On Wednesday, March 30, Thomas Armbruster, State Department Diplomat-in-Residence for the Greater New York Area, joined Secret Service Special Agent James Haines and federal government intern Michael Stallone on a panel at The College of New Jersey entitled “Jobs in Federal Government.”
Following the discussion, Armbruster was asked for his take on WikiLeaks’ cablegate document trove, which included one of his own cables, and alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning’s treatment. He discussed both advantages and problems with the leaked State Dept. logs, but was starkly silent regarding the imprisoned Army Private.
Finding the release somewhat beneficial, he said, “People have gotten to see what we do in embassies and how much analysis goes into what we’re trying to convey back to Washington, and I think that’s probably a positive thing,”
“It’s too bad not more of it is in the public discussion,” he said.
Nevertheless, Armbruster did express reservations, defending covert diplomacy. “A lot of our contacts are people who put themselves at risk by providing that information,” he said, “and I think that’s when it becomes dangerous for it to be released like that.”
Armbruster failed to mention that media outlets and WikiLeaks did, in fact, redact names of people and places potentially endangered by the cables’ release.
The diplomat then commented on State Dept. spokesperson P.J. Crowley, who recently stepped down after criticizing Manning’s conditions as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Armbruster called Crowley’s forced resignation “regrettable,” and said that he felt bad for the spokesperson.
But when pressed on Manning’s treatment, which many consider psychological torture, Armbruster refused to publicly remark. Likely discouraged by Crowley’s punishment, he deferred to the Military Justice and Criminal Justice Department, saying, “I don’t have a comment on that.”
The diplomat seemed uncomfortable to have been asked, saying, “We’re not supposed to have personal opinions in the State Department.”