WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has hailed the young American soldier suspected of passing classified US documents to his whistleblowing organisation as an “unparalleled hero”.
Mr Assange praised US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, 23, who lived in Wales as a teenager, without confirming he was the source of the leaks that have deeply embarrassed Washington and its allies.
In an online question and answer session on The Guardian’s website, Mr Assange also said WikiLeaks’ actions had since April been dictated by the moves of “abusive elements of the United States government” against the group.
The 39-year-old Australian former computer hacker, who is believed to be in England, is wanted for questioning in Sweden over rape allegations.
Manning was charged by the US Army in July with mishandling and leaking classified data and putting American national security at risk. He has not been charged over the release of the US diplomatic cables but is suspected of being the source of the latest leaks.
During the Q&A session, Mr Assange wrote: “For the past four years one of our goals has been to lionise the source(s) who take the real risks in nearly every journalistic disclosure and without whose efforts, journalists would be nothing.
“If indeed it is the case, as alleged by the Pentagon, that the young soldier – Bradley Manning – is behind some of our recent disclosures, then he is without doubt an unparalleled hero.”
The WikiLeaks founder said his organisation was “a little behind schedule” and had “much more work to do”.
“Since April of this year our timetable has not been our own, rather it has been one that has centred around the moves of abusive elements of the United States government against us,” he wrote.
Referring to the death threats he and his colleagues have received, he said: “The threats against our lives are a matter of public record, however, we are taking the appropriate precautions to the degree that we are able when dealing with a superpower.”