PJ Crowley

Will Obama Treat Victoria Nuland More Leniently than PJ Crowley?

Over three years ago, State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley had to resign after he called Chelsea Manning’s treatment “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

In a bizarre NYT story suggesting that Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland’s husband, Robert Kagan, had influenced Obama with a critique of his foreign policy, it quotes Nuland suggesting she agrees with her husband’s critique.

His wife and unofficial editor, Victoria Nuland, is an assistant secretary of state and one of the country’s toughest and most experienced diplomats, whose fervor for building democracy in Ukraine recently leaked out in an embarrassing audio clip.

[snip]

Ms. Nuland declined to comment on her husband’s critique of her current boss’s foreign policy. “But suffice to say,” she said, “that nothing goes out of the house that I don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.”

Nuland is not going to comment but she thoroughly agrees with Kagan’s attack on her boss’ foreign policy, I guess.

This dig probably won’t be noted, but it does seem remarkably aggressive, even if Nuland is only slamming Obama’s policies second-hand.

Nevertheless, she won’t pay a price for calling out her boss. That’s true, I’m guessing, because John Kerry seems to love being a NeoCon and he likely has some discretion over her role. And because the NeoCons don’t get held to account in DC for their dangerous provocations.

Still, it appears that it’s a firing offense to call out inhumane treatment inconsistent with our values, but not one for calling out insufficient imperial designs.

Was Aaron Swartz’ Effort to FOIA Bradley Manning’s Treatment Why DOJ Treated Him So Harshly?

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As I mentioned earlier, John Cornyn asked Eric Holder whether Aaron Swartz was prosecuted because of his FOIAs.

Second, was the prosecution of Mr. Swartz in any way retaliation for his exercise of his rights as a citizen under the Freedom of Information Act? If so, I recommend that you refer the matter immediately to the Inspector General.

I have shown earlier how, during the period when the Grand Jury was investigating Swartz, Swartz was FOIAing stuff that the prosecutor seems to have subpoeaned as part of a fishing expedition into Swartz. I have also shown that a FOIA response he got in January 2011 suggests he may have been discussed in a (presumably different) grand jury investigation between October 8 and December 10, 2010. And Jason Leopold has also pointed to some interesting coincidences in Swartz’ FOIAs.

But there’s a series of FOIAs Swartz submitted that almost certainly pissed off the government: he FOIAed tapes that would have had Bradley Manning, describing in his own words, how he was being treated at Quantico.

On December 23, 2010, David House blogged about the treatment Bradley Manning was being subjected to at Quantico (which has since been deemed illegal).

On December 27, Swartz asked for the following in FOIA from the Marine Corps:

Any records related to Bradley Manning or his confinement in Quantico Brig.

In particular, please process as quickly as possible a request for the government-curated audio tapes created in Quantico brig visitation room #2 on December 18 and December 19 2010 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm. These tapes may also contain a recording of David M. House; I have permission from David House under the Privacy Act to request these records.

The timeline that ensued is below, with other significant dates included.

Of particular interest? The Secret Service didn’t get warrants to investigate Swartz immediately after his initial arrest, in spite of the fact Secret Service Agent Michael Pickett offered to get a warrant on January 7. In fact, Secret Service didn’t get warrants until February 9, over a month after his initial arrest. (Update: See this post for more on the delay.)

That’s the day Swartz FOIAed the Army Criminal Investigative Service for the tapes on Manning’s treatment.

More odd still, the Secret Service didn’t immediately use the warrants to obtain the hardware seized in his arrest; the warrant to search his hardware expired and Secret Service eventually got a second one. But Secret Service did search Swartz’ home two days after they got that warrant, on February 11–two days after he asked ACIS for the tape that would have Manning describing how he was being treated.

Suffice it to say that Swartz was pursuing the same information that got State Department Spokesperson PJ Crowley fired just as USSS intensified its investigation of him.

While I don’t think Swartz’ pursuit of details on Manning’s treatment would be the only reason they would deal with him so harshly, the Obama Administration clearly was dealing harshly with those who were critical of the treatment of Manning.

Update: This post has been updated for accuracy.


December 23, 2010: David House blogs about Manning’s treatment, effectively fact-checking DOD’s claims.

December 27, 2010: Swartz FOIAs the recording of House’s visit to Manning, which would have captured Manning describing in his own words how he was being treated.

December 29, 2010: Initial response on Manning brig FOIA.

January 4, 2011: MIT finds Swartz’ computer. Secret Service takes over the investigation.

January 6, 2011: Swartz arrested.

January 7, 2011: Twitter administrative subpoena to several WikiLeaks team members revealed.

January 17, 2011: Protest outside of Quantico for Manning.

January 18, 2011: Manning placed on suicide risk.

January 20, 2011: Swartz’ Manning brig FOIA transfered to Quantico CO.

February 1, 2011: Quantico tells Swartz Manning brig FOIA needs to go to Army Criminal Investigative Service.

February 9, 2011: Swartz FOIAs ACIS for Manning brig information.

February 9, 2011: Secret Service obtains warrant to search Swartz’ hardware and apartment, followed by a warrant to search his office.

February 9, 2011: WSJ reports WikiLeaks investigation cannot prove Assange induced Manning to leak documents.

February 11, 2011: Secret Service searches Swartz’ house and office, but not the hardware primarily implicated in the crime purportedly being investigated.

February 22, 2011: Warrants on Swartz’ hardware expire.

February 24, 2011: Secret Service obtains new warrant for hardware. Initial response from ACIS to Manning brig FOIA.

February 28, 2011: ACIS responds to Swartz’ Manning FOIA, stating,

… the requested documents are part of an ongoing Army court-martial litigation and are not releasable to the public at this time. This request will be closed. Please submit your request at a later time.

March 2, 2011: Swartz responds to this rejection:

On the 28th of February, the US Army’s Freedom of Information Act Officer declined to release documents I requested under FOIA/PA because they “are part of an ongoing Army court-martial litigation.”

Being part of ongoing litigation is not a valid exemption to the FOIA or the Privacy Act.

There are narrow exemptions for certain types of release that interfere with law enforcement activities, but the Army has not claimed these exemptions nor explained why they apply. Furthermore, the normal procedure is to collect the documents and then evaluate them to see whether any portions of them qualify for the exemption. It appears the Army did not collect documents in response to my request at all, so I do not see how it could have evaluated them.

I therefore appeal my request in its entirety.

March 3, 2011: ACIS admits Swartz is correct:

 You are absolutely correct and I want to apologize for sending you the wrong information. This request is being sent to the Initial Denial Office (IDA) today. Please give them a couple of days to receive it.

March 4, 2011; ACIS sends another letter:

Because this request has been denied this request is being sent to the Initial Denial Office (IDA).

March 11, 2011: PJ Crowley criticizes Manning’s “ridiculous, counterproductive, and stupid” treatment at event at MIT. Jake Tapper asks Obama about Crowley’s comment at press conference.

March 13, 2011: White House forces PJ Crowley to resign for criticizing treatment of Manning.

March 18, 2011: ACIS rejects his request, citing an ongoing investigation.

April 19, 2011: DOD announces Manning will be moved to Leavenworth.

Uniforms and WikiLeaks in the Discussion of the Anwar al-Awlaki Killing

This panel discussion between former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley, former Gitmo Chief Prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis, and ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer is one of the more nuanced, interesting discussions on the Anwar al-Awlaki killing. Not surprisingly, it was shown on Al Jazeera English, not, say, NBC.

One highlight, for me, came when Davis pointed out that the CIA, not JSOC, had targeted Awlaki. That’s significant because it effectively made whoever pulled the trigger an unlawful enemy combatant, just as Omar Khadr was (the government argued in his military commission) for engaging in hostilities without wearing a uniform. Of course, Davis ended the discussion by noting that we’re the big kid on the block, so we’ll never be held accountable for the things we prosecute others for.

More interesting still came when PJ Crowley cited this WikiLeaks cable, reporting on a January 2, 2010 meeting between Ali Abdullah Saleh and David Petraeus back in his CentCom days, to show that Yemen was secretly supporting us on drone strikes, including the one that targeted Awlaki on December 24, 2009 (well before, it should be noted, the OLC had authorized his killing).

AQAP STRIKES: CONCERN FOR CIVILIAN CASUALTIES ———————————————

¶4.(S/NF) Saleh praised the December 17 and 24 strikes against AQAP but said that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in Abyan. The General responded that the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site, prompting Saleh to plunge into a lengthy and confusing aside with Deputy Prime Minister Alimi and Minister of Defense Ali regarding the number of terrorists versus civilians killed in the strike. (Comment: Saleh’s conversation on the civilian casualties suggests he has not been well briefed by his advisors on the strike in Abyan, a site that the ROYG has been unable to access to determine with any certainty the level of collateral damage. End Comment.) AQAP leader Nassr al-Wahishi and extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may still be alive, Saleh said, but the December strikes had already caused al-Qaeda operatives to turn themselves in to authorities and residents in affected areas to deny refuge to al-Qaeda. Saleh raised the issue of the Saudi Government and Jawf governorate tribal sheikh Amin al-Okimi, a subject that is being reported through other channels.

SHIFTING AIRSTRIKE STRATEGIES

—————————–

¶5.(S/NF) President Obama has approved providing U.S. intelligence in support of ROYG ground operations against AQAP targets, General Petraeus informed Saleh. Saleh reacted coolly, however, to the General’s proposal to place USG personnel inside the area of operations armed with real-time, direct feed intelligence from U.S. ISR platforms overhead. “You cannot enter the operations area and you must stay in the joint operations center,” Saleh responded. Any U.S. casualties in strikes against AQAP would harm future efforts, Saleh asserted. Saleh did not have any objection, however, to General Petraeus’ proposal to move away from the use of cruise missiles and instead have U.S. fixed-wing bombers circle outside Yemeni territory, “out of sight,” and engage AQAP targets when actionable intelligence became available. Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are “not very accurate” and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.

I find Crowley’s citation of it notable because, while as State Department spokesperson, he strongly argued for the humane treatment of Bradley Manning (and got fired for it), he also routinely criticized the WikiLeaks leaks of State Department cables.

Yet even he now finds himself relying on them to try to understand what the government did when it targeted an American citizen. Continue reading

Did Thomas Drake Get iJustice?

There’s an interesting discussion at the end of Josh Gerstein’s article on the Drake plea agreement. He points out that after Judge Bennett ruled that the government needed more descriptive substitutions for some of its exhibits, DOJ did not appeal the decision.

Experts said it was unlikely that Bennett’s rulings accounted entirely for the government’s sudden willingness to accept a sharply reduced charge. In a court filing Friday, prosecutors said “the government respectfully disagrees with the Court’s rulings” regarding what information Drake was entitled to use in his defense.

“In light of the Court’s ruling, which would mean that highly classified information would appear, without substitution, in exhibits made publicly available, the NSA has concluded that such disclosure would harm national security,” prosecutors wrote.

In cases involving classified evidence, the government has the right to pursue a pre-trial appeal challenging a judge’s rulings about what evidence the defense can present and any “substitutions” used to camouflage secret information.

Despite its disagreement with Bennett, who was appointed to the bench by Bush, the Justice Department did not challenge the judge’s rulings and instead commenced jury selection for the trial.

He also describes Jesselyn Radack, who in her role at Government Accountability Project, had supported Drake in his whistleblower stance, saying,

Radack told reporters that when [prosecutor William] Welch initiated plea talks a week ago he said he was doing so at [DOJ Criminal Division head Lanny] Breuer’s urging. She attributed the government’s flexible stance in part to sympathetic media coverage Drake received in recent weeks from The New Yorker and “60 Minutes,” among others.

Now, I have no idea whether Radack was close enough to the DOJ side of things to be able to judge their motivation. But I am struck that Lanny Breuer instructed Welch to seek a plea deal. And if Radack’s timing is correct, then DOJ started seeking a plea deal on the same day that Bennett ruled on the CIPA substitutions, but before DOJ actually withdrew its exhibits.

Radack attributes DOJ’s changed stance to reporters’ coverage of Drake’s case (ironically, in fact, to New Yorker and 60 Minutes pieces that almost certainly contained far more classified information in them than Drake was alleged to have kept).

But POGO’s Danielle Brian recalls that she raised Drake’s treatment with President Obama back in March.

I knew my topic was likely to be sensitive. I began by thanking the President for his strong support of whistleblower protections, and noted that it was not for lack of effort on the part of the White House that the legislation didn’t pass at the end of the last Congress.

I noted, however, that the current aggressive prosecution of national security whistleblowers is undermining this legacy. That we need to create safe channels for disclosure of wrongdoing in national security agencies. That we need to work harder to shrink the amount of over-classified materials that unnecessarily prompt leak prosecutions.The President shifted in his seat and leaned forward. He said he wanted to engage on this topic because this may be where we have some differences. He said he doesn’t want to protect the people who leak to the media war plans that could impact the troops. He differentiated these leaks from those whistleblowers exposing a contractor getting paid for work they are not performing. I was careful not to interrupt the President, but waited until he was done. I pointed out that few, if any, in our community would disagree with his distinction—but that in reality the current prosecutions are not of those high-level officials who regularly leak to the press to advance their policy agendas. Instead, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is prosecuting exactly the kind of whistleblower he described, for example one from the National Security Agency.

The President then did something that I think was remarkable. He said this is an incredibly difficult area and he wants to work through how to do a better job in handling it.

And Brian also mentioned something I thought of, too: Thomas Drake’s chance encounter with Eric Holder at the Apple store where he works.

Former National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake, who is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly “retaining” allegedly “classified” information (deemed so AFTER the evidence was seized from his house and subject to a Forced Classification Review), was busy at work at the Apple Store.  Attorney General Eric Holder was at the iPhone table.

Drake said,

Attorney General Holder [Holder looks up]–I’m Thomas Drake, the former National Security Agency official who’s been in the news.

Holder looked directly at him. Drake then asked,

Do you know why they have come after me?

Holder answered,

Yes, I do.

Drake asked,

But do you know the rest of the story?

Holder looked away, and then just left the store with his small entourage, including his security detail.

That encounter appears to have happened in late May.

Mind you, it shouldn’t take personal encounters like this for the Administration to realize it was going to look really stupid trying to convict a guy for keeping two unclassified documents in his email archive. But in the same way that it took PJ Crowley asking the President about Bradley Manning, did it take Thomas Drake asking Eric Holder about his own case to make that case to the Administration?

Hillary Picks Cheney Aide to Replace PJ Crowley

It’s bad enough that Obama didn’t clear out the Cheney folks burrowed into the permanent bureaucracy. Now the Obama Administration will appoint former Cheney aide Victoria Nuland to replace PJ Crowley as State Department spokesperson.

Victoria “Toria” Nuland, the current U.S. special envoy for conventional forces in Europe and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, will be named the new spokesperson for the State Department this week, officials and foreign policy hands told the Envoy.The State Department did not provide comment in response to queries. Nuland did not respond to  a query.

The appointment is expected to be announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as early as Monday, sources told the Envoy.

Nuland, a career foreign service officer, has previously served as U.S. Ambassador and deputy ambassador to NATO, former principal deputy national security adviser to then Vice President Dick Cheney, and as chief of staff to Clinton-era Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, now President of the Brookings Institution.

Well, I guess one way to make sure someone doesn’t go off the reservation like PJ Crowley did is to appoint a former Cheney aide.

Though I do hope Hillary recalls how Cheney sabotaged Colin Powell’s efforts at State Department with his agents there (people like John Bolton).

PJ Crowley: “Will My Words Be Credible?”

There’s something deeply ironic about the beltway’s most tawdry purveyor of the Village narrative, Politico (“Win the morning™”), treating former State Department Spokesperson PJ Crowley’s investment in a strategic narrative dismissively. Ben Smith seems like he has never heard of something called “a narrative” or, on a larger scale, “ideology” before.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought Crowley, 59, to the State Department in part because he was viewed as someone who was virtually certain to make none of those mistakes. Crowley had always seemed the soul of discretion, a spokesman so wedded to the daily guidance during the Clinton White House years that reporters joked that he might go on background if asked what the next day’s weather forecast looked like.

But unbeknown to his new colleagues at State – and many of his old friends across Washington – Crowley arrived at State after an evolution of sorts. The career Air Force officer, who had entered a military establishment still scarred by the Vietnam War and still deeply hostile to the press, spent his years in civilian life at the Center for American Progress, thinking about strategy. There, some colleagues were surprised to find that his politics seemed to have been shaped more, as one put it, by his native Massachusetts than the Air Force. He settled on the idea of “strategic narrative,” a concept that has made its way into national security jargon from business theory, and one he included in a report he wrote for CAP.

Which is, I think, why Smith misses the key reason why Crowley went off the handle–and why his ouster was inevitable.

Note the emphasis Crowley puts on matching words to deeds to values in his interview.

At the State Department podium, Crowley seemed to find his voice and to also realize that his voice could shape policy. “In the digital global age that we’re in, our actions and our words have greater impact. I knew that at the podium – that I would say something and within a few hours, the message would be received somewhere else – and a response,” he said. “That has impact, because on a regular basis, at the podium, I would challenge the impact of other countries on the treatment of their own citizens, their treatment of prisoners, on their treatment of the media.”

[snip]

“There were times when I thought it was important to push for the United States to take a public stand,” he said of his time at the podium. “I thought it was important to make sure that what we were saying and what we were doing would be consistent with, not only our interest but our values.”

[snip]

“I view myself as a strategic thinker and always tried to put what I was saying at the podium in a broader context and trying to always assess, will my words be credible?” he said.

Crowley talks about his public statements criticizing other countries for the treatment of citizens, prisoners, and media. He reflects on the importance of “what we were saying” and “what we were doing” matching our values. And he describes reflecting–always assessing–”will my words be credible?”

As it happens, Smith looks at a series of statements Crowley made that were undiplomatic about individual people–mocking the nonsense Qaddafi was spewing, suggesting Egypt had to do more than “shuffle the deck.” Smith also recalls Crowley’s analogy between the Japanese tsunami and the wave of unrest across the Middle East.

But he doesn’t look at what I consider, still, one of Crowley’s most telling statements (as it happens, like his comments on Bradley Manning’s ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid treatment, this also took place in a talk at a university), one which addresses all of the issues Crowley raised in his interview with Smith.

No one is a greater advocate for a vibrant independent and responsible press, committed to the promotion of freedom of expression and development of a true global civil society, than the United States. Every day, we express concern about the plight of journalists (or bloggers) around the world who are intimidated, jailed or even killed by governments that are afraid of their people, and afraid of the empowerment that comes with the free flow of information within a civil society.

Most recently, we did so in the context of Tunisia, which has hacked social media accounts while claiming to protect their citizens from the incitement of violence. But in doing so, we feel the government is unduly restricting the ability of its people to peacefully assemble and express their views in order to influence government policies. These are universal principles that we continue to support.  And we practice what we preach. Just look at our own country and cable television. We don’t silence dissidents. We make them television news analysts.

Some in the human rights community in this country, and around the world, are questioning our commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and Internet freedom in the aftermath of WikiLeaks. I am constrained in what I can say, both because individual cables remain classified, and the leak is under investigation by the Department of Justice. But let me briefly put this in context and then I will open things up for questions.  WikiLeaks is about the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. It is not an exercise in Internet freedom. It is about the legitimate investigation of a crime. It is about the need to continue to protect sensitive information while enabling the free flow of public information. [my emphasis]

This is, at a key level, strategic narrative (or, what we used to call ideology back when it helped us win the Cold War) at work. The United States believes, Crowley said, in a vibrant independent press. The United States is committed to the promotion of freedom of expression. The United States considers social networking to be akin to freedom of assembly–and it defends such assembly. The United States doesn’t silence dissidents.

Of course, those statements are all well and good–and they may well help win us support among aspiring dissidents (or maybe not).

But they were not credible. Given that the US had, presumably, already done its own hacking of citizen speech when it took down Wikileaks in this country, given the government’s presumed actions to cut off WikiLeaks’ infrastructure in this country, and given the way DOD subjected Bradley Manning–an alleged leaker, yes, but also, clearly, a dissident–to forced nudity, the things Crowley was saying in support of the Arab spring uprising were not credible.

Now, frankly, I’m not sure whether Crowley believes what he said–that the US is the world’s greatest advocate for freedom of expression. Or whether he believes the image that the United States used to have as the bastion of human rights serves an important strategic purpose in our diplomacy abroad.

Whichever it is, though, it’s pretty clear our government–Republicans and Democrats–no longer remain committed to using the myth of America as a key tool of our diplomacy anymore (some nice speeches in and about Cairo notwithstanding). And for a guy who spent his lifetime serving that ideal, it was only a matter of time before the conflict between the ideal and the reality led to his departure.

PJ Crowley’s Acting Replacement Can’t Differentiate Us from China on Human Rights and Transparency

Josh Gerstein provides the entirety of an exchange between former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley’s acting replacement, Mark Toner, AP reporter Matthew Lee, and Reuters reporter Arshad Mohammed. At issue is how State can still claim to be transparent when it won’t explain why it refuses to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to have an unmonitored visit with Bradley Manning. It’s not quite Baghdad Bob … quite. But it would be pure comedy gold if it weren’t about our hypocrisy on human rights.

At first, Toner responds to criticism on Manning’s treatment by blaming DOD (as if State can’t be held responsible, in the international community, for anything DOD does).

LEE: Can you explain why, if the United States is proud of its human rights record, that the UN special rapporteur has complained that you’re not allowing him independent access to Bradley Manning?

TONER: We’ve been in contact with the UN special rapporteur. We’ve had conversations with you in terms of access to –

LEE: With me?

TONER: I’m sorry. We’ve had conversations with the special rapporteur. We’ve discussed Bradley Manning’s case with him. But in terms of visits to PFC Manning, that’s something for the Department of Defense.

LEE: And the ICRC with the same problem? You are – the State Department is the direct contact with the ICRC. At least it was for the Guantanamo inmates. Have you had any contact with them?

TONER: I’m not aware. I don’t know. I’d have to look into that. But in terms of the UN special rapporteur, we’ve had conversations with him. We have ongoing conversations with him. But in terms of access to Manning, that’s something for the Department of Defense.

Then the discussion moves into Toner’s difficulties with the meaning of the word “scrutiny.”

MOHAMMED: If you welcome scrutiny, where’s the harm?

TONER: I said we’re having conversations with him. We’re trying to work with him to meet his needs. But I don’t understand the question.

MOHAMMED: Well, you said you welcome scrutiny from outsiders of the United States human rights record –

TONER: Right. We do.

QUESTION: — that you feel that it speaks to the strength of the U.S. system. So why does it take very lengthy conversations to agree to let a UN special rapporteur have access to an inmate?

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PJ Crowley Explains Why Manning’s Treatment Is Ridiculous, Counterproductive, and Stupid

PJ Crowley has a very important Guardian piece on why he said the treatment of Bradley Manning was ridiculous, counterproductive, and stupid. After explaining that Manning, if convicted, “should spend a long, long time in prison,” and then claiming that the overall narrative of the State Department cables shows a story of “rightdoing,” he describes how Manning’s treatment undermines our own strategic narrative.

But I understood why the question was asked. Private Manning’s family, joined by a number of human rights organisations, has questioned the extremely restrictive conditions he has experienced at the brig at Marine Corps base Quantico, Virginia. I focused on the fact that he was forced to sleep naked, which led to a circumstance where he stood naked for morning call.

Based on 30 years of government experience, if you have to explain why a guy is standing naked in the middle of a jail cell, you have a policy in need of urgent review. The Pentagon was quick to point out that no women were present when he did so, which is completely beside the point.

Our strategic narrative connects our policies to our interests, values and aspirations. While what we do, day in and day out, is broadly consistent with the universal principles we espouse, individual actions can become disconnected. Every once in a while, even a top-notch symphony strikes a discordant note. So it is in this instance.

The Pentagon has said that it is playing the Manning case by the book. The book tells us what actions we can take, but not always what we should do. Actions can be legal and still not smart. With the Manning case unfolding in a fishbowl-like environment, going strictly by the book is not good enough. Private Manning’s overly restrictive and even petty treatment undermines what is otherwise a strong legal and ethical position.

When the United States leads by example, we are not trying to win a popularity contest. Rather, we are pursuing our long-term strategic interest. The United States cannot expect others to meet international standards if we are seen as falling short. Continue reading

Crowley: “The Impact … for Which I Take Full Responsibility”?

While a number of media outlets have reported one line–”The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values”–from PJ Crowley’s resignation statement, I wanted to remark on a few things in the larger statement.

The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law. 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.

Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Spokesman for the Department of State.

I am enormously grateful to President Obama and Secretary Clinton for the high honor of once again serving the American people. I leave with great admiration and affection for my State colleagues, who promote our national interest both on the front lines and in the quiet corners of the world. It was a privilege to help communicate their many and vital contributions to our national security. And I leave with deep respect for the journalists who report on foreign policy and global developments every day, in many cases under dangerous conditions and subject to serious threats. Their efforts help make governments more responsible, accountable and transparent. [my emphasis]

Note, first of all, the sentence, “Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility.” That has been interpreted as a reaffirmation of Crowley’s statement that DOD’s treatment of Manning is “ridiculous, counterproductive, and stupid.” But there’s actually some ambiguity to the statement: the antecedent of “for which” could be “remarks,” as has been interpreted, but it also could be “impact.” Given that Crowley has spent years crafting public statements in which any ambiguity would lead to international incident, I suspect the ambiguity, in a written statement issued during a time of heightened attention, is intentional.

If so, this is Crowley making it clear he intended all this to blow up (remember, too, the participants in the MIT session at which Crowley first made his remarks double checked that his statements were on the record before they posted them).

And he tells us that his intent was to raise attention to the impact that certain actions of our national security agencies have on our international standing.

While I hope Crowley has an opportunity to explain precisely which actions he had in mind–aside from Manning’s treatment, of course–I wanted to point to a CAP paper Crowley wrote in 2008, linked by Rortybomb. The paper as a whole is a sound strategy for counter-terrorism (I’m particularly fond of Crowley’s focus on building resilience at home). As Rortybomb points out, Crowley argues that part of the fight against terrorism must be about remaining on the right side of history.

Most of the world now believes, fairly or not, that America is on the wrong side of history. While the Bush administration acknowledged the vital importance of winning hearts and minds in its revised 2006 counterterrorism strategy, too often since 2001, U.S. policies have neither matched our values, nor what we preach to the rest of the world. We are perceived, accurately or not, as operating secret and illegal prisons, condoning torture, denying legal rights, propping up autocratic regimes, and subverting fair elections.

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The Brothers Daley Cover Up Abuse of Suspects Again

You may have noticed I snuck away for the weekend. Mr. EW and I decided to take the opportunity of Athenae’s book party to head to Chicago for a weekend. In spite of the fact that Athenae’s book was obviously timed to St. Paddy’s Day, in spite of the fact that I’ve been to Chicago for St. Paddy’s Day before, I somehow forgot there’d be thousands of drunk fake Irishmen in the streets from dawn to dusk.

Gaping at the green river is about as close as my Irish husband wanted to get to one of the legendary St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on earth. (He’s just jealous because Dublin’s celebration sucks shamrock by comparison.)

But I wasn’t entirely ignoring current events. One of the women in my hotel, up from Indiana for the weekend, told me she came up to see “our Mayor Daley” in the parade. “For the last time,” I thought, as I realized how this holiday is a bit of a send-off to the Mayor.

And so I was already thinking about the Daley empire when I read of brother Bill’s reasoned reflection before he determined State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley had to go.

While some White House officials knew of Crowley’s comments, White House chief of staff Bill Daley learned of them when ABC News asked that question of the president. Daley told White House officials of Crowley, “he’s done.”

Another Daley covers up abuse of suspects, I thought.

I was thinking of Richard M’s role in covering up the torture committed by Jon Burge and other Chicago cops.

Last Wednesday, IL Governor Pat Quinn signed a law outlawing the death penalty in Illinois. Next Wednesday, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge reports for a four and a half year prison sentence for lying about torturing one suspect–though credible evidence suggests he tortured at least 50 and possibly as many as 200 police suspects. Those are the latest chapters in the long exposure of the systematic torture of black suspects by Burge’s South Chicago detective team, and the wrongful conviction of many of those suspects based on tortured confessions.

And Richard M is in the middle of the scandal, largely because as Cook County’s State’s Attorney he pawned off evidence of torture rather than investigate and prosecute.

Daley was Cook County’s state’s attorney for seven years during the 1980s, and his office approved at least 55 felony murder charges against black males who claim they confessed only after they were beaten, suffocated, burned and electro-shocked by Burge and his detectives.”Many of our men, or sons, fathers, brothers are behind bars for crimes they did not commit,” said one demonstrator Friday.

As demonstrators protested outside City Hall, the mayor attempted to explain this 1982 letter from then-police superintendent Richard Brzeczek expressing concern about torture allegations to then state’s attorney Daley. The mayor said he read it and referred it to subordinates believing the police department had the ultimate responsibility to investigate office misconduct.

“It’s up to the Chicago Police Department. That responsibility lies within them,” Daley said.

“What did Daley do about it? Absolutely nothing. And what does the report say about that? Nothing,” Continue reading

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