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Tweeting Without the Title

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, April 6 2011

P.J. Crowley -- whom you might remember from his tenure as the spokesperson for the U.S. State Department that ended with his resignation after he called the Defense Department's treatment of alleged Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid" -- has been tweeting up a tiny storm today, offering his pointed commentary on how House Budget Committee chair Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed federal budget would affect world events.

"The @RepPaulRyan #budget puts our efforts in #Iraq and #Afghanistan, as well as urgent challenges in #Egypt, #Yemen and #Sudan, in jeopardy," wrote Crowley in one tweet. "The @RepPaulRyan #budget projects that we will pull our extraordinary but overworked military out of lengthy existing overseas deployments," went another post. Then there was, "the @RepPaulRyan #budget spends 20 times more on defense than international affairs over the next 10 years. This ignores the real world." And, "In his 2012 budget, @RepPaulRyan acknowledges the federal responsibility of a common defense, but fails to provide adequate funding for it."

It's the kind of outspokenness that got Crowley noticed -- and, it seems fired. And one contact in government expresses a little unease with Crowley's tweeting.

First, suggests the contact, there's the question of whether Crowley looks like he's tweeting on behalf of the Obama administration, though Crowley's departure from the State Department was pretty high-profile, and his Twitter bio doesn't suggest an affiliation. (Actually, it doesn't suggest anything -- it's left blank.)

And second, wonders the contact, should or could the State Department have a policy against Crowley taking his more than 25,000 followers with him? You have to imagine that the vast majority of people following Crowley do it because he was a State Department official. Crowley only started a Twitter account in May 2010 -- a year into his time as State Department spokesperson. Crowley's, of course, a citizen and free to speak his mind, though it's possible that an employing department could consider that follower base as, I dunno, some sort of work product, and require that it be passed along to his successor.

Curious, and new, questions, both of them. At the very least, this isn't exactly the sort of thing Dean Rusk had to think about.