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State Department spokesman quits after questioning treatment of WikiLeaks suspect

WASHINGTON — The State Department's top spokesman resigned on Sunday, three days after criticizing the Pentagon for its treatment of a soldier imprisoned on charges of leaking U.S. government documents posted on the WikiLeaks website.

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Thursday that the Pentagon's treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning was "ridiculous and stupid and counterproductive." His comments were reported by a blogger.

Manning was forced to sleep naked for several days under military rules intended to keep maximum-security prisoners who may be suicidal from injuring themselves. Manning's lawyers say that he also had been made to stand at attention naked, and that there was no justification for his treatment in custody.

President Barack Obama defended the Pentagon at a news conference Friday. Obama said he had been assured that Manning's treatment was "appropriate and was meeting our standards."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a prepared statement Sunday afternoon that she had accepted Crowley's resignation "with regret" and praised him for his three decades of service to the government.

Crowley released his own statement, saying he took "full responsibility" for his remarks but did not apologize for them.

He said his comments on 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."

Manning, 23, was an intelligence analyst in Iraq. He has been charged with 34 counts, including illegally obtaining secret government cables from a military database.

State Department staff members have said in recent months that Crowley was expected to leave the position, to be replaced by Mike Hammer, a former National Security Council spokesman who recently moved to the State Department as Crowley's No. 2. Hammer will step into Crowley's position temporarily, Clinton said in her statement.

State Department spokesman quits after questioning treatment of WikiLeaks suspect 03/13/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 13, 2011 9:23pm]
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