HAGERSTOWN, Md. – An Army private charged with leaking classified material to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks had civilian help, a key figure in the case said Saturday.

The development, first reported in The New York Times, suggests an expansion of the government’s investigation into leaks including more than 76,900 secret Afghanistan war records posted on WikiLeaks in the past week.

Army officials didn’t immediately return Associated Press calls and e-mails asking if they’re looking at possible civilian accomplices of Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, who’s charged under military law with leaking classified material. FBI officials declined to comment and referred inquiries to the Pentagon.

Adrian Lamo, the Sacramento, Calif.-based computer hacker who turned in Bradley to military authorities in May, claimed in an interview Saturday he had firsthand knowledge that someone helped Manning set up encryption software to send classified information to WikiLeaks.

Lamo, who is cooperating with investigators, wouldn’t name the person but said the man was among a group of people in the Boston area who work with WikiLeaks. He said the man told him “he actually helped Private Manning set up the encryption software he used.”

Lamo said the software enabled Manning to send classified data in small bits so that it would seem innocuous. “It wouldn’t look too much different from your average guy doing his banking online,” Lamo said.

He said Manning sent the data to get the attention of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Assange didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed query from the AP about Lamo’s claim.

Also on Saturday, Eric Schmitt, a New York Times reporter who has been the newspaper’s liaison with Assange, dismissed Assange’s claim that WikiLeaks had offered to let U.S. government officials go through leaked documents to ensure that no innocent people were identified.

Assange has said that the Times had acted as an intermediary and the White House hadn’t responded to the offer.

Manning is being held at the Quantico Marine Corps Base, awaiting possible trial on 12 offenses. He is accused of leaking a helicopter cockpit video from Iraq that WikiLeaks posted in April, and a classified cable from the U.S. embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland, dated Jan. 13, 2010, that also has appeared on WikiLeaks.

Manning is also charged with illegally obtaining more than 150,000 classified State Department cables and leaking more than 50 of them.