Washington, Sep 15 (IANS) Harvard University on Friday rescinded a visiting fellowship offered to Chelsea Manning, the transgender US soldier convicted of espionage for leaking national security secrets, after it faced strong backlash.
“I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” Douglas W. Elmendorf, the Kennedy school’s dean, wrote in a 700-word statement released earlier on Friday.
The Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics on Wednesday announced the offer to Manning, 29, along with three others, The Washington Post reported.
As part of the programme, visiting fellows appear on Harvard’s campus for speaking engagements and events, interacting with undergraduate students on “topical issues of today”, the school’s initial announcement explained.
Elmendorf decided to withdraw the invitation after realising that “many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honourific”, though the school had not intended to “honour (Manning) in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds”.
She is still welcome to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak at the school’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, the dean said.
“I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation.”
In response, Manning accused the school of suppressing “marginalized voices” and caving to pressure from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Washington Post reported.
“This is what a military/police/intel state looks like. The CIA determines what is and is not taught at Harvard,” she tweeted.
The dean’s decision came hours after CIA Director Mike Pompeo withdrew from a planned appearance on Thursday at the Kennedy School and chastised the institution for calling attention to Manning.
In a etter to the event’s organizers, Pompeo, who earned a law degree from Harvard, branded Manning an “American traitor” whose actions and ethos contradict the intelligence agency’s most basic and sacred values.
“Harvard’s actions implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law… I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”
In 2007, while on leave from service in Iraq, Manning sent hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive documents to WikiLeaks, including the video known as “Collateral Murder” that showed US military killing dozens of unarmed Iraqi citizens.
After six years behind bars, she was released from Fort Leavenworth prison on May 17 when, in one of his final acts as US President, Barack Obama commuted her sentence, saying “justice has been served”.