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?