WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's chief spokesman abruptly resigned Sunday, three days after he publicly criticized the treatment in confinement of WikiLeaks suspect Army Pfc. Bradley Manning as "counterproductive and stupid."
In a statement, P.J. Crowley said his remarks about Manning's treatment, made at an appearance Thursday in Cambridge, Mass., were meant to highlight the impact of actions by U.S. security agencies "on our global standing and leadership."
Lawyers for Manning, who is charged with unauthorized sharing of classified information, allege that he has been mistreated, including being forced to sleep naked, while in confinement at a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.
A Pentagon spokesman has said that Manning's conditions of confinement are in compliance with U.S. laws, and suggested that officials are concerned that Manning might try to hurt himself.
At a press conference Friday, President Barack Obama was asked about Crowley's remarks and offered the spokesman no backing, saying that the Pentagon had assured him that the conditions of Manning's confinement were appropriate. "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," Obama said, without elaborating.
In a statement, Clinton said she had accepted Crowley's resignation "with regret."
It was unclear whether Crowley had offered his resignation first, or whether Clinton — or the White House — had demanded it.
While the Obama administration has not explicitly named Manning as such, he is believed to be the government's chief suspect in the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified Pentagon and State Department cables to the WikiLeaks organization.
His treatment in detention has been criticized by human rights groups and liberal organizations.
Crowley, a retired Air Force colonel, is highly regarded among the Washington press corps. He did previous stints as a spokesman during the Clinton administration at the Defense Department and the White House National Security Council.
In recent months, he was the author of tart — and sometimes controversial _missives on the Twitter social networking site.
In one, he compared then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government reshuffling to "rearranging the deck chairs." On Feb. 16, in response to news that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's son attended an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore, Crowley tweeted: "Actually, the DearLeader himself would benefit from getting out more often."
Crowley's remarks were originally reported on a personal blog by a journalist who attended his Boston-area talk Thursday.
While noting that Manning is charged with "a serious crime," Crowley did not withdraw the gist of his criticisms in his statement Sunday.
"My recent comments ... 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," he said. "The exercise of power in today's challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values."
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY
Follow McClatchy on Twitter.