P.J. Crowley is abruptly stepping down as State Department spokesman under pressure from White House officials because of controversial comments he made last week about the Bradley Manning case, CNN has learned from senior officials familiar with the matter.
On Friday, the Guardian reported that Crowley ripped the Pentagon for its detention practices. Crowley called them “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid” and complained that Manning was being “mistreated” by Marines in Quantico. Less than 24 hours later, Obama told Jake Tapper that he was satisfied that the Pentagon was acting appropriately:
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said this week that the treatment of Private Bradley Manning by the Pentagon is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
Asked by ABC News if he agreed with that, President Obama said Friday that he’d “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.”
Pentagon officials, he said, “assure me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.”
Asked if he therefore disagreed with P.J. Crowley, President Obama sidestepped the question, saying he’d responded “to the substantive issue.”
That wasn’t the only trip off the reservation for Crowley this week, either:
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley is already the subject of one controversy today due to remarks he made about the treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. But Crowley is also in trouble due to a tweet he sent out this morning — and later deleted — comparing the situation in the Middle East to the disaster in Japan.
“We’ve been watching hopeful #tsunami sweep across #MiddleEast. Now seeing a tsunami of a different kind sweep across Japan,” Crowley tweeted Friday morning, a State Department official confirmed to The Cable. Crowley’s Twitter site no longer includes the tweet, suggesting that he deleted it after the fact. Crowley didn’t immediately respond to a request from The Cable.
Multiple administration sources told The Cable that the Defense Department leadership was very upset with Crowley about both incidents.
The White House acted appropriately in kicking Crowley out at State, and should be commended for taking quick action. However, I’d bet that Crowley will land on his feet at MSNBC.
Update: The Guardian dishonestly leaves out some important context in their report:
Commentators were quick to point out the apparent double standards within the government. Glenn Greenwald, a Salon reporter who has been outspoken about Manning’s detention, tweeted that “detainee abuse is allowed, speaking out against it isn’t”.
Last week Manning gave his own personal account of theconditions in which he is being held, saying that it amounted to harsh treatment that was designed to be punitive even before he had been put on trial. He described being stripped naked every night having made a sarcastic comment to guards about the absurdity of the regime he was under.
In response to PFC Manning’s question, he was told that there was nothing he could do to downgrade his detainee status and that the Brig simply considered him a risk of self-harm. PFC Manning then remarked that the POI restrictions were “absurd” and sarcastically stated that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops.
“Joking” about suicide while in a brig is akin to joking about having a bomb when going through airport security. The authorities won’t just assume you’re stupid enough to joke about it and will take it seriously, because if they don’t and the suspect was serious, they will get the blame for what follows. The Guardian’s coverage leaves the implication that being stripped naked was punitive and had nothing to do with Manning’s actions, which is objectively not the case.