David McBride, who helped expose allegations of war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, has pleaded guilty to leaking classified information.
The former military lawyer, who was initially charged with five charges, pleaded guilty to three offenses including stealing information about the Commonwealth of Nations and passing it on to journalists.
While serving as a military lawyer in Afghanistan, McBride became concerned about what the court said was a “prolonged investigation” into alleged misconduct by Special Forces soldiers.
David McBride pleaded guilty to three offenses including stealing information about the Commonwealth of Nations and passing it on to journalists
McBride believed the investigations were “excessive” and threatened the safety of soldiers ABC reported.
He passed secret documents to ABC journalists Andrew Clarke, Chris Masters and Dan Oakes, which led to a series of reports titled The Afghan Files, which alleged that Australian special forces soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
A subsequent investigation revealed credible information about 23 cases of potential war crimes, which included the killing of 39 Afghans and the cruel treatment of two more between 2005 and 2016.
The report found that 25 soldiers were perpetrators or enablers – some in a single incident and some in multiple incidents.
While serving as a military lawyer in Afghanistan, McBride became concerned about what he said was a “prolonged investigation” into alleged misconduct by Special Forces soldiers, the court heard
McBride planned to defend himself against the charges by invoking the oath of service he took to the Queen when he and his lawyer Stephen Odgers joined the military, arguing that the oath covers disclosure of information if it serves the interests of Australian society.
However, Judge David Mossop found that McBride had no right or duty to breach the orders and his actions were not justified in the public interest.
McBride’s bail will be continued and his sentencing will be next year.