Sep 15, 2017
In a move called "moral cowardice" and in the wake of objections from the current and a former head of the CIA--an agency that has tried to and successfully assassinated people, helped overthrow democratic governments, and sowed chaos throughout the world as the U.S. government's clandestine enforcer--Harvard University overnight rescinded a fellowship invitation to Chelsea Manning, an Army whistleblower who exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and spent more than seven years in prison for her decision to release classified military and State Department documents to the press.
"How cowardly to be bullied by the CIA like this," declared Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, in response to Harvard's decision.
And Manning herself was quick to speak out:
\u201chonored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting @harvard fellow \ud83d\ude0c they chill marginalized voices under @cia pressure \ud83d\ude0e\ud83c\udf08\ud83d\udc95 #WeGotThis https://t.co/7ViF3GaSec\u201d— Chelsea E. Manning (@Chelsea E. Manning) 1505456452
\u201cthis is what a military/police/intel state looks like \ud83d\udd75\ufe0f\ud83d\udd75\ufe0f\u200d\u2640\ufe0f the @cia determines what is and is not taught at @harvard \ud83d\ude0e\ud83c\udf08\ud83d\udc95 #WeGotThis https://t.co/09xIJGlhgf\u201d— Chelsea E. Manning (@Chelsea E. Manning) 1505457835
ACLU staff attorney, who has represented Manning for years, expressed disgust in a statement posted online:
The decision to disinvite Manning from the fellowship, came after CIA Director Mike Pompeo withdrew from a speaking engagement at the university on Thursday night and former director agency chief Michael Morrell announced his resignation as a Harvard senior fellow, also in protest.
In his resignation letter, Morrell, said it was his "right, indeed my duty, to argue that the School's invitation [to Manning] is wholly inappropriate."
\u201cFormer CIA acting director Mike Morell resigns from Harvard over Chelsea Manning [@xychelsea] appointment. More: https://t.co/Ddd1KoOlBl\u201d— WikiLeaks (@WikiLeaks) 1505411059
In a statement posted to Harvard's website early Friday morning, Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf officially rescinded Manning's fellowship invitation, calling the earlier honor a "mistake."
Elmedorf wrote that "I still think that having her speak in the Forum and talk with students is consistent with our longstanding approach, which puts great emphasis on the value of hearing from a diverse collection of people. 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." He continued:
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. In particular, I think we should weigh, for each potential visitor, what members of the Kennedy School community could learn from that person's visit against the extent to which that person's conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire. This balance is not always easy to determine, and reasonable people can disagree about where to strike the balance for specific people. Any determination should start with the presumption that more speech is better than less. In retrospect, though, I think my assessment of that balance for Chelsea Manning was wrong. Therefore, we are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a Visiting Fellow--and the perceived honor that it implies to some people--while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the Forum.
Jesselyn Radack, director of the Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at the watchdog group ExposeFacts, called it "ironic that Michael Morell, a former CIA leader involved in torture and drone killings, had a crisis of 'conscience' that prompted Harvard's Kennedy School to withdraw its invitation to humanitarian Chelsea Manning."
The university, Radack continued, "obviously offered Chelsea Manning a visiting fellowship because of the valuable contribution she could make, and revoked it under pressure from the CIA. So much for academic freedom."
On social media, other critics blasted the university's decision to side with the CIA, with many pointing out that Harvard University has given out plenty of fellowships over the years to people who have committed what should be considered "horrific" offenses in their careers.
\u201cThoughts on Harvard's cowardly & disgraceful decision to withdraw @xychelsea's fellowship.\u201d— Chase Strangio (@Chase Strangio) 1505456560
\u201c"Due to a clerical error we thought she'd perpetrated war crimes, but it turned out she EXPOSED them, and Harvard WILL NOT stand for that" https://t.co/0kSSe4BotU\u201d— pixelatedboat aka \u201cmr tweets\u201d (@pixelatedboat aka \u201cmr tweets\u201d) 1505450125
\u201cHere's who Harvard is losing because they are gaining Chelsea Manning. I think that's what they call a win-win. https://t.co/8qVDyRAzmr\u201d— Trevor Timm (@Trevor Timm) 1505437430
\u201cBut the honorific is still fine for Corey Lewandowsk? If title "fellow" now conveys endorsement, Harvard is doing a lot of endorsing. https://t.co/j3IxPQe6I4\u201d— Josh Block (@Josh Block) 1505466916
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