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Harvard Caves to CIA Pressure, Revokes Chelsea Manning Title

Manning, the transgender former soldier who leaked thousands of diplomatic cables, lost her honorary title.

CAMBRIDGE, MA - JANUARY 27: Snow falls in Harvard Yard on January 27, 2015 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Boston, and much of the Northeast, is being hit with heavy snow from Winter Storm Juno. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - JANUARY 27: Snow falls in Harvard Yard on January 27, 2015 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Boston, and much of the Northeast, is being hit with heavy snow from Winter Storm Juno. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government revoked Chelsea Manning’s status as a “visiting fellow” on Friday, despite insisting the title was not intended as an honor. Extending the title “was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” the school’s dean, Douglas W. Elmendorf, wrote in a statement.

On Sept. 13, Harvard University extended an invitation to Manning to speak to students in a short lecture series, igniting an unexpected firestorm. Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, leaked thousands of diplomatic cables revealing details about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although her title is revoked, Manning is still invited to speak to students at Harvard.

Harvard’s invite to Manning sparked a sharp reaction from Michael Morrell, a former CIA deputy director, who resigned from his position as a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center. “I cannot be a part of an organization….that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information,” Morell wrote in a statement.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo came to the same conclusion, pulling out of at an event at the university at the last minute. “Ms. Manning stands against everything the brave men and women I serve alongside stand for,” he wrote in a letter to the University, which was distributed to press.

“This has nothing to do with Ms. Manning’s identity as a transgender person,” wrote Pompeo, who recently under fire after reports he is not prioritizing diversity at the agency. “It has everything to do with her identity as a traitor to the United States of America and my loyalty to the officers of the CIA.”

After her title was revoked, Manning suggested in a Tweet that the CIA, in an expression of Orwellian power over American academic institutions, “determines what is and is not taught at Harvard.”

The Harvard controversy sparked a quick reaction from both critics and supporters of Manning.

“I think Morell is right and understandable to view this as an offense and embarrassment and I admire his willingness to stand behind that,” wrote Susan Hennessey, a former attorney at the National Security Agency’s office of General Counsel in a tweet.

The problem, she and others insisted, was the platform and distinction Manning had been given.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking nearly 750,000 cables to WikiLeaks. She served 7 years at an Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, before her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama.

Pentagon research concluded Manning’s actions did not lead to any individuals being killed by enemy forces after being named in the release, and a newly published Pentagon analysis suggests the disclosures didn’t have “strategic impact” on the wars in the Middle East.

Harvard is also host to a number of other former CIA and intelligence professionals, including former agency director, David Petraeus, now a senior fellow at the Belfer Center. Petraeus pled guilty in 2015 to a misdemeanor for mishandling classified information after he gave his biographer and lover notebooks that contained classified information.

The Justice Department said the information he provided, if published, could have led to “exceptionally grave damage.”

Other prominent former intelligence officials, including President Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, and the former deputy director of the CIA, David S. Cohen, are also fellows at Harvard. They have not weighed in on the controversy, however.

Pompeo has been vocal about the CIA’s opposition to Wikileaks, Julian Assange’s transparency organization. However, during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, he cited WikiLeaks to attack Hillary Clinton.

“Interesting to see same GOP leaders who embraced Wikileaks during campaign attacking Harvard over Chelsea Manning,” Ben Rhodes, a foreign policy advisor and speechwriter for Obama, wrote in a tweet.

Photo Credit: MADDIE MEYER/Getty Images