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State Dept spokesman quits after slam of Pentagon

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 13, 2011
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley resigned Sunday after slamming the Pentagon's treatment of a US solider suspected of leaking 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 released by the State Department.

Crowley departed from his characteristic diplomatic language on Friday when asked at a forum on new media and diplomacy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) about the US "torturing" of Private First Class 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 around the world.

Crowley said the Defense Department's treatment of Manning, 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 US diplomatic interests.

Later that day Obama insisted the Pentagon's treatment of Manning was appropriate.

On March 2 the US 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 "with regret."

"(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."

A Massachusetts native, Crowley served under former president Bill Clinton on the staff of the National Security Council.

Crowley logged 26 years in the Air Force, retiring in 1999 at the rank of colonel. He is a veteran of the first Gulf war.

Michael Hammer, currently deputy spokesman at the State Department, will serve as acting spokesman.

"Mike Hammer will do a great job as my successor at State," Crowley said Sunday in a message on the microblogging site Twitter. "He and I worked together 12 years ago on the NSC staff at the White House."

In another Twitter message, Crowley said he and Hammer "worked together every day during the administration's first two years and I was pleased that Mike accepted my offer to return to State."

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