David McBride is likely facing prison time after pleading guilty to leaking classified information that exposed claims of war crimes, his lawyer says, as the whistleblower remains unremorseful.
The former military lawyer has pleaded guilty to three charges spanning stealing commonwealth property and passing classified information on to journalists without permission.
Following his guilty plea, he told supporters outside the ACT Supreme Court he maintained he did the right thing and his actions were in the public interest.
His lawyer Mark Davis says there was an incredible public benefit that came from his whistleblowing and his actions were well intended.
An inquiry following media stories from the documents he leaked uncovered credible information about 23 incidents of potential war crimes, which involved the killing of 39 Afghans and cruel treatment of two more.
McBride is undergoing an assessment for a custodial sentence served in the community.
Under the order, he would be supervised and need permission to leave the ACT.
While there was the potential he could avoid prison, they're "not taking any great hope", Mr Davis told AAP.
But he noted the judge was compelled to consider what the most appropriate sentencing option was.
"Jail isn't always the most sensible," he said.
McBride is expected to be sentenced in the new year.
Mr Davis also took aim at whistleblower protections, saying in the decade since legislation was enacted, it hadn't been used to successfully defend anyone.
McBride had to drop his original argument to be protected under whistleblower laws after the prosecution moved to suppress evidence being heard due to national security concerns arising from the classified nature of some files.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is in consultations for new public sector whistleblower protections, with submissions for the next tranche of reforms open until December 22.