State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said this week that he opposed the treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning.
BBC reporter Philippa Thomas wrote Thursday that Crowley, while attending an event organized by the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT, was asked for his thoughts on WikiLeaks and “torturing a prisoner in a military brig.”
According Thomas, Crowley responded that Manning’s treatment was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
Manning claimed in a recently released letter that he was placed on suicide watch for three days in January. He speculated that it was in retaliation for a protest outside the prison.
“I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear,” Manning wrote, “My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness.”
Manning lives in a solitary prison cell for twenty-three hours a day, is under constant supervision, and has been denied sheets and a pillow. His treatment has provoked outrage from various organizations and individuals.
The former Army private was charged with 22 additional criminal counts this month. New charges include “aiding the enemy,” which could bring the death penalty. Manning was charged in July with leaking classified information and putting national security at risk.
Crowley followed his critique of Manning’s treatment by saying, “None the less Bradley Manning is in the right place.” He also said, “there is sometimes a need for secrets… for diplomatic progress to be made.”
At a Friday press conference, President Obama was asked by ABC reporter Jake Tapper about Crowley’s statement.
Obama said, “With respect to Private Manning, you know, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards.”
He continued, “They assured me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.”
Tapper pressed Obama, “Do you disagree with PJ Crowley?” Obama responded, “I think I gave you an answer to the substantive issue.”