WikiLeaks suspect Manning is charged by Army with aiding the enemy

Tribune Washington BureauMarch 2, 2011 

WASHINGTON — The Army has charged Pvt. 1st Class Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of leaking thousands of documents published by WikiLeaks, with aiding and giving intelligence to the enemy, a significant escalation of the government's prosecution of the junior intelligence analyst.

As part of 22 additional counts filed against Manning, Army prosecutors alleged that he "wrongfully and wantonly" caused intelligence to be published on the Internet, with the knowledge that it would be "accessible to the enemy."

Aiding the enemy is a capital offense, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but the Army said in a statement Wednesday that prosecutors do not intend to recommend that Manning receive the death penalty if convicted. Even so, he could face life in prison.

The new charges reflect the expanding U.S. investigation into the disclosures, which U.S. officials said is aimed not only at punishing those who provided the information to WikiLeaks, but also members of the secretive organization, including its head Julian Assange. Manning remains the only person charged in the case so far, but U.S. officials said the Justice Department is examining possible charges in civilian courts in connection with the disclosures.

Manning is being held at a Marine base in Virginia while the investigation continues into the disclosure by WikiLeaks of thousands of classified U.S. military and State Department documents related to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as U.S. relations with dozens of other countries.

Jon Shelburne, a professor at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, said he viewed the new charges as an effort by prosecutors to pressure Manning and his lawyers into reaching a plea deal to avoid what could be a long and difficult court-martial.

Shelburne, who is also a lawyer with the Marine Corps Reserves, noted that the charging documents do not specify what enemy Manning is alleged to have aided. If the case goes to trial, Manning's lawyers are also likely to try to force prosecutors to show what specific benefit U.S. enemies derived from the disclosure of the documents, which could be difficult, he said.

The Army accused Manning of loading unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information and then improperly transmitting the data. It has provided no details about who he sent the files to or whether he was in direct contact with WikiLeaks.

To violate the military statute against aiding the enemy, a defendant must "knowingly" harbor, give intelligence to or communicate with the enemy, "either directly or indirectly." The charges against Manning allege that he did so "through indirect means," apparently a reference to the fact that information was made public on the Internet, making it available to anyone.

Manning's lawyer, David E. Coombs, said in a statement that the defense team "had been anticipating the possibility of additional charges in this case." He did not comment on the allegation that Manning had aided the enemy.

Court-martial proceedings have been delayed until completion of an inquiry into Manning's mental state, a process that his defense team said is likely to take between two to six weeks more. The final decision about what Manning will be charged with will be up to Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, the commander of the military district of Washington, a decision that Pentagon officials say is probably months away.

Other charges against Manning announced Wednesday included theft of public property or records, transmitting Defense information, and fraud in connection with computers. After being taken into custody at a U.S. base in Iraq, he was initially charged last July with delivering Defense information to an unauthorized source and exceeding authorized computer access to obtain classified information.

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