Crowley resigns as State Department spokesman
March 13th, 2011
12:47 PM ET
11 years ago

Crowley resigns as State Department spokesman

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."

Filed under: State Department
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. rev_cletus

    Walt Kelly's Pogo said it best all those years ago: "We has met the enemy – and he is us." RIP, America...

    March 13, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. giles clarke

    what a corrupt and disgusting place Washington is.....

    March 13, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  3. Inga

    Whatever happened to "Thou shall not lie?" Why is it that anyone, or everyone who speaks the TRUTH, whether in public or private sector, that person ultimately loses his or her job? When were our freedom of speech and our democracy abolished? I am SICK and TIRED of LIERS getting to keep their jobs while TRUTH TELLERS are being forced out. Will someone help me to understand this reverse theorem?

    March 13, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  4. JSerrano

    I guess we have to start looking for a new candidate for 2012. Obama has gone from Centrist to right leaning at this point. For those who don't believe this.. his silence as during the peaceful protest in Wisconsin and his handling of the corporate bail outs such suffice. From Bush like to Bush Lite.

    March 13, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. Supremeamerican

    The libs will find a way to defend him anyway george. it's called blind faith, to the point of ignorance, and the liberals are the best at it.

    March 13, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  6. Mark

    OH the huamanity – the Obama regime supports torture of US citizens. I knew Obama looked mean and despicable – he has probably personally sanctioned the rerrible treatment of no less than a patriot!! LMAO.

    Where is the lamestream Media outrage? Oh what will the world think of us? LMAO

    March 13, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. Murray

    Its what happens when you tell the truth

    March 13, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  8. Neal

    Private Manning should be released now and given an award and thank you. He has exposed the harm the military is doing to the people of Afganistan and Iraq. The jig is up US Government and this treatment of Manning and others and the people of the world will work to seal your end. Manning is not the cause of this harm and he has exposed it. Those soldiers and the families they have harmed will not be forgotten. We should bring the soldiers home and start their recovery. We are not going to change the minds of another nation by killing innocent people.

    March 13, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. Beth

    So apparently the US does torture. And such soft torture of US citizens prior to proof of guilt is "meeting our basic standards."

    And anyone who points out that we torture, and that torture is both useless and counterproductive will be fired.

    I feel safer already!

    March 13, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Patricia

    Wow George, you could've not put it better.

    March 13, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. Tim

    Is this actually surprising? Obama promised to end the war in Iraq, still there. He promised to close Gitmo, it's still open, and even gotten worse for those people, and now we have Manning. I'm so sick of hope and change

    March 13, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  12. Republican's Are Fraud's !

    Goerge you would be cheering this action if Bush did this oh wait Bush did do this before and we didn't hear a peep from you hypocritical republicans ! I'm glad that Obama is finally starting to cut dead weight from these departments ! If you're not working for the team that hires you then you need to be kicked off the team !

    March 13, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  13. Jef

    With President Obama's direct comment on the treatment of a presumed innocent American citizen/prisoner being held under deplorable conditions on American soil, he should be held accountable for the treatment which is probably a form of mental torture. Anyone who knows anything knows that the U.S. Government, via the United States Marine Corp at Quantico is punishing this guy BEFORE he has been tried. Technically, this should put Obama in jeopardy for a human rights abuse charge.

    March 13, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  14. bill

    The US allows and encourages torture just as the Saudis do. Any country that would still target the ill with the draconian Federal marijuana laws is not to be trusted. Period. Just think about all that oil.
    I have nothing left to lose so come kick my doors down again you Gestapo wanna be's.

    March 13, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. Bill Jones

    It tells you everything you need to know about the U.S. Regime that the goal is "to end the perception that the U.S. tortures prisoners"

    Not to end the torture.

    March 13, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. chris

    typical liberal hypocrisy.

    March 13, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  17. DaLe

    In prison in case of suicide threat, isn't relocation to mental ward standard procedure? Being stripped naked and confined to solitary imprisonment might do some good to ascetic monks (in certain cases), but in this case it seems that it adds to the likelihood of suicide, so one of them special jackets would seem more appropriate even though Bradley Manning isn't a neurotic-psycho-maniac killer or such.

    March 13, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. Charles Reagan

    P.J. Crowley was apparently unaware that the U. S. is one of the few countries to refuse to sign the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court when he said that the right place for Gaddafi was the ICC. The U. S. did not sign because leftists in Europe want to bring American generals and even the Secretary of Defense before the ICC.

    March 13, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  19. Terry P

    Transparent Administration? Oh yeah.... Crowly is in a position to know. The W.H. doesn't want this stuff coming out. Doesn't look to good keeping this man in solitary – naked, probably doesn't even have a toilet.

    March 13, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. J. M. Millien

    It seems that Crowley has no leverage. Nothing can save him now. Why not learn to discretely zip it when speaking to non-decision makers? He knew that the perils of loose lips don't hold a candle to vitues of timely or judicious 'free speech'... JM

    March 13, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. DoubleW

    Crowley is a man of integrity and common sense. It is obvious that mistreatment of Manning will be perceived as "extrajudicial revenge" by the authorities, and that Crowley's abrupt resignation will be seen as "forced" by those same authorities. When did "stupid" became a required job skill for our government officials?

    March 13, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. Hanna Jagow

    When children in residential treatment facilities are suicidal, they are placed in a room without any cloth that could be torn into strips and monitored 24/7. I knew of one who used embroidery floss, a craft project, to wrap around her neck and when discovered was turning blue. Would people prefer to let this young man die by his own hand rather than face his consequences? I don't have any first hand knowledge of the truth in this matter, but the conditions being described are not torture in my book.

    March 13, 2011 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  23. greg

    Torture is a criminal offence. Mr Cowley can at least be sure that one day he will not have to face a criminal court, unlike many in the White House and the US military.

    March 13, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. superlogi

    If Manning did what has been alleged, it wasn't too long ago they would simply have taken him out after an NJP hearing and shot him. What he did is endanger people who are already in danger voluntarily to keep people like manning and Crowley free. Julian Assange deserves the same fate.

    March 13, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. Baruch

    More bad decisions from the Obama administration. Bradley Manning is being treated very badly by his own country for blowing the whistle on illegal activities within the military. He should have been promoted, not imprisoned. Now some lone person within the administration has the ethics and the courage to speak up and he is fired. Way to go Obama. I have to say, this isn't the change I was hoping for. You've lost my vote Barack.

    March 13, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
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