The US intelligence specialist arrested in June for sending to the Wikileaks website sensational footage of US helicopters firing on civilians in Iraq has been formally charged by US authorities.

The charge sheet against Bradley Manning, 22, shows eight counts under US criminal law and two charges encompassing four infringements of US military regulations, the latter which could lead to what is termed an Article 32 hearing where Court Martial could be initiated.

The charges refer to a range of claimed leaks of sensitive data to Wikileaks, including the now notorious 'collateral murder' Iraqi shooting video of 12 July 2007 that has been viewed at least 7 million times on YouTube.

A Manning support website analyses the charges against Manning as potentially leading to ten or more years in prison, depending on which and how many he is found guilty of, assuming he is found guilty at all.

The whole affair has become a defining moment for all involved, starting with Manning and the Wikileaks site itself, whose founder Julian Assange has gone into hiding in the belief that his life might be in danger as a result of the Manning leak.

The eventual court hearings will be difficult for the Obama administration, caught by a military incident that happened under the previous President and the pragmatic need to bolster the US military at a time of war.

Compounding this, Wikileaks has talked of releasing an equally devastating video showing the alleged involvement of US forces in the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan.

Manning was also arrested after apparently contacting a reformed hacker, Adrian Lamo, who claims  to have turned in Manning to the US military.

“If the charges against Manning are true, he will be the Daniel Ellsberg of our times,” ran a tweet on the Wikileaks Twitter page, referring to the celebrated case of a US military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, a unflattering analysis of the Vietnam war.