The US Army has announced it is to charge Private Bradley Manning with "aiding the enemy" – which can carry the death penalty – and 21 further offences of illegally disclosing classified information, after an investigation lasting seven months.
The 22 new charges are in addition to the 12 counts of leaking classified information and computer fraud that Manning already faces over material said to be related to the WikiLeaks disclosures – and for which he has been held in military custody since May last year.
The army's charge sheet states that Manning did "knowingly give intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means," in violation of article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, known as "aiding the enemy".
The offence can carry the death penalty as a maximum sentence. The prosecution has told Manning's lawyers that it will not recommend capital punishment, although the presiding military judge has the authority to override the prosecution's recommendation and impose the death penalty.
The other new charges include wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing it will be accessed by the enemy, five counts of thefts of public property or records, eight counts of transmitting national defense information to someone not entitled to receive it – violating the Espionage Act, two counts of computer fraud, and five counts of breaking US Army computer security rules.
The Army's prosecution team said in a statement that if Manning were convicted of all charges, he would face life in prison, as well as reduction in rank to the lowest enlisted grade, a dishonorable discharge and loss of all pay and benefits.
"The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Private First Class Manning is accused of committing," said Captain John Haberland, a legal spokesman for the military district of Washington.
David Coombs, Mannings lawyer, noted in an online post that "aiding the enemy" was the most significant of the new offenses, in which "enemy" is defined as including "any other hostile body that our forces may be opposing," such as a rebellious mob or a band of renegades, and includes civilians as well as members of military organisations.
According to NBC News – which first reported the new charges against Manning – Pentagon and military officials say some of the classified information released by WikiLeaks contained the names of informants and others who had cooperated with the US military in Afghanistan, endangering their lives.
According to the officials, the US military attempted to contact many of those named and take them into US bases for their own protection. Military officials told NBC News that a small number of them have still have not been found, with one official quoted as saying: "We didn't get them all."
Manning is being held in the Marine Corps's Quantico jail, waiting for the results of a medical evaluation of his mental fitness to stand trial. The army said he was informed of the new changes on Wednesday.