Australian war crimes whistleblower David McBride pleads guilty to leaking military secrets

David McBride (
David McBride (

An Australian whistleblower who exposed allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan has pleaded guilty to leaking classified information.

Former military lawyer David McBride pleaded guilty in the ACT supreme court on Friday afternoon to three charges of stealing and unlawfully sharing secret military information, which was then passed on tojournalists at ABC News.

The ABC later used the material as the basis for an investigative series exposing war crimes in Afghanistan,titled The Afghan Files.

Outside court, a defiant McBride held his fist in the air and said it was “the beginning of a better Australia”.

“I stand tall and I believe I did my duty,” he told supporters in Canberra on Friday.

It comes after the court decided to uphold a Commonwealth intervention to withhold crucial evidence due to its potential to jeopardise “the security and defence of Australia” if disclosed.

McBride will remain on bail until his sentencing next year.

McBride’s lawyer, Mark Davis, said the ruling on Friday had been “a fatal blow” for their case but said theywere investigating the possibility of an appeal.

His wife Sarah said it had been an emotionally and financially draining fight.

“He’s done the right thing, I’ve said that from the beginning,” she said.

“Truth and justice will prevail and I’m incredibly proud of him.”

Andrew Berger KC, acting for the commonwealth, on Wednesday said some material in the case should be kept entirely secret on national security grounds.

“The public interest at play here is a very important one, the national security and defence of this country,” he said. “Indeed, we say it is harder to think of a stronger public interest than the security and defence of Australia.”