Washington (CNN) – P.J. Crowley abruptly resigned Sunday as State Department spokesman over controversial comments he made about the Bradley Manning case.
Sources close to the matter said the resignation, first reported by CNN, came under pressure from the White House, where officials were furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning, the Army private who is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, under suspicion that he leaked highly classified State Department cables to the website WikiLeaks.
Speaking to a small group at MIT last week, Crowley was asked about allegations that Manning is being tortured and kicked up a firestorm by answering that what is being done to Manning by Defense Department officials "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."
Crowley did add that "nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place" because of his alleged crimes, according to a blog post by BBC reporter Philippa Thomas, who was present at Crowley's talk.
"The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law," Crowley said in a statement Sunday. "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," Crowley said. "Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation."
Crowley has told friends that he is deeply concerned that mistreatment of Manning could undermine the legitimate prosecution of the young private. Crowley has also made clear he has the Obama administration's best interests at heart because he thinks any mistreatment of Manning could be damaging around the world to President Obama, who has tried to end the perception that the United States tortures prisoners.
Nevertheless, Crowley's political fate was sealed Friday when Obama was asked at a White House news conference about his comments regarding Manning.
Obama revealed that he had asked Pentagon officials "whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of (Manning's) confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards."
In a comment that drew howls of protest from liberals, Obama added that Pentagon officials "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."
Manning's treatment has become a flashpoint for liberals, with Amnesty International noting he has been confined to a windowless cell for 23 hours a day, is stripped down to his boxers at night and is not given pillows or blankets.
Manning's lawyer also says the young private recently had to sleep in the nude because defense officials thought there was a suicide threat and decided to take away his boxer shorts.
Crowley is highly respected on foreign policy matters, dating back to his time as National Security Council spokesman under then-President Bill Clinton. He has been the Obama administration's public face on many international stories as the daily briefer at the State Department for Secretary Hillary Clinton.
But he has not had a completely smooth relationship with officials in the Obama White House, and eyebrows were raised several months ago when White House aide Mike Hammer was sent over to the State Department to serve as Crowley's deputy.
A senior White House official stressed that Crowley's exit was in the works for months and said the MIT incident only "hastened that departure."
"Everybody likes P.J. This was more a situation where it wasn't the right fit," said the official, noting there were times when Crowley wasn't on the same page as Clinton, let alone the White House.
Hammer will replace Crowley as the assistant secretary for public affairs, Clinton said in a statement Sunday.
She said she accepted Crowley's resignation "with regret."
"P.J. 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 little-known factor in Crowley's comments about Manning was revealed Saturday by April Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio who covered Crowley in the Clinton White House.
Ryan wrote on Twitter that Crowley "dislikes treatment of prisoners as his father was a Prisoner of War."
While it's true that Crowley's father was imprisoned during World War II, people close to him downplay that as a major factor in his comments about Manning, saying the biggest factor is simply that Crowley believes what he said.
In his statement, Crowley said he leaves with "great admiration and affection" for his colleagues and "deep respect for the journalists who report on foreign policy and global developments every day, in many cases under dangerous conditions and subject to serious threats. Their efforts help make governments more responsible, accountable and transparent."
I read that Pvt Manning is asked if he is OK once every five minutes and he has to verbally answer.
That alone would drive me crazy.
As a liberal Democrat who voted for Obama, I'm ashamed at the administration for its cowardly refusal to face up to this issue. What the DoD is doing to Bradley Manning is not justified. Our country now knowingly embraces torture, even torture of its own citizens, and the Obama administration seems to think that's A-OK. Disgraceful.
This is all so laughable. I actually know one of the Majors responsible for CQ where Manning is staying. He is not being mistreated in any way shape or form and sits in his cell unmolested by even the slightest of insults from those watching him. They all laugh at the conspiracy theories swirling about his "treatment" and complain among themselves that he getst treated better than the Marines incarcerated there. His "torture" is a big fat propoganda lie by those who think its ok to pick on the U.S. by releasing classified information. If this were China, Russia or half the countries on the planet he wouldn't have a head right now.
Manning is a US citizen, member of our military. Obama is only concerned if someone is treated fairly– and that we do not jump to conclusions-if they are a Muslim terrorist. Crowly is FINALLY someone in the Obama Admin with some ethics. I hope that now that Crowly resigned, he will now speak out about the corruption in "dear Leaders" Admin. Imagine what we will find out about the Obama regime, once he is booted from office in 2012!!
I guess the truth isn't popular with the Mrs. Clinton and the Obama administration. Maybe the pentagons treatment of Manning should be treated as a "state secret" to prevent further embarrassment.
Uncle Sam has a sadistic 'creepy uncle' sort of persona these days.
PJ was entirely correct by the way. He deserves a promotion, certain not a change in career.
How far we've fallen as a country. So heartbreaking.
"P.J. Crowley abruptly resigned Sunday as State Department spokesman over controversial comments he made about the Bradley Manning case." Since when is the truth "controversial"?
This current trend in America where people who tell the truth are then asked to fall on their metaphorical sword and resign is deeply troubling. The Obama administration hasn’t hesitated to throw anyone under the bus since its inception. I guess the White House is taking the lead in this new trend. Obama has turned out to be the biggest disappointment in my lifetime and that’s saying quite a bit since I lived through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.
This disgraceful treatment of UNCONVICTED suspects has to stop. It is morally wrong and it completely subverts our global reputation. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
The leaks are already out there, so any possible harm has been done already.(By the way, haven't heard of any lives lost because of the leaks yet.) Is this just vindictive retribution? It certainly doesn't seem to be for safety purposes.
Let this be a lesson to anyone in the government who speaks out against what they feel is wrong.. If you choose not to tow the 'official party line'... You choose to lose your job. Crowley is 'guilty' of releasing the official state secret, that the whole manning affair is scapegoating at its finest and very VERY unconstitutional and politically motivated.
Does his firing accomplish anything? So what is the point? Especially when every word of what he said was correct.
Wikileaks is the best thing to happen to democracy in a very long time. The leaked cables are largely responsible for the revolutions happening in North Africa and the Middle East.
Manning deserves what he got. He betrayed the United States and his uniform, and he knew the consequences. In any other country, he would have been executed by now.
Isn't it funny how Amnesty is all over this case, but when a suicide bomber blows up a market full of innocent civilians, not a peep.
After all the uproar over his calling DoD actions stupid, maybe Crowley should have offered to hold a Beer Summit with DoD and Pvt Manning.
This is just another Obama move to have his own mouth piece in the State Dept. I am sure that Obama was behind all of this and shows just how this president handles people that do not agree with him.
I think they are severely mistreating Manning and it is wrong. He may guilty or not but he should be justly and appropriately treated instead of being tortured. The Obama administration is mistreating him according to my military sources and they all think it is wrong. Obama is weak and ineffective. He is more worried about Wicki Leaks and Manning then he is the truth.
So we can safely conclude that we're led by corrupt, morally bankrupt, hypocritical aholes – whatever their declared political affiliation. Shame on them all, and pity the idealists who worked to elect the current crop.
Unless you were/are there..NO ONE knows what is being done or not done to Manning...I would think that if untoward things were being done, someone from the inside would have said or tweeted or facebooked something...things can't be hidden in this day and age..just look at Wikileaks, etc..
The world is getting scarier and scarier.
Lessons Learned: Make a mistake, quit your job.
Crowly spoke the truth and got sacked for it. Plain and simple.
I must say I stand with George. Here we have two acts of conscience and now one is being tortured by his government while the second is forced to resign. Honor them!
You can leave with your head high this time, PJ.
What the US military is doing to Manning is nothing sort of disgraceful, especially since he's only been accused. What happened to innocent until proved guilty?. The big country of the liberties is looking more each day like Gadaffi's Lybia. Obama promised he would close Guantanamo and look at him justifying the torture of Manning.
And then we ask why the US is so despised around the world...
I voted for President Obama and support most of his policies, but he has been a tremendous disappointment on others. On matters of national security, I'm sorry to say "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" has rung true far too many times.
This private knowingly released thousands of classified documents to the world. He betrayed his oath of enlistment, his contract, his integrity, and his country. All this during the operation of two wars. The only ridiculous aspect of this is that he has not been executed.