Caption: A man walks through Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Nov. 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Harvard University withdrew a fellowship invitation to Chelsea Manning, the transgender U.S. Army soldier convicted of leaking classified documents, the U.S. school announced Friday, amid harsh criticism over its original decision.
"I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility," Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, said in a statement early Friday.
"I see more clearly now that many people view a visiting fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations," said Elmendorf.
Elmendorf also offered apologies to Manning and others concerned for "not recognizing upfront the full implications" of the original invitation, but the dean said Manning is still invited to spend a day at the school and speak at a forum.
Manning, a 29-year-old transgender woman, was convicted in 2013 of leaking over 700,000 classified military and State Department documents but her 35-year sentence was commuted by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and was released in May from a prison in Kansas.
Previously, Harvard introduces Manning as network security expert and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who speaks on the social, technological and economic ramifications of artificial intelligence and advocates for queer and transgender rights.
The school's original decision to include Manning as a visiting fellow were sharply criticized by U.S. intelligence community leaders.
Michael Morell, former deputy director and acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), resigned his senior fellowship post at Harvard Thursday in protest, saying that he could not be part of an organization that "honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information".
Also Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo canceled a speaking engagement at a Harvard forum. In a letter explaining his decision to the school, Pompeo, who called Manning as "traitor", said his conscience and duty to the CIA would not allow his appearance to support Harvard's move.
In a statement, Manning's lawyer Chase Strangio said that Harvard's decision to rescind the visiting fellowship offer "in the middle of the night without coherent explanation is disgraceful" and the school's unwillingness to stand by their decision is "a testament to the disturbing control of the CIA has over them."
In a series of tweets early Friday, Manning said she was "honored" to be the first disinvited transgender woman visiting Harvard fellow as "they chill marginalized voices under CIA pressure."
Other visiting fellows newly invited by Harvard for the 2017-2018 school year include Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager of U.S. President Donald Trump, and MSNBC (an American news cable and satellite television network) hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.