News & Politics

Chelsea Manning Scorches Harvard for Rescinding Fellowship Offer Under Pressure from the CIA

"This is a police state."

Photo Credit: Screenshot / YouTube

Chelsea Manning has accused Harvard University of caving into pressure from the CIA in reversing its invitation to her to become a visiting fellow, in what the former US soldier and whistleblower described as a “police state”.

n her first spoken comments on the Harvard debacle, Manning told a conference on Sunday that the university’s abrupt U-turn over the invitation, made in the face of fierce criticism from senior figures in the CIA, marked the end of free political debate in academic institutions.

“So this is one of the American government institutions [the CIA] telling one of the American academic institutions [Harvard], no, you cannot bring this to your school,” she said.

“And that’s what that was. This is a police state. This is a military intelligence and it is a police state in which we can no longer engage in actual political discourse in our institutions.”

She added: “Our institutions have no discussion.”

Harvard reversed its decision to name Manning a visiting fellow on Thursday after the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, scrapped a planned appearance in protest and called Manning an “American traitor”.

Manning made the comments at an annual conference in Massachusetts called the Nantucket Project, a venture founded to bring together creative thinkers. Organisers said about 600 people attended.

It was one of Manning’s first public appearances since she was released from a military prison in May, having served seven years of a 35-year sentence which was commuted by Barack Obama in his final days in office.

Eugene Jarecki, an award-winning documentary director, moderated the discussion. He asked Manning if it “reflects something about the state of our time” that she was still the subject of pressure by the CIA and labelled by some as a traitor.

Manning said she took a risk to contribute to political and public discourse and “change the tone of the conversation”, but that it hadn’t changed and if anything “things have gotten worse”

“I’m walking out of prison and I see, literally, a dystopian novel unfolding before my eyes,” she said. “That’s how I feel when I walk in the American streets today.”

Manning said she was not disheartened by what Harvard had done under CIA pressure. On the contrary: “I’m honoured to be the first disinvited trans woman to the Harvard University fellowship program. And I am, I’m honoured.

“I don’t view that as something I’m ashamed of. I view that as just as much an honour and distinction as the fellowship itself.”

Manning also talked about the lack of privacy in today’s society, calling it “dead”, as well as the power of civil disobedience and the importance of forgiveness, saying “we should forgive everybody at some point”. She said she would keep speaking out.

“Everybody keeps telling me, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t say this. Maybe you shouldn’t do this event. Maybe you shouldn’t talk. Maybe you shouldn’t do this,’” she said.

“And I’m just like, OK, the fact that you’re telling me I shouldn’t do this is the reason why I should. And I think that’s what we can all do.”

 

Ed Pilkington is the chief reporter for Guardian US. He is a former national and foreign editor of the paper, and author of Beyond the Mother Country.

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