Fri, Mar 04, 2011 - Page 6 News List

New charges filed against soldier tied to WikiLeaks

THE ENEMY?Bradley Manning was slapped with 22 additional charges, including ‘aiding the enemy,’ in connection with leaked US government documents

AFP, WASHINGTON

The US soldier suspected of passing a trove of confidential government documents to the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy Web site faced a raft of new charges yesterday, including “aiding the enemy.”

US military authorities unveiled 22 additional charges against Private Bradley Manning on Wednesday, including the serious accusation of “aiding the enemy,” which carries a potential death sentence.

However, military prosecutors do not plan to seek the death penalty if Manning is convicted and will instead opt for life in prison for the 23-year-old soldier, the army said in a statement.

“The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes” that Manning is accused of committing, said Captain John Haberland, spokesman for the military district of Washington.

A former low-ranking intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning is accused of knowingly giving “intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means,” according to the charge sheets.

The US military already announced 12 charges against him in July last year, accusing him of violating US federal criminal and military law.

The Pentagon has yet to explicitly link Manning to WikiLeaks, but the charge sheets accuse him of illegally downloading hundreds of thousands of government documents and causing them to be “wantonly” published on the Internet.

Manning knew that “intelligence published on the Internet is accessible to the enemy,” according to the court documents.

WikiLeaks infuriated US officials and shook up the diplomatic world by publishing a stream of sensitive US military files and diplomatic cables over the past several months.

Top US officials have accused WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange of putting lives at risk and launched a criminal probe into the group.

The documents have included an array of embarrassing revelations and raised doubts about the US government’s ability to safeguard secret documents and confidential communications.

Manning has long been suspected as the source of the leaks, but Assange has denied knowing him, describing him as a political prisoner.

On its Twitter account, Wiki-Leaks said the “aiding the enemy” charge “suggests WikiLeaks will be defined as ‘the enemy.’ A serious abuse.”

In another tweet, it called the charge “a vindictive attack on Manning for exercising his right to silence” and said there was no evidence for such an accusation.

Manning’s lawyer, David Combs, issued a statement saying that defense attorneys had expected more charges to be filed.

However, he said military law dictates that an investigating officer “determine which, if any, of these additional charges and specifications should be referred to a court-martial.”

The latest charges, following a seven-month investigation, include theft of public records, transmitting defense information and fraud related to computers, the army statement said.

A trial date has yet to be set for Manning and the army said on Wednesday that proceedings have been delayed since July 12, pending the outcome of an inquiry into the soldier’s “mental capacity” requested by defense lawyers.

Manning remained detained at a brig at the US Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia.

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