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Politics & Government

Harvard Withdraws Chelsea Manning's Fellowship After CIA Director Backlash


Harvard's Kennedy School of Government attracts many high-profile government officials. They come to teach and lecture, and now some of them are refusing to do that. They're upset that Harvard has granted a visiting fellowship to a famous felon convicted of leaking classified information. As Mark Herz of member station WGBH reports, Harvard now says it was wrong.

MARK HERZ, BYLINE: The Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics announced its latest group of visiting fellows on Wednesday. Among them was Chelsea Manning, the former Army private convicted for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. CIA Director Mike Pompeo was scheduled to speak at the Kennedy School last night, but he was a no-show.

In a scathing letter to Harvard, Pompeo said his conscience would not permit him to appear. Pompeo said Manning is a traitor, and it's, quote, "shameful of Harvard to put its stamp of approval on her actions." Another protest came from former CIA Director Michael Morell, who resigned his Kennedy School fellowship yesterday. And Kit Parker, a professor of biology and applied physics, resigned his faculty affiliation with the Kennedy School.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL KIT PARKER: Chelsea Manning released papers and revealed the identities of intelligence operators in a war that's still going to this day.

HERZ: Parker is a veteran of two tours of duty in Afghanistan and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.

PARKER: And now she will walk the halls of the Harvard Kennedy School with the National Security fellows, U.S. military officers who have served downrange, maybe whose identities might themselves have been compromised by her.

HERZ: Early today, the school's dean, Douglas Elmendorf, said he had made a mistake by offering Manning the visiting fellowship which some perceived as an honor. But Elmendorf said she is still invited to speak because the Kennedy School wants to hear from speakers who have influenced world events even if their actions are abhorrent to some members of the community. At a lunch table outside the school this afternoon, health policy Ph.D. student Emilie Aguirre said dropping the fellow title for Manning struck a compromise.

EMILIE AGUIRRE: I see why that for some speakers, people would not want to even give them a platform. In this case, I think it probably makes sense as a middle ground to not have the title and still have her come speak so that the viewpoint can be heard.

HERZ: Manning was sentenced to 35 years for leaking the classified documents. President Obama commuted her sentence after seven years, and she was released in May. Manning is transgender. In his letter, Pompeo said that had nothing to do with his decision. But today, Manning tweeted that she was, quote, "honored to be the first disinvited trans woman visiting Harvard fellow. They chill marginalized voices under CIA pressure," unquote. For NPR News, I'm Mark Herz in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.