Michael Morell, the former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, announced on Thursday that he was resigning from a fellowship at Harvard because he couldn’t stand the thought of the school also offering an unrelated fellowship to Chelsea Manning.
“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’s School’s Institute of Politics,” Morell wrote in a letter addressed to the school’s dean.
Manning was selected as a visiting fellow at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics for the 2017-2018 academic year. Morell, who spent more than three decades at the CIA, was serving as a senior fellow with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, an entirely different division of the Kennedy School.
Lest Manning’s presence sully the program—which bafflingly features other participants such as MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, ex-Trump aide Corey Lewandowski, and Fox News contributor Guy Benson—Morell said he would rather step down than stand by as the school aides 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.” He also cited very serious unnamed senior intelligence sources who say Manning’s disclosures to Wikileaks put the lives of American soldiers at risk.
This is where we tell you that this is all nonsense. Although it’s a frequently-used line of attack, the federal government has never publicly provided proof that Manning’s leaks—which were used by the most prestigious news outlets in the world and revealed, among other things, that civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were far higher than previously known—caused the deaths of any Americans.
Interestingly, there’s been loads of evidence that the CIA’s programs of indiscriminate drone strikes and brutal torture—both of which Morell has publicly and enthusiastically supported—caused a great deal of death and despair to people. But Manning is the immoral one.
Manning’s 35-year sentence was a punishment so severe that, when Barack Obama commuted it, he said it was without “historical precedent.”
Morell did go out of his way to emphasize that this is NOT!!! about the fact that Manning is transgender, writing “I fully support Ms. Manning’s rights as a transgender American, including the right to serve our country in the U.S. military.”
Manning, for her part, is taking some joy (as per usual) in weeding out the worst kinds of people with her participation in the program, although she hasn’t commented about Morell’s departure in particular.