While everybody fighting through their post-election hangovers on Wednesday, Bradley Manning's defense team indicated that the imprisoned private would be open to a plea bargain. In the first day of Manning's pretrial hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland, the defense team offered a plea notice proposing that the court offer their client less charges in exchange if, in the worlds of civilian defense attorney David Coombs, Manning "would accept general responsibility for providing all charged information to WikiLeaks." This is all according to Kevin Gosztola, the author of Truth and Consequences, a book about Manning and the WikiLeaks saga, who says he was one of only two credentialed members of the press in the courtroom for the hearing.
However vague, such a request from Manning's defense isn't surprising. The plea notice came as part of a 117-page motion requesting that Manning be given a speedy trial. Totally reasonable request given the fact that Manning has been in jail for over 900 days, and his court martial still hasn't formally begun. "A military accused's right to speedy trial is fundamental," reads the motion. "The government's processing of this case makes an absolute mockery of that fundamental right." If you have any doubts about that "absolute mockery" claim, just read any of Glenn Greenwald's coverage of the Manning case. He takes absolute mockery to the level of high art.
It's hard to tell how seriously we should treat Manning's apparent willingness to accept responsibility for some of the charges. For one thing, this is not a confession but rather a request for the judge to consider bargaining with the defense team before charges are formally filed and the court martial commences. Along the same lines, this is not a guilty plea. "We're not going to know until December just what he offered, or what the government response is," Nathan Fuller, a representative of the Bradley Manning Support Network who's been following the trial closely, told Forbes. "The government is trying to make it out to be a reckless, wanton act, but it's more likely that Manning is willing to concede to releasing a limited amount of information and not in a reckless manner."
So we'll have to wait and see if Manning's defense team will have any luck getting things moving and possibly keeping Manning from facing life in prison. It looks like these pretrial hearings will continue through the year and the court martial will formally begin in 2013. That'll put Manning's number of days in custody in the thousands.