Former CIA Deputy Director quits Harvard role in protest at Chelsea Manning's appointment

She has been appointed as a visiting fellow to discuss transgender rights in the US military 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 14 September 2017 19:52 BST
Chelsea Manning has been appointed as a Harvard Fellow, prompting a resignation from the school by former CIA official Mike Morell
Chelsea Manning has been appointed as a Harvard Fellow, prompting a resignation from the school by former CIA official Mike Morell

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell has resigned from Harvard over the school’s appointment of Chelsea Manning as a visting fellow.

Mr Morell is a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at the university.

In a resignation letter obtained by CBS News, Mr Morell wrote that he “fully support[s] Ms Manning’s rights as a transgender American, including the right to serve our country in the US military”.

However, he could not “be part of an organisation - The Kennedy School - that honours a convicted felon and a leaker of classified information.”

Ms Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was a US Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 after she leaked almost 750,000 military and diplomatic documents to the website Wikileaks that contained classified or sensitive information.

She began hormone therapy and transitioning while serving her 35-year confinement sentence.

Former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January 2017, saying that the seven years she had spent in prison from the date of her arrest in 2010 was sufficient punishment for her crimes.

Some hailed Ms Manning’s document leaks of military airstrikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and thousands of diplomatic cables as a win for transparency. Others called her a traitor to the US government.

Ms Manning had at one point been on trial for charges of “aiding the enemy” and could have gotten the death penalty had she been convicted.

Mr Morell wrote that “senior leaders in our military have stated publicly that the leaks by Ms Manning put the lives of US soldiers at risk”.

According to the Institute of Politics, a separate entity from the Belfer Centre at the Harvard Kennedy School, Ms Manning was invited as a fellow to discuss “issues of LGBTQ identity in the military”.

Donald Trump recently ordered a ban on transgender from serving in the US military, but gave Defence Secretary James Mattis six months to formulate a plan with how to follow through with the order.

Many active duty soldiers took to social media to say that there were plenty of transgender members of the US military who served honorably and were not convicted of espionage that would be in a better position to discuss the matter.

Mr Morell said her appointment would help “legitimise the criminal path” Ms Manning took.

“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 Mr Morell.

Ms Manning will be joined by former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook, and Donald Trump’s campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski.

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