Coombs called the charge that Manning indirectly aided the enemy unprecedented. Air Force Lt. Col. David J. R. Frakt, who teaches military law at the University of Pittsburgh, agreed.
"It's very rare and there hasn't been anything in a long time — and probably nothing in the Internet area," Frakt said.
He said it may be a stretch for prosecutors to cite a Civil War case, but he added, "Just because it's unprecedented doesn't mean they can't make their case."
On Wednesday, Manning offered to plead guilty to reduced charges for two of 22 counts he faces. Both allege violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Lind may consider the proffers at a hearing starting Feb. 26, along with similar previous offers involving eight other counts. Coombs has said the pleas would enable Manning to take responsibility for the leaks. The reduced charges for the 10 counts would be military infractions with combined prison sentences of up to 20 years versus 100 years for the original felony charges.
Manning, of Crescent, Okla., is accused of leaking classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He also is charged with leaking 2007 video of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.
Manning supporters consider him a whistleblower whose actions exposed war crimes and helped trigger the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings in late 2010.