This past May, the military arrested Private First Class Bradley Manning, a soldier who worked in military intelligence and had served overseas in Iraq, over charges that he was involved in leaking numerous classified documents and videos to the Wikileaks whistleblowing group, including a video of a U.S. attack helicopter killing numerous unarmed journalists.
Since his arrests, civil liberties groups and members of Congress have protested his treatment, which involves being kept in solitary confinement, being denied access to a pillow or bed sheets, and being forcibly stripped naked every single night.
Last night, as reported by former BBC America journalist Philippa Thomas, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley commented on Manning’s treatment during an event organized by the Center for Future Civic Media. Crowley blasted the treatment of Manning by his “colleagues at the Department of Defense”:
Around twenty of us were sitting around the table listening to his views on social media, the impact of the Twittersphere, the Arab uprisings, and so on, in a vast space-age conference room overlooking the Charles River and the Boston skyline. And then, inevitably, one young man said he wanted to address “the elephant in the room”. What did Crowley think, he asked, about Wikileaks? About the United States, in his words, “torturing a prisoner in a military brig”? Crowley didn’t stop to think. What’s being done to Bradley Manning by my colleagues at the Department of Defense “is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” He paused. “None the less Bradley Manning is in the right place”. And he went on lengthening his answer, explaining why in Washington’s view, “there is sometimes a need for secrets… for diplomatic progress to be made”. [..]
A few minutes later, I had a chance to ask a question. “Are you on the record?” I would not be writing this if he’d said no. There was an uncomfortable pause. “Sure.” So there we are.
Crowley’s response is the strongest condemnation yet by an American official of the treatment of Manning. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who was asked about the soldier last month, defended his treatment. “There are concerns about what is happening, but a strong argument is being made that they’re trying to preserve his safety, they don’t want him harming himself, and using his own clothing to hang himself, or do something like that,” Kerry said.
Chuck Toporek, “a senior acquisitions editor with Addison-Wesley,” and former Navy officer, also confirms Crowley’s words. He says Crowley said Manning was “mistreated.”
,At a press briefing this afternoon, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked President Obama about Manning. Obama said that the Defense Department “assured” him that Manning is being held in proper standards, perhaps for his own safety, and didn’t elaborate beyond that:
[featuredcomment]LoriWisconsin writes, “I don’t buy President Obama’s response. He’s in charge of the Pentagon, it’s not the other way around. And the “we’re doing everything legally here, no need to look” response from the DoD would make a highly intelligent person (ie. President Obama) suspicious, given the obviously wrong conditions of of Bradley Manning’s detention. Obama is way too intelligent not to see something wrong here. I wish the press would push him to answer more questions on Manning.”[/featuredcomment]