The harsh conditions in which Bradley Manning, the accused WikiLeaks leaker, are being held have helped make him a cause celebre on parts of the left, but the complaints have generated little official government sympathy -- until now.
The BBC reporter Philippa Thomas, now a Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard University, reports on her personal blog on a conversation with State Department Spokesman PJ Crowley that doesn't seem to have been meant for public consumption, exactly, but which reflects deep divisions on Manning's treatment:
[O]ne 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”.
But still, he’d said it. And the fact he felt strongly enough to say it seems to me an extraordinary insight into the tensions within the administration over Wikileaks.
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.
Neither Crowley nor Defense Department spokesman Goeff Morrell responded immediately to an inquiry about the comment.