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Harvard Caves After Backlash Over Manning Visit

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Harvard Caves After Backlash Over Manning Visit

Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government changed their mind on offering a visiting fellowship to Chelsea Manning, the former military intelligence analyst who was in prison for seven years because of leaking classified government secrets. They rescinded their offer in the wake of a backlash from CIA Director Mike Pompeo and some others.

“I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” Douglas W. Elmendorf, the school’s dean, wrote in a statement released Friday.

A visiting fellow appears on Harvard’s campus for speaking engagements and events, they interact with undergraduate students on “topical issues of today,” according to the school’s announcement of Manning’s visiting fellowship. The dean withdrew the invitation after realizing that “many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific,” though the school had not intended to “honor [Manning] in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds.”

Manning will still be welcome to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak at their John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, according to Dean Elmendorf. “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 added.

Chelsea Manning’s Twitter site accused the school of suppressing “marginalized voices” and caving to pressure from the CIA.

The Harvard dean’s decision came only hours after Pompeo canceled his planned appearance at the Kennedy School and criticized the school for bringing attention to Manning. Pompeo, an alumni of the school, branded Manning as an “American traitor” whose actions and ethos contradicted the intelligence agency’s most fundamental and sacred values.

“Harvard’s actions,” Pompeo wrote in a letter, “implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law. … I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”

Earlier that same day, Michael Morell, a former CIA leader who served for more than three decades, resigned from his position at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

“I have 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,” wrote Morell. Pompeo lauded Morell’s decision in his letter saying that Harvard “traded a respected individual who served his country with dignity for one who served it with disgrace.”

Manning (29) is transgender. She entered the military as an Army private first class named Bradley Manning. She was convicted of espionage and given 35 years in prison after giving thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Those who support Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, believe Manning is a champion for transparency and see her actions as a protest for government overreach.

Manning only served seven years because President Barack Obama commuted her prison sentence before leaving office. Since being freed, she has become a leading voice for LGBT rights and writes about “the social, technological and economic ramifications of Artificial Intelligence.” She has said that “a responsibility to the public” compelled her to leak government secrets.

Did the Harvard dean make the right call in rescinding the invitation to Chelsea Manning?

Credit: Washington Post

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