Wikileaks Suspect Bradley Manning Now Faces Possible Death PenaltyS

Bradley Manning, the army intelligence analyst accused of leaking reams of classified data to Wikileaks, has been hit with 22 additional charges. One of them is "aiding the enemy," which carries the death penalty.

NBC News is reporting that the new charges—Manning already faces eight counts of illegally releasing classified information filed by prosecutors in July—are the result of an "intensive seven-month investigation" into Manning's relationship to Wikileaks.

Prosecutors had reportedly been stymied in their efforts to indict Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by the lack of evidence that he actively conspired with Manning to acquire the documents. It seems Manning wouldn't flip on Assange. The death penalty charge may be an effort to get him to change his mind.

According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a charge of aiding the enemy requires an "intent to aid the enemy with certain arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things." One of the elements is "giving intelligence to the enemy," which involves providing information "that may be useful to the enemy for any of the many reasons that make information valuable to belligerents." It can be "conveyed by direct or indirect means."

So for the aiding the enemy charge to stick, it looks like prosecutors will have to prove that Manning actually intended to help the Taliban in Afghanistan (it's unclear who "the enemy" would be in the cases of the Iraq War documents, which were leaked after combat forces had withdrawn from that country, and the diplomatic cables). Moreover, they would have to prove that, by leaking documents to Assange, Manning was "indirectly" communicating with "the enemy." Seems like a stretch.

The U.S. military hasn't executed a service member since 1961.

[Photo of Code Pink activists protesting outside FBI headquarters in January via AP]