other governments. The administration has aggressively pursued individuals accused of leaking classified material, and Manning's is the highest-profile case.