State vs. Pentagon: Clinton Spokesman Says Bradley Manning Is Being Mistreated

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UPDATE: Crowley resigned Sunday.

BBC correspondent Philippa Thomas reports on her personal blog that P.J. Crowley, the main spokesman for the U.S. State Department, told a small gathering at MIT that WikiLeaker Pfc. Bradley Manning is being grossly mistreated in custody at a military brig:

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".

Another blogger backs her up, quoting Crowley as using the word "mistreated."

WikiLeaks' massive dump of U.S. embassy cables, allegedly leaked by Manning, caused a headache for the State Department. The Defense Department is now in charge of Manning's imprisonment at a military brig in Quantico, Va.

Crowley's remark seems to be another episode in a sometimes contentious institutional relationship between the State Department and the Pentagon, which serve basically different ends and achieve them by different means. During the Bush years, Condolleeza Rice and Colin Powell were reportedly at odds with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who recently criticized them after the release of his book.

Manning's treatment has been a touchy issue for the Pentagon, which insists he is being treated appropriately. Civil-liberties advocates have protested that Manning's conditions--stripped to his underwear, kept in solitary confinement, and sleeping under heavy, rough blankets--is inhumane. Manning's defense attorney regularly posts updates on Manning, his treatment, and legal proceedings to his blog.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morell recently discussed Manning's imprisonment on MSNBC in an interview with Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie, describing his treatment and saying solitary confinement is for Manning's own safety:

He's being held in the manner he's being held because of the seriousness of the charges he's facing, the potential length of sentence, the national security implications, and also the potential harm to him that he could do to himself, or from others, frankly, who are being imprisoned there, if he were allowed to mix with the general population. So this is as much for his own good as it is because of the charges.

Drop-down thumbnail credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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