WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said Friday he has been assured by the Pentagon that its treatment of a soldier accused of leaking secret documents that appeared on the WikiLeaks website was appropriate.
Obama was asked at a news conference whether he agreed with a State Department spokesman who said the treatment of former intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was “ridiculous” and “counterproductive.”
Obama would not comment on State spokesman P.J. Crowley’s remarks, but said Manning’s treatment reflects the Department of Defense’s concerns about the young soldier’s safety.
Manning, 23, is being held at a Marine base in Virginia during the investigation of charges involving documents he is accused of leaking while posted in Iraq.
Their publication on the WikiLeaks website was a blow to U.S. diplomacy as allies and adversaries saw themselves mocked or second-guessed in secret diplomatic cables.
Manning’s lawyers have complained that he is being mistreated at the Marine brig. Kept alone in his cell 23 hours per day, the Pentagon has said he is forced to sleep naked and woken repeatedly during the night to ensure he is safe.
“With respect to Private Manning, you know, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assured me that they are,” Obama said.
“I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well,” Obama said.
A BBC correspondent reported that Crowley told a small audience at a university in Massachusetts that Manning’s treatment “is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
A spokesman said the Pentagon was aware of Crowley’s remarks and had sent him the facts on Manning’s confinement.
Additional reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu