Bradley Manning Comment Costs State Department Spokesman His Job

March 14th, 2011 - by admin

Brad Knickerbocker / Christian Science Monitor & Daniel Ellsberg / – 2011-03-14 02:08:09

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2011) — Debate over the controversial treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning apparently has cost State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley his job.

Manning is the US Army private first class being held in solitary confinement at the US Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Crowley has been the assistant secretary for public affairs — the main briefer on behalf of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A retired Air Force colonel, he served on the National Security Council staff under former President Bill Clinton. Crowley’s exodus — reported in several news sources Sunday — probably was inevitable.

Speaking at a seminar at MIT last week, he described Manning’s treatment as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” although he added “nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place.”

Manning’s treatment since being arrested last May and charged with providing thousands of classified documents — many of them diplomatically embarrassing — has been the subject of considerable debate. He’s being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day in a windowless 6-by-12-foot cell, and for a time he was stripped naked at night — due to concerns about the possibility of suicide, according to defense officials.

Pentagon sources deny that Manning has been abused since being brought back from Iraq or that his confinement is anything other than standard operating procedure.

‘Aiding the Enemy’ Added to Manning Charges
Twenty-two additional charges recently were filed against Manning, including “aiding the enemy” — a capital offense.

Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg has likened Manning’s treatment to torture. “Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity — that’s right out of the manual of the CIA for ‘enhanced interrogation’,” Ellsberg wrote on the website for the British newspaper the Guardian. “We’ve seen it applied in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. It’s what the CIA calls ‘no-touch torture’, and its purpose there, as in this case, is very clear: to demoralize someone to the point of offering a desired confession.”

Ellsberg sees the increasing pressure on Manning as part of the Obama administration’s effort to stifle dissent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We see a campaign here against whistleblowing that’s actually unprecedented in legal terms,” Ellsberg told Monitor Pentagon correspondent Anna Mulrine earlier this month.

Crowley’s leaving the State Department — which may have been in the works anyway due to his relationship with Secretary Clinton — no doubt was accelerated by his statement at M.I.T., which caused an awkward moment for President Obama.

Obama Had to Answer Crowley’s Criticism
At his press conference Friday, Obama was asked about Crowley’s sharp criticism of Manning’s treatment.
“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,” he replied. “They assured me that they are.”

In other words, Obama — who campaigned against the mistreatment of Iraq War prisoners and who pledged to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay — was put in the position of having to take the Pentagon’s word for it, despite continuing criticism from domestic and international human rights organizations. In his statement regarding his resignation, Crowley acknowledged that.

“My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership,” he wrote. “Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Spokesman for the Department of State.”

There’s been speculation that Crowley’s comment about Manning’s treatment may have been influenced by his own father’s time as a prisoner of war in World War II.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

This Shameful Abuse of Bradley Manning
Daniel Ellsberg /

March 12, 2011) — President Obama tells us that he’s asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of confinement of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets, “are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”

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: “I was assured by the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.”

When that criminal behavior ordered from the Oval Office came out, Nixon faced impeachment and had to resign. Well, times have changed. But if President Obama really doesn’t yet know the actual conditions of Manning’s detention — 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.

If he does know, and agrees that it’s appropriate or even legal, that doesn’t speak well for his memory of the courses he taught on constitutional law.

The president refused to comment on PJ Crowley’s statement that the treatment of Manning is “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.” Those words are true enough as far as they go — which is probably about as far as a state department spokesperson can allow himself to go in condemning actions of the defense department. But at least two other words are called for: abusive and illegal.

Crowley was responding to a question about the “torturing” of an American citizen, and, creditably, he didn’t rebut that description. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity — that’s right out of the manual of the CIA for “enhanced interrogation”. We’ve seen it applied in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. It’s what the CIA calls “no-touch torture,” and its purpose there, as in this case, is very clear: to demoralize 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.

That’s just my guess, as to their motives. But it does not affect the illegality of the behavior If I’m right, it’s likely that such harsh treatment wasn’t ordered at the level of a warrant officer or the brig commander. The fact that they have continued to inflict such suffering on the prisoner despite weeks of complaint from his defense counsel, harsh publicity and condemnation from organizations such as Amnesty International, suggests to me that it might have come from high levels of the defense department or the justice department, if not from the White House itself.

It’s no coincidence that it’s someone from the state department who has gone off-message to speak out about this. When a branch of the US government makes a mockery of our pretensions to honor the rule of law, specifically our obligation not to use torture, the state department bears the brunt of that, as it affects our standing in the world.

The fact that Manning’s abusive mistreatment is going on at Quantico — where I spent nine months as a Marine officer in basic school — and that Marines are lying about it, makes me feel ashamed for the Corps. Just three years as an infantry officer was more than enough time for me to know that what is going on there is illegal behavior that must be stopped and disciplined.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.