September 15, 2017 / 6:27 AM / 2 months ago

Harvard withdraws fellowship invitation to Chelsea Manning

(Reuters) - Harvard University on Friday withdrew a fellowship invitation to Chelsea Manning, the transgender U.S. Army soldier who was convicted of leaking classified data, after two leaders in the U.S. intelligence community distanced themselves from the school.

Manning, 29, was released in May from a U.S. military prison in Kansas where she had been held for passing secrets to the WikiLeaks website in the biggest breach of classified data in the history of the United States.

The Harvard Kennedy School of government announced on Wednesday that it had invited the controversial figure to be a visiting fellow and speak at a forum.

The invitation to speak still stands, Harvard Kennedy Dean Douglas Elmendorf said in a statement.

“I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” Elmendorf said. “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.”

Chelsea Manning, the transgender U.S. Army soldier responsible for a massive leak of classified material, poses in a photo of herself for the first time since she was released from prison and post to social media on May 18, 2017. Chelsea Manning/CC BY-SA/Handout via REUTERS

The announcement came after U.S. CIA Director Mike Pompeo canceled a speaking engagement at the university on Thursday over the invitation to Manning, whom he called an “American traitor” in a letter explaining his decision.

“My conscience and duty to the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency will not permit me to betray their trust by appearing to support Harvard’s decision with my appearance,” he wrote to the school.

Manning said on Twitter that she was “honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting Harvard fellow. They chill marginalized voices under CIA pressure.”

Also on Thursday, Michael Morell, former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, resigned as a senior fellow at the university, media reported.

“Good,” Manning tweeted after Morell resigned.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Catherine Evans and Lisa Von Ahn

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