State Department criticizes Pentagon over Manning detention

posted at 2:55 pm on March 11, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Regardless of which position one takes in the ongoing Bradley Manning saga, what the hell is the State Department thinking?

Hillary Clinton‘s spokesman has launched a public attack on the Pentagon for the way it is treating military prisoner Bradley Manning, the US soldier suspected of handing the US embassy cables to WikiLeaks.

PJ Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs at the US state department, has said Manning is being “mistreated” in the military brig at Quantico, Virginia. “What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defence.”

Crowley’s comments are the first sign of a crack within the Obama administration over the handling of the WikiLeaks saga in which hundreds of thousands of confidential documents were handed to the website.

Crowley served 26 years in the Air Force, stationed at home and abroad, but with no apparent particular emphasis in detention or internal security issues.  Furthermore, he’s not at the Pentagon now, nor is he at the Department of Justice, the other agency that could exert jurisdiction.  There isn’t anything to suggest that Crowley has any expertise in this area, either in general or specific to Manning’s detention.

In fact, while I was writing this post, Barack Obama told Jake Tapper in the press conference this morning that the circumstances of Manning’s detention relate to his “safety,” and that he has already consulted with the Pentagon on the matter and is apparently satisfied.  Crowley has therefore put himself — and the State Department — in the position of criticizing not just the Pentagon but the Commander-in-Chief as well.  Is that the role of the State Department, to offer itself as a critic of all other aspects and operations of the executive branch?

The White House needs to hit the “reset button” with its State Department, or more appropriately, the “eject” button with respect to Crowley.


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