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article imageHarvard revokes Chelsea Manning fellowship invitation after criticism

By AFP     Sep 15, 2017 in World

Harvard University revoked convicted US intelligence leaker and transgender activist Chelsea Manning's visiting fellowship position on Friday after sharp criticism from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Dean Douglas Elmendorf of the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School of Government said naming Manning as one of 12 new visiting fellows "was a mistake," after CIA Director Mike Pompeo accused the university of honoring a "traitor" and cancelled a speaking appearance on Thursday.

Pompeo's move followed former CIA acting director Mike Morrell's announcement that he was stepping down as a senior fellow at The Belfer Center, part of the Kennedy School, for the same reason.

-'Stamp of approval'-

Pompeo said in a statement that his conscience would not allow him to "betray the trust" of the Central Intelligence Agency staff by appearing to support Harvard's decision by joining a Kennedy School forum late Thursday.

"Ms Manning betrayed her country and was found guilty of 17 serious crimes for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks," he said in a statement.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Wikileaks leaker Chelsea Manning is an "American traitor" an...
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Wikileaks leaker Chelsea Manning is an "American traitor" and should not be given a Harvard fellowship

Pompeo, who attended Harvard Law School, said it was "shameful" that Harvard gave Manning's actions its "stamp of approval."

Manning was named a "visiting fellow" Thursday morning, joining 11 others accorded the honor. Awardees attend a number of scholarly events at the university and share their knowledge and experience with students.

Others named for the 2017-2018 academic year include former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and television anchor Joe Scarborough.

"I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake," Elmendorf said in a statement released shortly after midnight.

"I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific."

"This decision now is not intended as a compromise between competing interest groups but as the correct way for the Kennedy School to emphasize its longstanding approach to visiting speakers while recognizing that the title of Visiting Fellow implies a certain recognition."

- 'Disgraceful even for Harvard' -

Manning lashed out at Harvard's decision via Twitter, accusing the institution of repressing "marginalized voices."

"This is what a military/police/intel state looks like. The CIA determines what is and is not taught at Harvard," she said in a tweet filled with emojis.

Manning's lawyer Chase Strangio called the move "disgraceful even for Harvard."

"That they are unwilling to stand by their decision is a testament to the disturbing control the CIA has over them," he said.

Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, was convicted of espionage and other charges in 2013 for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic communications and other documents to WikiLeaks three years earlier.

Her revelations embarrassed the US government and spurred rifts in key bilateral relations. But they also bared covered-up misdeeds and possible crimes by US troops and allies in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The move made Manning a hero to anti-war and anti-secrecy activists, but US establishment figures branded her a traitor.

The former army intelligence analyst pleaded guilty at trial and was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison.

Her sentence was commuted in January by president Barack Obama to seven years dating to her 2010 arrest, and she was freed in May.

Obama said justice "has been served" with the time she spent in prison.

Manning "took responsibility for her crime," he said, adding "the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received," Obama said at the time.

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