WASHINGTON — State Department spokesman Philip Crowley resigned Sunday after slamming the Pentagon's treatment of a U.S. solider suspected of leaking thousands of diplomatic cables and military documents to WikiLeaks as "counterproductive."
"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," Crowley said in a statement the State Department released.
On Friday, Crowley departed from his characteristic diplomatic language when asked at a forum on new media and diplomacy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, about the United States "torturing" Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Manning, 23, was arrested in June while deployed to Iraq amid suspicions he had passed a trove of secret US government documents to WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website which were then published in newspapers around the world.
Crowley said Manning's treatment by the Defense Department, which includes solitary confinement and being forced to sleep naked, "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid," BBC reporter Philippa Thomas wrote on her blog.
"Nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place," Crowley said, adding "there is sometimes a need for secrets" to advance U.S. diplomatic interests.
Later Friday, President Barack Obama insisted that the Pentagon's treatment of Manning was appropriate.
Last week, the U.S. military unveiled 22 additional charges against Manning including the serious offense of "aiding the enemy," which carries a potential death sentence. But the Army said he would face possible life in prison.
In his statement Sunday, Crowley said his remarks "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."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted Crowley's long service to the United States in accepting his resignation.
Crowley "has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian," she said.
"His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best."
Clinton said Michael Hammer, currently deputy spokesman at the state department, will serve as acting spokesman.
© AFP 2013