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Chelsea Manning’s Short Tenure as Harvard Fellow Terminated

Harvard

Chelsea Manning, who in her previous identity as Army Private First Class Bradley Manning committed espionage against the United States, had her fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School revoked after a mass outcry.

I first heard of the controversy yesterday evening, after former acting CIA director Mike Morrell resigned in protest:

Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell announced his resignation Thursday as a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government over its hiring of Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow.

“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 School’s Institute of Politics,” Morell wrote in a letter to the school’s dean, Douglas Elmendorf.

“Ms. Manning was found guilty of 17 serious crimes, including six counts of espionage, for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, an entity that CIA Director Mike Pompeo says operates like an adversarial foreign intelligence service,” Morell wrote.

Pompeo said in a letter to Harvard on Thursday that he backed Morell’s decision, adding that he was withdrawing from a Harvard public forum later Thursday night.

While I have served my country as a soldier in the United States Army and will continue to defend Ms. Manning’s right to offer a defense of why she chose this path, I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions,” Pompeo wrote.

My initial reaction was to applaud Morell. But Elmendorf’s explanation leads me to think that this was essentially a misunderstanding:

Some visitors to the Kennedy School are invited for just a few hours to give a talk in the School’s Forum or in one of our lecture halls or seminar rooms; other visitors stay for a full day, a few days, a semester, or longer. Among the visitors who stay more than a few hours, some are designated as “Visiting Fellows,” “Resident Fellows,” “Nonresident Fellows,” and the like. At any point in time, the Kennedy School has hundreds of fellows playing many different roles at the School. In general across the School, we do not view the title of “Fellow” as conveying a special honor; rather, it is a way to describe some people who spend more than a few hours at the School.

We invited Chelsea Manning to spend a day at the Kennedy School. Specifically, we invited her to meet with students and others who are interested in talking with her, and then to give remarks in the Forum where the audience would have ample opportunity—as with all of our speakers—to ask hard questions and challenge what she has said and done. On that basis, we also named Chelsea Manning a Visiting Fellow. We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow.

However, I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility. 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. In particular, I think we should weigh, for each potential visitor, what members of the Kennedy School community could learn from that person’s visit against the extent to which that person’s conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire. This balance is not always easy to determine, and reasonable people can disagree about where to strike the balance for specific people. Any determination should start with the presumption that more speech is better than less. In retrospect, though, I think my assessment of that balance for Chelsea Manning was wrong. Therefore, we are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a Visiting Fellow—and the perceived honor that it implies to some people—while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the Forum.

While I remain of the view that Manning is a traitor to her country and did not deserve the presidential commutation she received in the 11th hour of the Obama presidency, I agree with Elmendorf that she is a noteworthy and controversial figure and that HKS students might gain something useful from having a dialog with her. Indeed, that might well be true of figures I find far more loathsome than Manning.

I would, however, go slightly further than Elmendorf in rethinking the policy of awarding the “Visiting Fellow” title to guest speakers. HKS is, at least in my limited experience with these things, an anomaly. When I hear the title “Visiting Fellow,” I presume that the individual has a substantial relationship with the institution for a term of at least a semester and more likely at least an academic year. So, beyond being more careful not to award the honorific to particularly controversial figures like Manning, it simply ought not award it at all to those who simply come to spend a day at the institution.

If Merrell understood the practice and still resigned, he overreacted. If he simply misunderstood, though, one hopes that he is allowed to retract his resignation and remain with HKS. Certainly, the student body has even more to learn from his vast experience in government than they do from Manning.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    Basically agreed. The “Visiting Fellow” sounds like a mostly overblown title for “Guest Speaker”. Sean Spicer was also invited, and I’d suggest one could learn more from Manning than that professional liar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

  2. The other Visiting Fellows announced were Spicer, Corey Lewandowski, Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook, and the Mayor of Kansas City, Mo.

    I’m basically with James on this, but I understand why some people reacted negatively to Manning’s inclusion on the list. But for the crime she committed, she would be just another person who served in the military during the Iraq War who from all appearances didn’t really have a noteworthy career in uniform. Not sure that justifies an honorific like this appointment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. The other Visiting Fellows announced were Spicer, Corey Lewandowski, Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook, and the Mayor of Kansas City, Mo.

    I’m basically with James on this, but I understand why some people reacted negatively to Manning’s inclusion on the list. But for the crime she committed, she would be just another person who served in the military during the Iraq War who from all appearances didn’t really have a noteworthy career in uniform. Not sure that justifies an honorific like this appointment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. MarkedMan says:

    Well said

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    “Ms. Manning was found guilty of 17 serious crimes, including six counts of espionage, for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, an entity that CIA Director Mike Pompeo says operates like an adversarial foreign intelligence service,” Morell wrote.

    Michael Morell, on the other hand, is a war criminal:

    Senate intelligence committee rebuffs former CIA official’s defense of detainee treatment

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  6. Tyrell says:

    If some of these students and other people want to have some sort of discussion or chat with this Manning I would suggest a disco hall or motorcycle bar. Not at any institution that professes to be a place of higher learning.
    Someone needs to check the ivy at Harvard: looking kind of weak.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Well, no. First, Mannibg was charged and convicted; Morrell wasn’t. Second, Morrell simply defended CIA practices.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    As director of the CIA, he personally oversaw the organized commission of acts that are war crimes. Ones sufficiently severe, in fact, that the US has previously executed people for engaging in them. He has since then been engaged in an ongoing campaign to cover up these acts and lie to the American people.

    The fact he was never prosecuted doesn’t not change his status as a war criminal. It just makes him a war criminal that got away with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

  9. Davebo says:

    @James Joyner: You can delegate authority but not responsibility.

    Pretty sure you’ve heard that one before James.

    Also..

    Second, Morrell simply defended blatantly and repeatedly lied about CIA practices.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  10. Davebo says:

    As for Manning and Harvard. I have a hard time getting too worked up about the actions of an investment management company that passes out diplomas on the side.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  11. James Pearce says:

    I was in favor of her commutation, but I am not in favor of making her a public figure. What is so bad about fading into obscurity?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  12. wr says:

    Odd. I thought that universities had to embrace every possible guest speaker, no matter how provocative or loathesome others found them, or they were violating free speech and moving this country closer to fascism.

    Or is that only the case when the speaker is a right-wing outrage troll?

    I’m so confused.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  13. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: @Davebo: Morrell served in his key leadership posts during the Obama administration, long after the “enhanced interrogation techniques” of the early Bush GWOT era had been ended. Before that, he was on the Intelligence side of the CIA, not the Operations side. That is, he was an analyst, not an operator. He would have nothing to do with implementing the policies he defended; merely with assessing the information thereby gleaned. I’ve been anti-torture going back to my cadet training in 1984 and opposed the practices under the Bush administration once they came out. But Morrell is simply stating an opinion that’s not particularly uncommon in his former line of work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I have to admit that reading that list of names my first instinct is to push all of them off the top of a tall cliff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner:

    Your defense of Manning would be appropriate if…you know…ANYONE HAD ACTUALLY BEEN HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE APPARENT WAR CRIMES COMMITTED BY THE UNITED STATES.

    In the absence of that, it seems entirely justified for Morrell to carry the label of “war criminal” around for the rest of his life since it’s the only damn thing we can do to prevent such behavior from happening again.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  16. MBunge says:

    @MBunge: DOH! I mean Morrell, of course.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  17. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge: This just doesn’t make any sense. As noted, Morrell didn’t commit war crimes. He was a CIA senior analyst and presidential briefer during the period in question. As CIA deputy director and acting director later, in a subsequent administration, he argued that the polices engaged in by the organization were in fact beneficial. That isn’t a war crime. It’s not even war crime-adjacent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. James Joyner says:

    @wr:

    Odd. I thought that universities had to embrace every possible guest speaker, no matter how provocative or loathesome others found them, or they were violating free speech and moving this country closer to fascism.

    I’m not sure who has articulated this viewpoint. Many have, however, argued that, having been invited to speak on campus, guests of the university ought be treated accordingly and allowed to speak without being shouted down by hecklers, much less subject to physical intimidation. I endorse the latter view.

    In the particular case of Manning, I note in the OP that I find the argument that she would have something interesting and useful to say to the students of HKS persuasive. My only objection is in awarding the misleading honorific “Visiting Fellow” for a one-day stay. But I go on to make that a general point, applicable beyond Manning’s case.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  19. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    Second, Morrell simply defended CIA practices.

    Ah, the Nuremberg Defense. How’d that work out last time? (Although, I do have to not that being on the side of the putative “winner” is BIGLY different.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  20. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @wr: No need to be confused. They kept her speaking engagement; they just ditched the fluff appointment title. (And I have to assume that she won’t be getting an honorary degree for this star turn.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  21. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Having read your later comments on Morrell’s jobs at the CIA, I hereby retract this comment. My apologies, I should have read further.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  22. Franklin says:

    @Doug Mataconis: One might note that Corey Lewandowski’s claim to fame is that he assaulted a female reporter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner: There is no substantial difference between those who commit a crime and those who knowingly provide cover for the act.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  24. James Joyner says:

    @Ben Wolf: But by your definition, President Obama is a war criminal. Like Obama, I think we violated our laws and values in the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” We indeed “tortured some folks.” But, like Obama, I think prosecuting senior administration officials for making hard choices, let alone subordinates for carrying them out, highly problematical. But, again, this is all rather tangential to the controversy at hand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. James Joyner says:

    @Ben Wolf: But by your definition, President Obama is a war criminal. Like Obama, I think we violated our laws and values in the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” We indeed “tortured some folks.” But, like Obama, I think prosecuting senior administration officials for making hard choices, let alone subordinates for carrying them out, highly problematical. But, again, this is all rather tangential to the controversy at hand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “I’m not sure who has articulated this viewpoint.”

    Have you met Jenos, JKB, MBunge, and the rest of the right-wing trolls who hang around here? Have you ever turned on Fox News?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. John430 says:

    Typical knee-jerk leftism here. Anyone who believes they are protecting the people of the United States are BAD. Those who betray the American people-GOOD.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  28. george says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Chomsky has said every American President since the end of the second world war is a war criminal (going by standard of Nuremberg trials). I suspect he’s right. Probably every CIA director, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State as well.

    If not being a war criminal is the standard (and I agree it might be a good one) then a lot of folks aren’t going to speaking at Harvard.

    My point being, people seem to divide war criminals into two groups: those I agree with, and those I disagree with. Which reduces its moral effect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  29. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner:

    But by your definition, President Obama is a war criminal.

    I agree. Any war of aggression is a crime and every president in my lifetime is guilty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. deschutes says:

    @James Joyner: The author of this article has a strong bias against Manning, and strong sympathies for CIA spooks like the repulsive Mike Morell, the CIA spook who has a long and sordid history of “serving” his country. For example-

    • publicly defending CIA torture and rendition programs
    • avid supporter of rectal “feeding” of CIA/Guantanamo prisoners
    • was the CIA analyst who gave Colin Powell the lies about Iraq WMDs
    • supporter and public proponent of targeted drone assassinations

    Manning is a whistleblower who revealed US military war crimes in Iraq, someone to be honored. Morell is a duplicitous CIA thug who loves torture

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. Barry says:

    @Franklin: “Basically agreed. The “Visiting Fellow” sounds like a mostly overblown title for “Guest Speaker”. Sean Spicer was also invited, and I’d suggest one could learn more from Manning than that professional liar.”

    Worse, incompetent professional liar. As ‘oral servicer’ go, Spicer was not a high-class ‘escort’, but somebody who worked for crack.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. Barry says:

    “…for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, an entity that CIA Director Mike Pompeo says operates like an adversarial foreign intelligence service,” Morell wrote.”

    Well, the President likes it, and treats it like friendly intelligence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “Second, Morrell simply defended CIA practices.”

    In a court of law, ‘not convicted’ means something. This, and Harvard, are not courts of law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Tyrell says:

    @Ben Wolf: Weird, illogical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0