WASHINGTON (AP) - An Army private suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands ofsensitive and classified documents to the WikiLeaks anti-secrecygroup was charged Wednesday with aiding the enemy, a crime that canbring the death penalty or life in prison.
The Army filed 22 new charges against Pvt. 1st Class Bradley E.Manning, including causing intelligence information to be publishedon the Internet. The charges don't specify which documents, but thecharges involve the suspected distribution by the military analystof more than 250,000 confidential State Department cables as wellas a raft of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. Thousands of thedocuments have been published on the WikiLeaks website.
Although aiding the enemy is a capital offense under the UniformCode of Military Justice, Army prosecutors have notified theManning defense team that it will not recommend the death penaltyto the two-star general who is in charge of proceeding with legalaction.
The Army has not ruled out charging others in the case, pendingthe results of an ongoing review. Army leaders have suggested thatthere may have been supervisory lapses that allowed the breach tooccur.
The release of the State Department cables was denounced by U.S.officials, saying it put countless lives as risk, revealing theidentities of people working secretly with the U.S. It also sentshudders through the diplomatic community, as the cables revealedoften embarrassing descriptions and assessments of foreign leaders,potentially jeopardizing U.S. relations with its allies.
While thousands of the cables have been released, the bulk ofthose downloaded have not been made public.
Manning was charged in July with mishandling and leakingclassified data and putting national security at risk in connectionwith the release of a military video of an attack on unarmed men inIraq.
Army officials said the new charges accuse Manning of usingunauthorized software on government computers to extract classifiedinformation, illegally download it and transmit the data for publicrelease by what the Army termed "the enemy."
The charges follow seven months of Army investigation.
"The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of thecrimes that Pvt. 1st Class Manning is accused of committing," saidCapt. John Haberland, a legal spokesman for the Military Districtof Washington.
In a written statement detailing the new charges, the Army saidthat if Manning were convicted of all charges he would face life inprison, plus reduction in rank to the lowest enlisted pay grade, adishonorable discharge and loss of all pay and allowances.
Manning's civilian attorney, David Coombs, said any charges thatManning may face at trial will be determined by an Article 32investigation, the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing orgrand jury proceeding, possibly beginning in late May or earlyJune.
Manning's supporters were outraged.
"It's beyond ironic that leaked U.S. State Department cableshave contributed to revolution and revolt in dictatorships acrossthe Middle East and North Africa, yet an American may be executed,or at best face life in prison, for being the primarywhistleblower," said Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist, anOakland, Calif.-based group that is raising funds for Manning'sdefense.
Trial proceedings against Manning have been on hold since July,pending the results of a medical inquiry into Manning's mentalcapacity and responsibility.
The 23-year-old Crescent, Okla., native is being held in maximumcustody and prevention-of-injury watch at the Marine Corps base inQuantico, Va.
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington andDavid Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., contributed to this report.