Harvard rescinds fellowship invitation for Chelsea Manning after backlash

Harvard University has decided against hiring former whistleblower Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow, after backlash from two high-profile people associated with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Manning was announced Sept. 13 as a visiting fellow for the 2017-18 academic year. That announcement drew criticism from former acting CIA chief and deputy director Michael Morell, a senior fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and current CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Morell resigned his post in protest Sept. 14, critical of the school’s invitation to Manning — a former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking sensitive US military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.

Harvard Hall - Harvard University.

Harvard Hall – Harvard University.

Later Sept. 14, Pompeo canceled a scheduled appearance for the same reason.

Sept. 15, Harvard Kennedy School of Government Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced that Manning’s fellowship had been rescinded.

“We invited Chelsea Manning 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,” Elmendorf said in a statement. “However, I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility.”

Manning was initially sentenced to more than 30 years in military prison for leaking the information, but the sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama before he left office. She has since been released.

Chelsea Manning, from her Twitter.

Chelsea Manning, from her Twitter.

“Unfortunately, I cannot be part of an organization — the Kennedy School — that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information,” Morell wrote in his resignation letter to Elmendorf.

“We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow,” the dean responded Sept. 15. “But 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.”

Morell served as the CIA’s acting director in two stints under Obama — one in 2011 and another between 2012 and 2013.

Former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta (right) and Michael Morell (left). DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett.

Michael Morell (left) and former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett.

Though she has served her time, Manning continues to be a controversial figure.

Some members of the US intelligence community and diplomatic corps decried the damage done when the documents Manning leaked went public — but anti-war and government transparency advocates celebrated her as a hero for exposing private deliberations that upended public claims by the US government about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Manning was one of several individuals named Sept. 13 as Kennedy School visiting fellows. Also included are former press secretary Sean Spicer, Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook, and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

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