Chelsea Manning Disinvited as Harvard Fellow After Protest from CIA Officials

Chelsea Manning Disinvited as Harvard Fellow After Protest from CIA Officials
Firefighters make their way through the rubble after two airliners crashed into the World Trade Center in New York bringing down the landmark buildings Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Shawn Baldwin/File)

The dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School announced in a late-night statement that Chelsea Manning was disinvited as a visiting fellow after former Acting CIA Director Mike Morell quit in protest.

“Senior leaders have stated publicly that the leaks by Ms. Manning put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk,” Morrell wrote in a letter to dean Douglas Elmendorf. “The Kennedy School’s decision will assist Ms. Manning in her long-standing effort to legitimize the criminal path that she took to prominence, an attempt that may encourage others to leak classified information as well.”

Morell said he had “an obligation to my conscience — and I believe to the country — to stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information.”

While serving in the Army, Manning passed nearly 750,000 classified or sensitive documents to WikiLeaks, and in August 2013 was sentenced to 35 years in prison for violations of the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as other charges. President Obama commuted her sentence and she was released on May 17.

On Wednesday, the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School announced Manning would be one of several visiting fellows. Morell announced his resignation as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center the next day. The former CIA chief stressed in his letter that he supported Manning’s rights as a transgender American and her right to “publicly discuss the circumstances that surrounded her crimes,” but said it was his right and duty “to argue that the school’s decision is wholly inappropriate and to protest it by resigning from the Kennedy School — in order to make the fundamental point that leaking classified information is disgraceful and damaging to our nation.”

In a midnight statement, Elmendorf said Manning was invited “because the Kennedy School’s longstanding approach to visiting speakers is to invite some people who have significantly influenced events in the world even if they do not share our values and even if their actions or words are abhorrent to some members of our community.”

“We do this not to endorse those actions or legitimize those words, but because engaging with people with fundamentally different worldviews can help us to become better public leaders. Because controversy pervades many questions in politics and public policy, some speakers are controversial,” he said. “…At any point in time, the Kennedy School has hundreds of fellows playing many different roles at the school. In general across the school, we do not view the title of ‘fellow’ as conveying a special honor; rather, it is a way to describe some people who spend more than a few hours at the school.”

Elmendorf said he now believes “designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility… I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations.”

Manning will still be invited to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak with students at a forum. “I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation,” Elmendorf said. “This decision now is not intended as a compromise between competing interest groups but as the correct way for the Kennedy School to emphasize its longstanding approach to visiting speakers while recognizing that the title of Visiting Fellow implies a certain recognition.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo dropped out of a Harvard speaking engagement in protest of Manning being named a fellow. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tweeted, “Head of the CIA gets triggered by Harvard giving Chelsea Manning a platform virtue signals in cry-bully complaint and no-platforms. #ManUp”

Manning tweeted in response: