Comments on Prisoner Treatment Cause State Department Spokesman to Lose His Job

Mar 13, 2011 1:40pm

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned Sunday, under pressure to step down from the White House.

The impetus for his termination were comments he made last week at M.I.T. when he said the Pentagon’s treatment of Private Bradley Manning, suspected of leaking cables to Wikileaks, is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

"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 wrote in a statement. "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."

"PJ has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement. "His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best."

Asked by ABC News if he agreed with that, President Obama said Friday that he’d “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.” Pentagon officials, he said, “assure me that they are. I can't go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning's safety as well.”

Crowley’s comments to an audience at M.I.T. were first reported by Philippa Thomas and Crowley confirmed to The Cable’s Josh Rogin that "What I said was my personal opinion. It does not reflect an official USG policy position. I defer to the Department of Defense regarding the treatment of Bradley Manning.”

White House chief of staff Bill Daley learned about Crowley's comments right before Friday's press conference.

Daley told White House officials of Crowley, “he’s done.” Manning was arrested in May 2010 after telling a former hacker that he had given documents to WikiLeaks. Earlier this month the Army filed 22 new counts against him including aiding the enemy, theft of public property or records, computer fraud, transmitting information in violation of the Espionage Act.

On January 19, Amnesty International wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to “express concern about the conditions under which Private First Class (PFC) Bradley Manning is detained at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia,” saying that “the restrictions imposed in PFC Manning’s case appear to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive.”

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has said Manning’s cell is like that of “every single other pretrial detainee at the brig. It just so happens that the configuration of the brig is that every individual is confined to his or her own cell. He's being provided well-balanced, nutritious meals three times a day. He receives visitors and mail, and can write letters. He routinely meets with doctors, as well as his attorney. He's allowed to make telephone calls. And he is being treated just like every other detainee in the brig. So assertions by liberal bloggers, or network reporters or others that he is being mistreated, or somehow treated differently than others, in isolation, are just not accurate.”

-Jake Tapper and Kirit Radia

PJ has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian.  His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best. 
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