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Ex-State Department spokesman has ‘no regrets’ for defending Manning

The former U.S. State Department spokesman who criticized the military’s treatment of Bradley Manning may have lost his job, but he’s not backing down.

Manning is the Army private accused of handing over secret U.S. State Department cables to WikiLeaks.

“I thought the treatment of Bradley Manning was undermining what I considered to be a very legitimate prosecution of an individual who has profoundly affected US national security,” P.J. Crowley told BBC News in his first remarks since he was forced to resign.

“Quite honestly I didn’t necessarily think the controversy would go as far as it did but I don’t regret saying what I said,” he said.

Crowley added that it had been appropriate for him to step down because his remarks put President Barack Obama in a “difficult position.”

While still the top spokesman for the State Department, he had said that it was “counterproductive and stupid” for Manning to be held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Several days later, Crowley acknowledged his remarks and submitted his resignation.

“The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values,” he said in a statement at the time. “Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation.”

Manning attorney David Coombs had revealed only days before that for at least two nights in row, the Army private had been “stripped naked” for as long as seven hours at a time.

In a March 11 press conference, the president told reporters that the Pentagon had assured him that Manning’s treatment was appropriate.

Elected on a promise of a more transparent government, Obama has taken “unprecedented” aim at leakers who divulge classified information to journalists, according to critics.

“We’ve seen the current president bringing five prosecutions so far… against people for whistleblowing, for leaks of classified information,” said Daniel Ellsberg, famous for his 1971 leak of the “Pentagon Papers,” which helped turn the tide of public opinion against the Vietnam War.

“All previous presidents put together brought three prosecutions… We see a campaign here against whistleblowing that is highly unprecedented in legal terms.”

— With AFP

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