The Corner

Crowley Out: Another Van Jones/Anita Dunn Moment

The recently canned P.J. Crowley, State Department spokesman, seems defiant in both his voicing anger over Bradley Manning’s confinement and his reaction to his own broadside.

He initially told a small gathering at MIT that Bradley Manning’s military confinement “is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” and then when pressed whether such invective was for the record, reiterated, “Sure.”

And then Crowley seemed further unrepentant in his statement of resignation as excerpted:

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 …

Some random points:

1) Crowley at no point adduced any support for any of his observations — e.g., why and how Manning’s detention was “stupid” or “counterproductive,” or how his own comments highlight any principle larger than his own ideology and lack of prudence. His resignation statement as reported in part is incoherent. Is he trying to say that there will always be Bradley Mannings everywhere — and due to their exalted principles, they will leak to other idealists, such as Julian Assange? And further, that such idealists in our “relentless media environment” will inevitably air to the public such unlawfully obtained information — and therefore security agencies must assume that anything they do, which someone in their employment does not on any given day feel is “prudent and consistent without our laws and values,” will be leaked, and should be?

2) It is ironic that P.J. Crowley’s comments to a private, sympathetic media group at MIT were made public by one of the attendees in just the sort of full-disclosure “relentless media environment” that Bradley Manning sought to manipulate. Would Crowley agree that because his trashing of his own government and military to an outside group could be seen as not to be “prudent and consistent without our laws and values,” it therefore rightly was made public — and he rightly was canned? 

3) The media used to highlight the Rice/Rumsfeld, State/DOD tension, but I don’t think anyone ever went so far as to attack the other’s agency, in an open forum, as acting in a “ridiculous,” “counterproductive,” and “stupid” fashion.

4) What is “ridiculous,” “counterproductive,” and “stupid” is Crowley’s remarks, which suggest far more sympathy to the perpetrator of the leaks than to the hundreds that may well be hurt or killed by his actions.

5) If George W. Bush were president and Donald Rumsfeld secretary of defense, all of the above would be a major news story, offered as further proof that the Bush-Cheney nexus had dispatched yet another principled critic into the preventive-detention American gulag.

Manning allegedly leaked 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables, as well as military correspondence and videos. In some cases, the lives of covert agents and their contacts may well have been endangered. He is being kept in solitary confinement, pending a military trial. Given the severity of the charges against him, given his ability to use electronic media, and given the large network of sympathetic supporters who in the past have facilitated his alleged treasonous actions and in the present are on record as supportive of his actions, it hardly seems cruel and unusual punishment to keep such an alleged felon in solitary confinement and away from as many visitors and electronic appurtenances as possible, pending trial. Under current detention, Manning can be monitored and prevented from harming himself or being hurt from irate military inmates, cannot get near a computer, cannot further his cause of leaking sensitive information by talking to sympathetic journalists and bloggers, and can serve as an example to others that there will be severe and immediate consequences to this sort of action.

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