WASHINGTON – The State Department’s top spokesman resigned on Sunday, three days after criticizing the Pentagon for its treatment of a soldier imprisoned on charges of leaking U.S. government documents posted on the WikiLeaks website.
P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last Thursday that the Pentagon’s treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning was “ridiculous and stupid and counterproductive.” His comments were reported by a blogger who attended the session.
Manning was forced to sleep naked for several days under military rules intended to keep maximum-security prisoners who may be suicidal from injuring themselves. Manning’s lawyers say he also had been made to stand at attention naked, and that there was no justification for his treatment in custody.
President Barack Obama defended the Pentagon at a news conference Friday. Obama said he had been assured that Manning’s treatment was “appropriate and was meeting our standards.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement Sunday afternoon that she had accepted Crowley’s resignation “with regret” and praised him for his three decades of service to the government.
Crowley released his own statement, saying he took “full responsibility” for his remarks but did not apologize for them.
He said his comments about Manning “were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership.”
Manning, 23, was an intelligence analyst in Iraq. He has been charged with 34 counts, including illegally obtaining secret government cables from a military database.
Crowley, a retired Air Force colonel, was a spokesman for the Air Force and for the National Security Council during the Bill Clinton administration.
But he was not a part of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle that came to the State Department in January 2009, and there had been reports of differences with the secretary.