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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and sowed chaos throughout the world as the U.S. government’s clandestine enforcer—Harvard University overnight rescinded a fellowship invitation to Chelsea Manning, an Army whistleblower who exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and spent more than seven years in prison for her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:
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.”
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a statement posted to Harvard’s website early Friday morning, Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf officially rescinded Manning’s fellowship invitation, calling the earlier honor a “mistake.”
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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:
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.
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