US state department spokesman PJ Crowley (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk) has resigned on Sunday, saying he took responsibility for the impact of his remarks about Bradley Manning.
In front of an audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to talk about the benefits of new media as it relates to foreign policy, Mr Crowley said the treatment of Private Manning, accused of leaking secret cables to whistleblowing website Wikileaks, is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted Mr Crowley’s resignation “with regret”.
In a statement Mrs Clinton said : “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.”
Principal deputy assistant secretary Michael Hammer was named to replace Mr Crowley temporarily.
In his resignation letter Mr Crowley said :“The unauthorised disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under US 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.”
‘Harsh and punitive’
Earlier this year his treatment was described as “unnecessarily harsh and punitive” by Amnesty International, who has called on the British government to intervene for Pte Manning, whose mother is Welsh.
The rights organisation also said that Pte Manning had been held “for 23 hours a day in a sparsely furnished solitary cell and deprived of a pillow, sheets, and personal possessions since July 2010”.
His lawyers released a letter in which he claims to be routinely stripped each night and that his prescription glasses are confiscated, leaving him with limited vision.
However this is standard procedure for people considered a suicide risk, said military officials.
Illegally obtaining 250,000 secret US government cables and 380,000 records related to the Iraq war from a military database, are some of the 34 counts Pte Manning has been charged with.
Although he has also been charged with aiding the enemy, which is a capital offence, prosecutors asserted that they will not seek the death penalty.