September 14, 2017 at 9:42 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Ex-CIA chief resigns from Harvard over hiring of Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning, gay news, Washington Blade

Chelsea Manning (Photo courtesy Instagram)

A former director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration has resigned from a senior position at Harvard Kennedy School of Government over its hiring of Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow.

Michael Morell, who served as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency as well as its acting director twice, first in 2011 and then from 2012 to 2013, signaled his intent to resign as a senior fellow in a Sept. 14 letter to the school, according to letter obtained by CBS News.

“Unfortunately, I cannot be part of an organization — The Kennedy School — that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information, Ms. Chelsea Manning, by inviting her to be a Visiting Fellow at the Kennedy Institute’s Harvard School of Politics,” Morell writes. “Ms. Manning was found guilty of 17 counts of serious crimes, including six counts of espionage, for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, an entity CIA Director Mike Pompeo operates like an adversarial foreign intelligence service.”

It’s not only the action taken against Harvard for its hiring of Manning. On Thursday night, CIA director Mike Pompeo, who has a law degree from Harvard, announced he would not speak at that night’s forum, when he was scheduled to talk.

“My conscience and duty to the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency will not permit me to betray their trust by appearing to support Harvard’s decision with my appearance at tonight’s event,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Manning, named Wednesday as a visiting fellow to the Harvard Institute of Politics, which is part of the Kennedy School, has been a controversial figure.

Supporters say a video of a Baghdad airstrike she made public exposed war crimes the United States committed during the Iraq war, but opponents — including Morell in his letter — point to a subsequent dump of 251,287 State Department cables as evidence she was indiscriminately leaking information and jeopardized the lives and work of U.S. intelligence analysts.

“Senior leaders in our military have stated publicly that the leaks by Ms. Manning put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk,” Morell writes. “Upon her conviction, then Rep. Mike Rogers and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee at the time, praised the verdict, saying ‘justice has been served today.’ They added: ‘Pfc. Manning harmed our national security, violated the public’s trust and now stands convicted of multiple serious crimes.'”

Until May, Manning was incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas as she served out a sentence of 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. Manning was able to get out of prison early after serving seven years as a result of clemency from former President Obama.

Manning served more time in prison than anyone else in U.S. history convicted of leaking classified information. According to the ACLU, she spent 2,545 days in prison, or 6 years, 11 months and 18 days. That includes time spent in prison during her trial and after she received her sentence.

Over the course of her time in Fort Leavenworth, a men’s prison, Manning faced challenges as a result of her gender identity after coming out as transgender on the first day of her sentence. Manning is confirmed to have attempted suicide at least twice, once in July and again as she was sentenced to solitary confinement in November for that initial attempt.

The Army initially refused to provide her with hormone therapy, but agreed to provide the treatment last year as a result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. The Army also initially refused to grant her gender reassignment surgery, but reversed its decision in September after she underwent a hunger strike.

At a time when President Trump has banned transgender people from the U.S. military, Morell insists in his letter he “fully support[s] Ms. Manning’s rights as a transgender America, including the right to serve our country in the U.S. military” as well as her rights to discuss publicly the nature of her crimes.

“But it is my right, indeed my duty, to argue that the school’s decision is wholly inappropriate and to protest it by resigning from the Kennedy School — in order to make the fundamental point that leaking classified information is disgraceful and damaging to our nation,” Morell writes.

The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the Kennedy School in response Morell’s resignation.

Manning, who is a prolific social media user, was succinct on Twitter in response to the news developments.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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