State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley abruptly resigned from his position on Sunday following controversial comments he made about the Pentagon’s treatment of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking secret government documents to WikiLeaks.
“P.J. has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in announcing his resignation. “His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best.”
Crowley’s departure is likely to fuel debate about whether the White House pushed him out because he shed light on what some believe is the inhumane treatment of Manning. The matter could also be used as ammunition by Manning’s legal defense team.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Mike Hammer will take over Crowley’s post for the time being, Clinton said.
Crowley has served as the public face for Clinton’s department since 2009. But he landed in hot water for telling a small audience at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., on Thursday that what’s being done to Manning is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” A BBC correspondent blogged about the remarks.
“The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law,” Crowley said in a statement on Sunday.
“My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley 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,” Crowley said. “The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.”
Crowley added: “Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Spokesman for the Department of State.”
Manning and his lawyers have publicly complained about his treatment.
President Obama was asked about Crowley’s comments during a nationally televised press conference Friday.
“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,” Obama said. “They assured me that they are.”