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March 3, 2011

Accused Wikileaks Informant Could Face Death Penalty

A former military intelligence agent could be facing the death penalty after the US Army announced he would be facing 22 additional charges in connection to his alleged leaking of classified documents to the Wikileaks website, various media outlets are reporting.

PFC Bradley Manning, who previously had been brought up on a dozen counts of leaking classified information and computer fraud, now faces a new round of accusations, including those of "aiding the enemy" by "knowingly" giving top-secret "intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means," according to a Wednesday report by Richard Adams of the Guardian.

That act is a violation of article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), according to Adams, and could result in Manning's execution if he is found guilty.

Manning's lawyers told the Guardian that the prosecution has told them they will not recommend capital punishment; however, the presiding judge in the hearing has the authority to bypass their recommendations and sentence the alleged Wikileaks informant to death, Adams added.

According to Washington Post Staff Writer Ellen Nakashima, a statement released by military officials does not identify which enemy Manning is believed to have aided.

He is, however, believed to have leaked documents pertaining to American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan--documents that contain information "US officials have asserted could put soldiers and civilians at risk," Nakashima said.

Other charges filed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice on Tuesday include wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it will be accessed by the enemy, and violating Army regulations on information security, the Washington Post reported.

The previous charges against Manning, who is currently undergoing a mental-health review to determine whether or not he is fit to undergo a court martial, were filed in July 2010.

"The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Pfc. Manning is accused of committing," Captain John Haberland, a spokesman for the Military District of Washington, said in a statement, according to Nakashima.

"I'm shocked that the military opted to charge Pfc. Bradley Manning today with the capital offense of 'aiding the enemy,'" countered Manning supporter Jeff Paterson, project director of Courage to Resist, a group who is raising money for the Private's defense, in a statement posted to the organization's website.

"While the military is downplaying the fact, the option to execute Bradley has been placed on the table," he added. "Millions of Americans, and even more internationally, clearly understand the contribution of Pfc. Manning towards not only freedom of information, but literally freedom itself. It's hard for me to reconcile that with the US Army's additional criminal charges against Pfc. Manning today."

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