Chelsea Manning and Harvard – Let’s Talk About Disgrace

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

Harvard University on Friday revoked whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s invitation to be a “visiting fellow” following former CIA deputy director and torture proponent Mike Morell’s resignation in protest of the hiring and CIA director Mike Pompeo’s refusal to accept a speaking invitation at the school.

The smug pronouncements from the CIA crowd were stunning in their hypocrisy. Morell, in a letter he released to all major media outlets following his resignation, said, “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. 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.”

Pompeo, meanwhile, took a swipe directly at Harvard, saying, “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.” Pompeo praised Morell’s decision to leave the Kennedy School, saying that Harvard “traded a respected individual who served his country with dignity for one who served it with disgrace.”

So let’s talk about respect. Let’s talk about disgrace and law-breaking. I worked with Mike Morell for my entire CIA career. He’s very bright. He rose through the ranks more quickly than just about anybody else ever. He’s a political animal. He’s a company man through and through. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Morell was a career analyst when he worked his way into the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service. He rose to the position of Deputy Director — and then Acting Director — of the CIA. Before that, Morell was Deputy Director of the CIA for Intelligence, the head of its analytic arm. But for a period immediately prior to that, Morell was the Deputy Executive Director of the CIA, the Agency’s fourth-ranking officer. It was in that position, during the George W. Bush administration, that he had direct oversight of the CIA’s torture program, its system of secret foreign dungeons where the torture took place, and the organization’s international kidnapping program called “extraordinary rendition.”

That’s what Mike Pompeo calls “a respected individual serving his country with dignity.”

Chelsea Manning, on the other hand, made classified revelations in the public interest. She is the definition of a whistleblower — she brought to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, and threats to public health or public safety. Indeed, Chelsea Manning exposed actual war crimes in Iraq. And for that, she was prosecuted. I won’t fudge the issue here. Manning released tens of thousands of classified State Department cables that had nothing to do with war crimes. But her motivation is irrelevant. The information, taken in its totality, did expose crimes. That’s the bottom line. And instead of being celebrated, she was given 35 years in a military prison. She was only released when President Obama commuted her sentence after more than seven years, at least two of which were spent in solitary confinement.

The real shame of this whole situation is Harvard. The university’s leadership doesn’t want its students to know about war crimes. It doesn’t want its students to hear an alternative worldview. It does want its students to think that torture, secret prisons, and renditions are all the norm and are all ok. It wants its students to learn that ethics, morality, and the rule of law have no place at the CIA or in U.S. intelligence operations. Harvard made a big mistake. It wasn’t just to disinvite Chelsea Manning. It was to hire the likes of Mike Morell in the first place.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.