Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell on Thursday resigned from his post at Harvard University after the school named whistleblower and transgender activist Chelsea Manning a visiting fellow.
“I am writing to inform you that I am resigning, effective immediately, as a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center,” he wrote in a letter to Douglas W. Elmendorf, the dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
“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 added in the message, which was first reported by CBS News.
“I have an obligation to my conscience – and I believe to the country – to stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information. For this reason, I have decided to resign my position at Belfer.”
Morell resigned from Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which is separate from the school’s Institute of politics.
The former CIA official noted, however, that Manning’s fellowship may help “legitimize the criminal path she took to prominence.”
Some Twitter users on Thursday, meanwhile, debated the merits of making Manning a fellow at Harvard.
Good for Morell. Harvard will become a third rate over-priced university bc of naming Chelsea Manning a Fellow. Unbelievable! A low blow.— Hummingbird (@SSpiewakowski) September 14, 2017
Chelsea Manning being appointed as a Harvard Fellow is the perfect encapsulation of the crisis of intellectual integrity at the Ivy League— Robert Venosa (@robert_venosa) September 14, 2017
Harvard on Wednesday announced Manning as one of the 2017-2017 Visiting Fellows at its Institute of Politics.
Manning was convicted by court-martial in 2013 of releasing confidential military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks.
The former Army soldier – who was born as Bradley Manning – was then sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Former President Obama commuted her sentence to seven years in 2016, however, leading to her ultimate release last May.
Morell on Thursday said his opposition to Manning’s role at Harvard is not related to her work on transgender rights.
“It is important to note that I fully support Ms. Manning’s rights as a transgender American, including the right to serve our country in the U.S. military,” he said.
Harvard’s website states Manning’s talk will focus on “issues of LGBTQ identity in the military” when she teaches there.