March 14, 2011

Crowley, Top Spokesman at State Department, Resigns Under Fire for Comments on Suspected Wikileaks Leaker

PJ Crowley First reported Sunday by CNN’s Ed Henry, P.J. Crowley, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and the department’s top Spokesman, resigned Sunday, only days after he made comments criticizing American treatment of an Army soldier accused of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. 

On Thursday, Crowley appeared at a seminar on the campus of M.I.T. where he called the Pentagon’s treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” 

According to Politico, “journalist Philippa Thomas and Internet researcher Ethan Zuckerman, who both were at the MIT discussion conference, reported Crowley’s comments.  Thomas said she later asked Crowley if his remarks were on the record. She said he had a one-word reply: ‘Sure.’” 

The firestorm that was created resulted in President Obama being asked at a Friday news conference whether he agreed with Crowley’s comments. 

According to Politico, “Crowley’s public criticism angered some at the Pentagon and others across the administration because it put him directly at odds with Defense Department officials who have spent weeks trying to defend Manning’s treatment. The soldier is being detained under near-constant lockdown, and he filed a formal complaint about being forced to strip each night at bedtime.”

In a statement issued Sunday on his resignation, Crowley made no apology for his comments:

“The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law.  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. The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.  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.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that she accepted Crowley’s resignation “with regret.” 

Former NSC spokesman Mike Hammer, who had come over to the State Department to serve as Crowley’s deputy earlier this year, will replace Crowley.  (Reporting from CNN and Politico)

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