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?

So Toner retreats back to blaming DOD.

TONER: Well, again, for the specific visitation requests, that’s something that Department of Defense would best answer. But look, we’ve been very clear that there’s a legal process underway. We’ve been forthright, I think, in talking about Private – PFC Manning’s situation. We are in conversations, ongoing conversations with the special rapporteur. We have nothing to hide. But in terms of an actual visit to Manning, that’s something that DOD would handle.

LEE: Well, but you have conveyed messages from DOD back to the UN on this?

TONER: Well, no. We’re just – look, we’re aware of his requests. We’re working with him.

I would imagine Toner got very uncomfortable when Lee noted that PJ Crowley had been ousted after he spoke the truth about Manning’s treatment.

LEE: Can – you said you’ve been forthright in your discussions of his treatment. It seems to me that the only person who was forthright in discussions of his treatment resigned several days after making those comments. What – can you explain what you mean by you’ve been forthright in terms of his treatment?

At which point Toner tries to equate an opaque legal process with forthrightness.

TONER: He is being held in legal detention. There’s a legal process underway, so I’m not going to discuss in any more detail than what I – beyond what I’ve just said because there’s a legal process underway.

LEE: So that’s what you mean by forthright?

TONER: I can’t discuss – I can’t discuss his treatment.

LEE: Being forthright is saying nothing because there’s a legal process underway; is that correct?

So then Toner tries to claim that ongoing discussions with Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez–about which State will neither talk about directly or comment on Mendez’ version of the discussions–equate to forthrightness.

TONER: That’s not correct at all. And we’ve – we continue to talk to the special rapporteur about his case.

LEE: Well, okay. So if you’ve been – what do you talk to him about?

TONER: I’m not going to talk about —

LEE: He says, “I’d like to visit him and I need to do it privately,” and you say, “No,” and that’s —

TONER: I’m not going to talk about the substance of those conversations. I’d just say we feel we’ve been —

LEE: Well, then I don’t understand how you can say that you’re being forthright about it if you refuse to talk about it. And if you don’t talk about it, at least – forget about what the actual conditions of his treatment are, but if you’re not prepared to talk about your conversations with the special rapporteur, that’s being even less than not being forthright because you’re not telling us what you told him.

Toner then retreats to the old canard the Bush Administration used when asked about the CIA leak investigation: “ongoing legal process.”

TONER: But you understand the legal constraints that I’m operating under because this is an ongoing legal process.

LEE: Right. But —

TONER: He is being held —

With Toner in complete retreat, Lee raises China.

LEE: I understand that you’re put in a difficult position where you say that you’re willing, as Arshad noted when the – that you’re – you don’t understand why China is so upset because the U.S. is willing to open up its human rights situation to all kinds of scrutiny —

TONER: And, Matt —

LEE: And then the first example that anyone raises, you’re not.

All of which ends with this bizarre Toner comment.

TONER: And, Matt, I would raise with you the fact that much of China’s report came from open source, which is what an independent media does, and would note that that kind of independent media does serve a function. And there are details about the Manning case and other human rights concerns out there, but I’m not going to talk about it here.

Toner seems to be saying, with his allusion to “details about the Manning case and other human rights concerns out there” that because dirty fucking hippies report on our abuses, it makes it okay for State to hedge in this unseemly fashion.

Is Toner then, like Crowley, confirming that Manning’s treatment is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”? I think not (after all, he has just been reminded of what happens to spokespeople who say such things).

But it sure seems like the State Department is might confused about what to do when the international community calls you on your human rights abuses.

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  1. orionATL says:

    it’s becoming a deep mystery to me why the white house is allowing the u.s. to take so much grief over manning’s treatment.

    their response to the problem, which has been allowed to slowly grow over the last six months, sure does not seem to be “everything’s on the table”.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Because Manning is the ONLY current path they’ve got Assuage and Wikileaks. Wikileaks frightens them, much like turning on a light causes roaches to scuttle back into hiding.

      Boxturtle (Can we afford acting lessons for the Acting Replacement?)

      • emptywheel says:

        It’s not just that.

        The other reason is that DOD’s network security remains a gaping sieve. To make sure other people don’t download entire databases on Lady Gaga, they have to shame Manning.

        • BoxTurtle says:

          As it currently stands, they’d have no way of even knowing something was downloaded. The only reason they caught Manning was because he talked too much.

          So they’re hoping to frighten other soldiers enough to keep them from acting as whistleblowers when their ethics have finally had enough. Good luck with that.

          Boxturtle (They’ve got a database on Lady Gaga…Umh, do they have, like, pictures…?)

          • ekunin says:

            It is not clear Manning talked too much. They have that fellow, I forget his name, who claims he met Manning on the Internet. There are problems with his story. It may be a cover to protect a project that eavesdrops on everyone. None of that matters, really. What has our government to gain by keeping the UN out? Nothing. What have they got to lose? Forget the respect of others or our claim to exceptionalism-do they think they will break Manning and don’t want the UN to interfere? Whatever their reason, it is truly evil.

            • human says:

              Self professed narcissist Adrian Lamo and why ~~~Edited by Moderator. Do not wish violence on others~~~, but this is interesting. What else does Bradley know?

        • arcadesproject says:

          They are doing a lot more than shaming Bradley Manning. They are attempting to destroy him in mind and body. I think O will never let up on his campaign against this soldier and his act of conscience. O is firm and steadfast in his attacks on people, and institutions, he perceives as weak.

    • bluewombat says:

      it’s becoming a deep mystery to me why the white house is allowing the u.s. to take so much grief over manning’s treatment

      Because authoritarian governments, once having set a course, don’t like to change it?

  2. Arbusto says:

    Good lord; journalists asking valid, intelligent, penetrating questions of the government. Any bets on how soon they’ll be reassigned to cover May day parades?

    • grayslady says:

      Maybe it’s because AP personnel are getting ready to go out on strike. Nobody’s had a raise for 2 years. That tends to make anyone feisty. Still, from the sound of his questions, I like this fellow Lee. He sounds like a genuine reporter. What a rarity.

  3. orionATL says:

    if the wh/dod wanted the problem to go away,

    they would try manning promptly and incacerate him permanently.

    then the grounds for protest, if any, would shift radically.

    they aren’t doing that.

    the gov is waiting for something – what?

    there is a belief held by, among othes, ew and glenn greenwald i believe, that manning is being used as an object lesson.

    but the govmnt surely remembers that fbi mole hansen (?) knew what his fate would be, but kept on passing info for years.

    if they know anything about psychology, the govt know that people like manning can and do act impulsively and without regard for long-term consequences, or they may act very calculatedly.

    either way, the example of manning would not seem to be much of a deterrent.

    so i’ll repeat my question: what is it that the wh/dod is waiting to happen?

    • Magnoliasc says:

      Waiting for Manning to implicate Assange. So Assange can be sent to a black hole forever.
      That will show those ethical and moral whistle blowers.
      Doomed, we are.

    • Magnoliasc says:

      Waiting for Manning to cave.
      They know the worst treatment that can be delivered and believe that over time he will break.
      He is my Hero.
      My write in vote for president in 2012 if there is no ethical third party candidate.

    • one_outer says:

      I too wonder what the fuck they’re waiting for. It’s unseemly. Doesn’t an American have a right to a fair and speedy trial?

      I wonder what my 6th grade civics teacher, Mr. Gregor in Perry, OH (hi if you see this!), thinks of all this?!?! This is not what I was taught.

  4. orionATL says:

    and then there was the cia’s mole, aldrich ames.

    i’s guess he would not be deterred by manning’s sleep routine either.

    maybe it’s just the young soldiers the dod is trying to influence, but would they even know about manning?.

  5. scribe says:

    Like Ed Meese used to say: “if you’re not guilty, you have no reason not to talk.”

    What a bunch of dipshits running our foreign policy….

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      He means the mainstream media or a DFH blogger. Information from such sources is his reference point; he won’t admit to information not already in the public record. Which is about as transparent as Cheney intended to be; it’s exactly as transparent as Cheney intended to be.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I don’t see how “having conversations” of an undescribed sort clears up anything or takes a constructive step toward meeting our aspirations about transparency, civil rights or open justice. It’s not even a credible non-denial denial.

    A spokesperson’s job is to discuss the hard bits. The easy ones are for presidents and secretaries of war and state. He should at least have a better line than, “I can’t talk about that”.

    He is too obvious when he implies that an independent media’s function is to repeat what he says. Where do they get these guys? From a White House shortlist, certainly, not from a Clinton team recommendation.

    Toner wouldn’t make the shortlist at Julliard, or land a self-paid job as a stand-up. State would be better off sending a recruiting team to Manhattan for a week and hiring the best stand-up they find. Couldn’t be worse, could be a lot better.

    • PJEvans says:

      He should at least have a better line than, “I can’t talk about that”.

      He should only use a line like that when it’s a question about genuinely secret stuff, not to get out of answering a legitimate question.

    • speakingupnow says:

      Is it really a surprise that a majority of teenagers who grew up with all the hype and propaganda to “kill, kill, kill”, be very afraid of all muslims, and do whatever it takes attitude toward torture from the Bush and now Obama administrations after 9/11 would be clueless about the true impact of torture? It speaks volumes about our societal moral decay.

      • ondelette says:

        It maybe isn’t a surprise, but it is an indication that we’re doing permanent damage to our society. An interesting other result of the survey though is that the teenagers did expect and want someone to teach them the right thing.

          • ondelette says:

            I’ve seen it. Another choice might be The Greatest Silence. Except that it would probably be banned in schools as being unsuitable for children.

    • ubetchaiam says:

      It’s what comes from having a volunteer army. You aren’t reading it wrong. Re-institute the draft and see how quickly things change.

      • ondelette says:

        As I recall, we went to Vietnam with a draft. In fact, we demanded that they end the draft to stop them from doing illegal wars again.

  7. bgrothus says:

    The Chinese are not happy that the US has communicated our objections to the detention/disappearance last week of internationally renowned Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei, because they say, the US is a pot calling the kettle black. Here is what they have at ArtDaily.

      • bgrothus says:

        Quite. It is interesting that the Chinese are now saying that Weiwei is a “criminal” as opposed to a “traitor.” I suppose the equivalency is that it does not matter to either government whether one is labeled a criminal or a traitor, the bottom line is that we are not allowed to know the condition of either one.

        Pot, meet kettle.

  8. christopher1989 says:

    Uhhhh…..Toner just repeated himself over and over. Everytime I read a Manning article, I get angry at what country would do this, then I realize of wait it is the United States. We should be ashamed

    *Prepares self for Love it or Leave it trolls*

  9. Dearie says:

    [email protected]…..I didn’t sense that you were wishing harm on anyone. that’s the most aggressive moderating I’ve ever seen at FDL. Just wow. Have you caught your breath yet?

  10. Knut says:

    You know, the administration may have just put itself in a trap, like the one at Guantanamo. They have tortured Manning, but can’t really own up to it because it’s on American soil and in total violation of the Military Code of Justice. On the other hand, they can’t allow him to go to court, because the torture will out. It’s Hobson’s Choice for them. The only thing left for them is to destroy his mind, which they can blame on his weak personality. At that point they no longer have to go to trial.

    As to getting him to finger Assange, apart from the fact that he wasn’t in contact with him before he passed on the documents, nothing they can squeeze from him in the way of a confession can stand up in military court because it was extracted by torture. Not to mention that it would be totally undependable.

    The Administration are wishing this problem would go away, but like the Dreyfus case, it is not going to go away. Too many people in Europe remember Dreyfus.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The Administration are wishing this problem would go away, but like the Dreyfus case, it is not going to go away. Too many people in Europe remember Dreyfus.

      Yep, 110 years later and l’Affaire Dreyfus is still the touchstone for rebuking governments that, like bankers, think they are too important to fail or to be seen to fail, even in a routine matter of administration.

    • bluewombat says:

      they can’t allow him to go to court, because the torture will out.

      Next thing you know, he’ll be in Guantanamo.

      The only thing left for them is to destroy his mind

      The Jose Padilla treatment.

  11. human says:

    No. Thank you Dearie.

    But I get the sense that they want to keep him from saying something publicly. Which, of course, is a large part of the reason for military tribunals. It keeps discovery firmly in check.

  12. speakingupnow says:

    After watching the video, one thing is obvious. What a different world we would live in if more reporters asked the “tough questions” like AP reporter Matthew Lee. HE IS A TRUE JOURNALIST. Much applauding for AP reporter Matthew Lee.

  13. norecovery says:

    This is proof that in this case the State Dept. has relinquished authority to the DOD. I’m afraid that, not until DOD extracts or coerces damning testimony from Bradley Manning will they allow any outside non-allied access other than periodic visits by his attorney.

    Human Rights have been thrown out the window in this country’s “war on terror”, which has included the killing and torture of civilians in many places around the world. Come to think of it, the US covertly has been doing the same thing for as long as I can remember (for decades).

  14. workingclass says:

    Where do we find scum like this Mark Toner. He is not a women yet he is not a man. Does he have a family? They must be so ashamed.

    Sniveling cowards rise to power while courageous patriots rot in confinement. PFC Manning is worth a thousand Mark Toners.

  15. shootthatarrow says:

    Since March 2003 and the initial attack on Iraq how many American U.S.Army and USAF generals have resigned over the conduct of American military,atrocities against unarmed civilians or brutal death dealing despite knowable or known reasons for not doing death dealing?

    Twenty,ten,five? One?

    PJ Crowley’s remark that what was being done to Bradley Manning was “ridiculous,counterproductive and stupid” describes so very much of what Americans have done or still are doing in Iraq,Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    The known war crimes,the knowable war crimes and what still remain either covered up war crimes are not defendable.

    Important to repeat — Are not defendable.

    Mark Toner may be a fool or perhaps just wants a job with a paycheck and either is not capable of saying what PJ Crowley said or will not say it because he wants to stay employed at this flak/PR flinging job. Too bad for Mark Toner.

    However POTUS Barack Obama,SoS Hillary Clinton,SoD Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta should be suffering as much as Bradley Manning for being cowards and not either saying why Bradley Manning is in jail and being treated as he is or why they will not go visit Bradley Manning or let the UN visit Bradley Manning.

    For those who suggest beating up USA is out of line because what China does is so much worse it would be useful to stop and reconsider drawing to that line of American exceptionalism. China’s President and SoS do not go around the world preaching human rights and political freedoms. China did not attack Iraq. Is not killing Afghans or Pakistanis.

    POTUS Barack Obama and SoS Clinton are preaching human rights and political freedom. Fired PJ Crowley for saying what is true about USA.

  16. orionATL says:

    i did not see the excluded part of the comment that dearie remarked on @30,

    BUT

    in my view, moderators at fdl can be an embarrassment to the organization.

    their principle offenses are:

    – to side covertly/emotionally with fdl posters against commenters whose comments are critical of those posters

    – to use their license to control discussion to keep it from degenerating, instead to punish “deviant” commenters

    – to reject, in the manner of a prissy sunday school teacher, language that ordinarily tolerant people would shrug at

    – to have an uncanny INability to detect an operating troll, while treating well-intentioned but strongly critical commenters AS trolls.

    in summation,

    the error of the fdl moderators as a group is to occassionally abuse their power but never acknowledge that abuse.

    sound familiar?

    my most recent experience:

    my access was to fdl (and that of another commenter, apparently) was terminated on the grounds that i was a “troll”;

    this was after i had strongly criticized an fdl editor for a very insensitive post.

    sound like any policing authority you’ve had experience with?

    yeah, me too.

  17. orionATL says:

    due to the oblivious, $1000-suit cruelty, of president obama and secretary of defense gates,

    and due to bradley manning’s courage of his convictions and his willingness to act in defiance of a government abusing its power,

    private bradley manning has become the human face, the individual human being,

    whose personal mistreatment reminds americans

    and citizens of other countries as well,

    of the ruthless indiffetence to individual suffering, the callousness, the cruelty, the boot and brutality,

    the contemptuous disregard for constitutional or international law,

    that has come, shamefully for all of us, to characterize our nation under presidents obama and bush.

    that, i would guess, is why crowley resigned and toner stammered.

  18. orionATL says:

    continuing fron 51

    correction:

    “.,.terminated on the grounds i was a troll…”

    is incorrect.

    “…terminated on the grounds i was a spammer…”

    is correct.

    not only had i been labelled a spammer, but when i e-mailed the editor i had criticized complaining of the injustice,

    her response was that moderating was not her job.

    sound like the evasive excuses dennis kuchinich or the u.n. rapporteur on torture received from the u. s. govt?

    well, it does to me!

  19. shekissesfrogs says:

    PJ Crowley Tweets:

    The Defense Department, playing by its own rules, declines the #UNSpecialRapporteur an interview with an American in custody in #Quantico.

    Tale of two departments: State Department invokes international #humanrights law today regarding an American in custody in #North Korea.

    As #AlWasat’s editors face charges for publishing stories the monarchy dislikes, there is no longer even the pretense of reform in #Bahrain.

    He’s no longer encumbered by the job and seems to be taking quite well to his new found freedumbs.