By Ed Henry, CNN website, March 13, 2011
P.J. Crowley abruptly resigned Sunday as State Department spokesman over controversial comments he made about the Bradley Manning case. (Manning is accused of leaking documents to Wikileaks)
Sources close to the matter said the resignation, first reported by CNN, came under pressure from the White House, where officials were furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning, the Army private who is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, under suspicion that he leaked highly classified State Department cables to the website WikiLeaks.
Speaking to a small group at MIT last week, Crowley was asked about allegations that Manning is being tortured and kicked up a firestorm by answering that what is being done to Manning by Defense Department officials "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."
Crowley did add that "nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place" because of his alleged crimes, according to a blog post by BBC reporter Philippa Thomas, who was present at Crowley's talk.
"The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law," Crowley said in a statement Sunday. "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.
"The exercise of power in today's challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values," Crowley said. "Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation."
Crowley has told friends that he is deeply concerned that mistreatment of Manning could undermine the legitimate prosecution of the young private. Crowley has also made clear he has the Obama administration's best interests at heart because he thinks any mistreatment of Manning could be damaging around the world to President Obama, who has tried to end the perception that the United States tortures prisoners.
Nevertheless, Crowley's political fate was sealed Friday when Obama was asked at a White House news conference about his comments regarding Manning.
Here is a highly respected public servant, having served for three decades, expressing a deep and profound concern about the treatment of Manning could negatively impact the president and the U.S. around the world, and for his deep concern, and the depth of his beliefs, he has submitted his resignation.
Perhaps the comments were badly placed, in public, where they could be then chewed upon by the rest of the media, including those questioning the president. Nevertheless, the issue of how Manning is being treated is now front and centre for the State Department and the Pentagon and the White House to deal with.
And, the evidence of his treatment is not pretty.
The presumption that he is innocent until proven guilty could be said to have been removed from the little trickly of evidence that is emerging from his attorney. Deprived of blankets and pillow is not the way I would choose to spend most nights and I'm sure most of us would not appreciate that kind of restriction. However, in the eyes of those in whose custody Manning is being held, the Pentagon, since he is/was serving in the military at the time of this arrest, he is undoubtedly "persona non grata"...They likely see him as a traitor, in the most diabolical terms. He has betrayed government secrets, if he is guilty of the charges against him, and such an act, in the mind of many, including his current custodians, could be labelled treason.
On the face of it, Crowley's words and avowed intent, to draw attention to the sitiuation seem more than a little appropriate, except that he uttered them in the wrong place at the wrong time and blackened the face of the administration.
The exercise of power "is important" in all of its theatres and stages, including the incarceration of the prisoners being held by the Pentagon. And I suspect that Crowley's words and high ideals are not consistent with the facts....somehow.
Wikileaks, and the full story, is one that will keep on giving, in journalistic parlance.