This week we give a nod to former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley, who had the audacity to publicly criticize the Defense Department’s treatment of alleged WikiLeaks accomplice Pfc. Bradley Manning and was obliged to step down Sunday as a result.

On March 10, the news surfaced about Crowley’s comments, which he had made, seemingly spontaneously, during a talk sponsored by the Center for Future Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to Philippa Thomas, a BBC reporter present when Crowley spoke, a member of the small audience brought up “the elephant in the room”: WikiLeaks. More specifically, the questioner wanted to know Crowley’s thoughts about the U.S. “torturing a prisoner in a military brig.”

According to Thomas, Crowley didn’t hesitate before slamming the DoD’s mistreatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” It must be noted that Crowley followed up that statement with the kind of language that has unfortunately come to characterize the Obama administration’s take on Manning: “Nonetheless Bradley Manning is in the right place,” he said, stating that secrets are sometimes necessary in the diplomatic arena.

Still, when Thomas explicitly asked whether his comments were on the record, Crowley said yes. Whether he sensed that this would result in his exit from the State Department is unclear, but it didn’t take long for him to choose his words carefully for another public statement — this time announcing his resignation. And thus began the mediated debate over his words and their consequences.


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