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WikiLeaks: Clinton aide slams Manning's 'torture'

A US government official and long-time critic of WikiLeaks has launched a scathing attack on military authorities over the treatment of Bradley Manning.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's official spokesman, PJ Crowley - no relation, as far as we know, to English occultist and 'Great Beast' Aleister - told a small audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology yesterday that Manning's treatment by the US Department of Defense was "ridiculous and counterproductive", but added: "Nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place."

Speaking at an event hosted by the Center for Future Civic Media to discuss "the benefits of new media as it relates to foreign policy", Crowley was asked by one audience member to address what the young man called the "elephant in the room" - namely, "torturing a prisoner in a military brig".

Crowley obviously thought better of his unexpected candour, justifying the private's detention and railing against the whistle-blowing site's leaking of more than 250,000 secret cables between US diplomatic staff and the State Department, stating: "There is sometimes a need for secrets... for diplomatic progress to be made."

Asked shortly afterwards by BBC news correspondent Philippa Thomas if his remarks had been made on the record, the spokesman replied - after what Thomas calls "an uncomfortable pause" - “Sure.”

The government official's off-the-cuff remark sheds some light on the tensions within US government circles regarding the Obama administration's pursuit of WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, and the site's alleged chief source, Private Manning, just days after the US military revealed it had added 22 new charges to the 12 indictments laid against him last July.

Manning has been held in solitary confinement by military authorities since his arrest last May, amid allegations that his treatment amounts to torture.

US authorities are currently awaiting the findings of a panel looking into Manning's mental state. If the panel finds the private fit to stand trial, a grand jury may be convened.