Former CIA official resigns from Harvard after Chelsea Manning hiring

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell resigned Thursday from his post as a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School after the university announced a day earlier that it hired Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow.

Morell slammed the decision as a step towards legitimizing Manning's "criminal path" as a leaker of classified information, according to a letter first reported by CBS's Mosheh Oinounou. 

"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 said in a letter addressed to Douglas Elmendorf, dean of the Harvard School of Government.

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While the former CIA head acknowledged that his fellowship through the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is different from the school's Institute of Politics, he said he has "an obligation" to his both his conscience and country to "make the fundamental point that leaking classified information is disgraceful and damaging to our nation."

Morell also made a point to wipe away any doubt that his resignation hinged only on Manning's role as a whistleblower, not a transgender activist. 

"It is important to note that I fully support Mrs. Manning’s rights as a transgender American, including the right to serve our country in the US military," Morell wrote.

Manning, who was convicted in 2013 for releasing confidential military and State Department documents, had her 35-year sentence commuted by then-President Obama to seven years from her initial imprisonment in 2010.

Manning will join a group of other visiting Harvard fellows including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE campaign manager Robby Mook.