Originally facing five charges, the former military lawyer pleaded guilty to three offences, including stealing commonwealth information and passing that on to journalists.
Whilst serving as an army lawyer in Afghanistan, McBride became concerned by what he believed was the ‘over-investigation’ of alleged misconduct by special forces troops, the court heard.
McBride believed the investigations were ‘excessive’ and undermined the soldiers’ safety, the ABC reported.
He handed classified documents over to ABC journalists Andrew Clarke, Chris Masters and Dan Oakes which led to a series of reports alleging Australian special forces troops committed war crimes in Afghanistan, titled The Afghan Files.
A later inquiry uncovered credible information of 23 incidents of potential war crimes, which involved the killing of 39 Afghans and cruel treatment of two more between 2005 and 2016.
The report found 25 soldiers were perpetrators or accessories – some on a single occasion and some on multiple.
McBride had planned to defend himself against the charges, referencing the oath of service he swore to the Queen when he joined the military with his lawyer, Stephen Odgers, arguing the oath included revealing information if it advanced the interests of the Australian public.
However, Justice David Mossop found McBride had no legal right or obligation to breach orders, and his actions were not justified by public interest.
McBride’s bail will be continued and he will be sentenced next year.