Harvard rescinds Chelsea Manning's visiting fellowship after CIA chief protests

University withdraws honorary title, but still invites whistleblower to ‘spend a day’ speaking on campus, after CIA director cancels event over ‘traitor’

Harvard University has rescinded an offer to make Chelsea Manning a visiting fellow after the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, cancelled an appearance at the university.

Pompeo had been scheduled to appear at Harvard’s John F Kennedy school of government to give a speech on global security concerns, but withdrew on Thursday, calling the university’s invitation to Manning a “shameful stamp of approval”.

On Wednesday, the military whistleblower had been among a group of 10 – including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski – invited to speak at the institute of politics at Harvard’s Kennedy school as visiting fellows.

But hours after Pompeo’s withdrawal, the university stripped Manning of her title.

“I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” said the dean of the Kennedy School, Douglas Elmendorf.

“In general across the School, we do not view the title of ‘fellow’ as conveying a special honour; rather, it is a way to describe some people who spend more than a few hours at the School.

“[However] we are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a visiting fellow – and the perceived honour that it implies to some people – while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the school’s forum.”

He said their invitation to Manning was not a political endorsement, but was aimed at letting students “engage with people with fundamentally different worldviews”.

In response, Manning tweeted that she was “honoured” to be disinvited.

honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting @harvard fellow 😌 they chill marginalized voices under @cia pressure 😎🌈💕 #WeGotThis https://t.co/7ViF3GaSec

— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) September 15, 2017

In a letter to Harvard on Thursday, Pompeo called Manning an “American traitor” and said he “could not appear to support Harvard’s decision” by attending the event.

Earlier in the day, the former deputy director of the CIA Mike Morell also resigned from his fellowship at Harvard’s Belfer school over Manning’s invitation.

CIA Director Withdraws from Harvard Kennedy School Forum pic.twitter.com/N7YKyGy9H4

— CIA (@CIA) September 15, 2017

Pompeo said the whistleblower, who was convicted by court-martial in 2013 of disclosing classified documents, had endangered lives.

“Many intelligence and military officials believe those leaks put the lives of the patriotic men and women at the CIA in danger,” he said. “I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”

Morrell also wrote to the university to announce his resignation on the same day. “I cannot be part of an organisation – the Kennedy school – that honours a convicted felon and leaker of classified information,” he said.

“I fully support Ms Manning’s right to publicly discuss the circumstances that surrounded her crimes as well as the institute of politics’ right to invite whomever they believe will further the education of Harvard’s student body. But it is my right, indeed my duty, to argue that the school’s decision is wholly inappropriate.”

In a recent interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Manning said she had been prompted to give 700,000 military and state department documents to WikiLeaks because of the human toll of the “death, destruction and mayhem” she had seen as an army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

In May this year, she was released from a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence – the harshest sentence in US history for an official leak – which was commuted by Barack Obama in his final days in office.

On Thursday, Douglas Elmendorf, the dean of the Kennedy school of government, was forced to call off Pompeo’s event at the 11th hour.

Minutes after the event was to begin, he took to the stage and told the audience Pompeo was not there and would not speak. “We will try to reschedule it as soon as we can, but the CIA director, is obviously, in charge of his schedule,” Elmendorf said. “We are not in charge of his schedule and he gets to decide when and where he speaks, of course.”


Naaman Zhou and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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