Vietnam War era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg slammed President Barack Obama's assertion Friday that the Pentagon has assured him the terms of Pfc. Bradley Manning's confinement "are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards."

Manning has been in a military brig since last summer under suspicion of being the source of a massive transfer of secret United States documents to WikiLeaks and has been subjected to increasingly harsh conditions,

Ellsberg, a former military analyst known for having leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other papers in 1971, fired off a quick response to Obama's remarks in an op-ed for the Guardian, writing, "If Obama believes that, he'll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they've been behaving appropriately."

"I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing," Ellsberg suggested, making a sarcastic reference to his own history as a whistleblower: "'I was assured by the the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.'"

"If President Obama really doesn't yet know the actual conditions of Manning's detention," Ellsberg added, "if he really believes, as he's said, that 'some of this [nudity, isolation, harassment, sleep-deprivation] has to do with Private Manning's wellbeing', despite the contrary judgments of the prison psychologist – then he's being lied to, and he needs to get a grip on his administration."

Ellsberg went on to refer more favorably to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley's description of Manning's treatment as "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid."

"It's what the CIA calls 'no-touch torture,'" Ellsberg explained "and its purpose there, as in this case, is very clear: to demoralise someone to the point of offering a desired confession. That's what they are after, I suspect, with Manning. They don't care if the confession is true or false, so long as it implicates WikiLeaks in a way that will help them prosecute Julian Assange."

Blogger Glenn Greenwald and others have been suggesting for some months that Federal investigators are attempting to force Manning to implicate Assange because they have no other basis for a criminal prosecution of WikiLeaks.

In December, the New York Times suggested that "Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them."

"[The Times] story appears to shed substantial light on my story from yesterday about the repressive conditions under which Manning is being detained," Greenwald commented. "The need to have Manning make incriminating statements against Assange -- to get him to claim that Assange actively, in advance, helped Manning access and leak these documents -- would be one obvious reason for subjecting Manning to such inhumane conditions: if you want to have better treatment, you must incriminate Assange."

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.