A former acting director of the CIA just quit his job as an expert at Harvard University because of Chelsea Manning. That’s because yesterday Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government hired Manning as a visiting fellow — and Michael Morell decided he couldn’t work there anymore.
“Senior leaders have stated publicly that the leaks by Ms. Manning put the lives of US soldiers at risk,” Morrell wrote in a letter to Douglas Elmendorf, the dean of the Kennedy School. “The Kennedy School’s decision will assist Ms. Manning in her long-standing effort to legitimize the criminal path that she took to prominence, an attempt that may encourage others to leak classified information as well.”
“I have an obligation to my conscience — and I believe to the country — to stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information,” he continued.
Manning gained notoriety in 2010 when she stole classified intelligence and handed it over to a then-obscure anti-secrecy group known as WikiLeaks, which started publishing the documents and videos on its site and proceeded to make almost all of them public. The move put WikiLeaks on the map and made its founder, Julian Assange, a global celebrity. And it turned Manning into both a beloved and hated figure.
The documents she obtained showed the US didn’t investigate “hundreds” of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and even murder by Iraqi police; that Yemen’s president secretly allowed the United States to conduct counterterrorism operations inside his country even as he railed against America in public; and that a 2007 US Army helicopter attack killed 12 people, including two Reuters journalists — an incident WikiLeaks called “Collateral Murder.”
In July 2013, Manning was convicted by a military judge on 17 of 22 charges including “violations of the Espionage Act, for copying and disseminating classified military field reports, State Department cables, and assessments of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” President Barack Obama commuted her sentence on January 17 by nearly 30 years. She was released on May 17.
Morrell, a top intelligence official when Manning released the documents, believes he can’t in good conscience work at the same organization as Manning. It’s a stark example of how deeply Manning’s actions affected officials at the highest levels of the US government.
Harvard may have just gained a controversial celebrity, but it also lost a distinguished public servant.