September 15, 2017 04:17 GMT by theguardian.com

Chelsea Manning fellowship: CIA head cancels Harvard speech over offer to 'traitor'

Chelsea Manning fellowship: CIA head cancels Harvard speech over offer to 'traitor'

Mike Pompeo tells university he believes it is ‘shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions’

The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, has cancelled an appearance at Harvard University over its decision to make military whistleblower Chelsea Manning a visiting fellow.

Pompeo had been scheduled to appear at Harvard’s John F Kennedy school of government to discuss allegations of Russian involvement in last year’s US presidential election, the nuclear standoff with North Korea and other global security concerns.

But in a letter to the university on Thursday, Pompeo called Manning an “American traitor” and said he “could not appear to support Harvard’s decision” by attending the event.

Earlier in the day, the former deputy director of the CIA Mike Morell also resigned from his fellowship at Harvard’s Belfer school over Manning’s invitation.

On Wednesday, Manning was among a group of people – including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski – to be named visiting fellows at the institute of politics at Harvard’s Kennedy school.

The yearly program invites fellows to the university to meet students and discuss politics and other topics.

“[Manning] speaks on the social, technological and economic ramifications of artificial intelligence [and] as a trans woman, she advocates for queer and transgender rights,” the Kennedy school said.

On Thursday, Pompeo protested the appointment of the whistleblower, who was convicted by court-martial in 2013 of disclosing classified documents.

“Many intelligence and military officials believe those leaks put the lives of the patriotic men and women at the CIA in danger,” he said. “I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.

“This has nothing to do with Ms Manning’s identity as a transgender person. It has everything to do with her identity as a traitor to the United States of America.”

Morrell also wrote to the university to announce his resignation on the same day. “I cannot be part of an organisation – the Kennedy school – that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information,” he said.

“I fully support Ms Manning’s right to publicly discuss the circumstances that surrounded her crimes as well as the institute of politics’ right to invite whomever they believe will further the education of Harvard’s student body. But it is my right, indeed my duty, to argue that the school’s decision is wholly inappropriate.”

In response, Manning simply tweeted “Good”.

In a recent interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Manning said she had been prompted to give 700,000 military and state department documents to WikiLeaks because of the human toll of the “death, destruction and mayhem” she had seen as an army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

In May this year, she was released from a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence – the harshest sentence in US history for an official leak – which was commuted by Barack Obama in his final days in office.

On Thursday, Douglas Elmendorf, the dean of the Kennedy school of government, was forced to call off Pompeo’s event at the 11th hour.

Minutes after the event was to begin, he took to the stage and told the audience Pompeo was not there and would not speak. “We will try to reschedule it as soon as we can, but the CIA director, is obviously, in charge of his schedule,” Elmendorf said. “We are not in charge of his schedule and he gets to decide when and where he speaks, of course.”

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