from the fucking-cowards dept
Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the world (and its graduates often feel the need to remind you of that). But apparently Harvard is more worried about protecting its reputation from the elite than actually fulfilling its stated mission of “educating the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society.” In an act of utter cowardice, it withdrew a Visiting Fellowship that it gave to Chelsea Manning just a couple days after announcing it — all because the CIA and its friends got upset. Harvard caving in to the CIA is not a good look.
Two days ago, Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School announced that Chelsea Manning would be a “Visiting Fellow” for the 2017-2018 school year. She was joining others — including former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. The Visiting Fellows program is basically a high falutin’ way of saying that these people would come give some talks at the school. But the point of the program — in theory — is to expose people to a variety of ideas from a variety of different perspectives. Personally, I think honoring Spicer, Lewandowski and Mook is fairly ridiculous, but I respect and support Harvard wishing to bring them — or anyone — in to talk about their experience
But, of course, anything having to do with Manning is controversial to some — mostly those who have bought into a misleading line of tripe from cable news. And thus people freaked out that Harvard was including her. Among those most triggered by Harvard planning to have Manning come talk to students was the CIA. On Thursday, former CIA depute director (and former acting director) Michael Morell resigned from his own fellowship (in a different program) at the Kennedy School in protest. His letter is full of debunked bullshit.
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. 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.
Senior leaders in our military have stated publicly that the leaks by Ms. Manning put the lives of US soldiers at risk. Upon her conviction, then Rep. Mike Rogers and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee at the time, praised the verdict, saying “Justice has been served today.” They added “Pfc. Manning harmed our national security, violated the public’s trust, and now stands convicted of multiple serious crimes.”
This statement is hogwash. Yes, she was convicted of various crimes including espionage, but only because the Espionage Act is a complete unconstitutional joke that makes no distinction between leaking to the press and spying for a foreign government — and under which you’re not allowed to share your motives for leaking information. Saying she was “convicted of espionage” without context is misleading bullshit and Morell, of all people, knows that and is exploiting it.
The claim that Pompeo now says that Wikileaks is acting like an “adversarial foreign intelligence service” is bullshit and misleading in two ways. First, Pompeo is not exactly an unbiased observer. He’s long been a massive surveillance state cheerleader — who was one of the biggest supporters of having the NSA illegally spy on nearly every American, and who has a long history of grandstanding against those with the courage to blow the whistle on the unconstitutional activities Pompeo himself has championed (more on him in a moment).
Separately, even if you accept Pompeo’s recent statements about how Wikileaks acts today, anyone with any knowledge of the history (which Morell certainly has) knows that Wikileaks was a very different kind of operation back when Manning first leaked the documents to the site. Manning’s leaks to Wikileaks were really its first big “government” leak. Earlier leaks had been more targeted at corporate malfeasance, and the site’s reputation at the time was as a general home for hosting whistleblowing documents of all kind.
As for Ruppersberger and Rogers’ statements, they are in the Pompeo camp as long time defenders of the surveillance state. Ruppersberger’s district was where many NSA employees lived, and Rogers’ reputation was largely built around acting like a tough guy on “law and order” and surveillance. So, big whoop.
The really obnoxious and bullshit part of Morell’s letter, though, is the claim that “our military have stated publicly that the leaks by Ms. Manning put the lives of US soldiers at risk.” Note Morell’s careful choice of words. He didn’t say that she put people’s lives at risk. Or that anyone was harmed by Manning’s whistleblowing. He says that some in the military publicly stated that lives were put at risk. His careful choice of words is because he knows full well that at Manning’s sentencing hearing, those same military officials admitted there was no evidence of any lives harmed as a result of the leaks. It was also admitted that the earlier claims of harm were misleading, in that some of the names that the military had claimed had died… had actually died before the Wikileaks disclosures.
Back to Pompeo. Soon after Morell’s letter became public, CIA director Pompeo refused to give a planned speech at Harvard, giving a similarly bullshit statement:
“My conscience and duty to the men and women of the [CIA] will not permit me to betray their trust by appearing to support Harvard’s decision with my appearance at tonight’s event,” Pompeo wrote, referring to the Thursday engagement. “Ms. Manning betrayed her country and was found guilty of 17 serious crimes for leaking classified information to Wikileaks.”
“Leaders from both political parties denounced Ms. Manning’s actions as traitorous and many intelligence and military officials believe those leaks put the lives of the patriotic men and women at the CIA in danger,” Pompeo continued. “And those military and intelligence officials are right.”
Again, this is bullshit for all the same reasons that Morell’s letter was bullshit.
But Harvard, as an academic institution that supports differences of opinion and free speech, stood up to these CIA spooks, right? Nope, they immediately caved and withdrew the fellowship, but tried to appease people by saying she could still come to speak.
We are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a Visiting Fellow ? and the perceived honor that it implies to some people ? while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the Forum.
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.
What a bullshit, cowardly statement in response to concern trolling from surveillance state supporters with actual blood on their hands. Mike Morell, among his many claims to fame, defended torture, and droning innocent civilians.
Here’s something else: Morell has accepted responsibility and apologized for playing a large role in providing incorrect intelligence that led the US to attack Iraq, leading to the actual deaths of thousands of US soldiers. For Havard to rescind its offer to Manning, over false claims of putting US soldiers at risk from a guy who has admitted his own decisions lead to the deaths of thousands of US soldiers, is a total travesty.
What’s more, this comes just a day after it came out that Harvard administrators deliberately overruled a decision to admit a woman who was about to be released from prison for killing her child. The story is heartbreaking in many ways — but it reminds us that prison is supposed to be a place of redemption, but the cowards at Harvard overruled what some said was “one of the strongest candidates in the country last year, period,” over fears of how it would look. One of the quotes from a Harvard professor in the article is quite incredible:
But frankly, we knew that anyone could just punch her crime into Google, and Fox News would probably say that P.C. liberal Harvard gave 200 grand of funding to a child murderer, who also happened to be a minority. I mean, c?mon.
It takes courage to stand up for what’s right. It takes courage to stand up for redemption after one has served their time for crime. Harvard has no courage. Harvard is made up of cowards.
As an aside: last night was the EFF’s Pioneer Awards, in which I had the honor and privilege of standing with Chelsea Manning, who gave a truly inspirational speech about redemption and the ability to face adversity with dignity, just minutes before Harvard showed that it had no dignity at all.
Filed Under: chelsea manning, cia, mike morell, mike pompeo