WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department on Thursday named career diplomat Victoria Nuland as its new spokesperson, filling a vacancy left when the former incumbent resigned in a flap over the soldier accused of leaking secret WikiLeaks documents.
Nuland was a national security advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney and served as U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2005-2008. She has been the special envoy for conventional armed forces in Europe since February 2010.
Nuland, a Russia specialist, steps into a job vacant since March, when former spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned after reports that he had labeled as “ridiculous” the Pentagon’s treatment of Bradley Manning, the former military intelligence analyst accused of leaking secret documents that appeared on the WikiLeaks website.
Crowley, a retired Air Force colonel who often spoke freely from the State Department podium, took responsibility for the remarks, which were made to a small group in Massachusetts and which threw new focus on Manning’s case.
The Obama administration has been criticized for Manning’s treatment, although the president says the Pentagon has assured him the 23-year-old soldier is not being ill-treated while he is awaiting trial.
Manning is being held during an investigation of charges involving reams of sensitive diplomatic and military documents he is accused of leaking while posted as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
Many of the documents appeared on the WikiLeaks website, and have been a major diplomatic headache for the United States which says they were stolen government property.
U.S. military officials have not said when Manning’s trial might begin, but he was transferred in April to a detention facility at Fort Leavenworth military base in Kansas after his lawyers complained he was being mistreated at a Marine brig in Virginia.
Nuland will take over from Mark Toner, who stepped in following Crowley’s departure and will remain as deputy spokesperson, the department said in its announcement.