Expert Commentary

Letter of Resignation to Harvard’s Kennedy School

Michael J. Morell
Former Acting Director, CIA

On Thursday, former acting director of the CIA and Cipher Brief expert Michael Morell announced his resignation as a non-resident Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International affairs. Below is a copy of the letter from Morell announcing his departure.

Douglas W. Elmendorf
Dean, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University

Dear Dean Elmendorf,

I am writing to inform you that I am resigning, effective immediately, as a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center.  I do so with sadness because I have enjoyed immensely my time at Belfer.  Interacting with the future leaders of our country – and helping to inform their worldviews in even a small way – has been a meaningful part of my post-government life.

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.”

Please know that I am fully aware that Belfer and the IOP are separate institutions within the Kennedy School and that, most likely, Belfer had nothing to do with the invitation of Ms. Manning to be a fellow at IOP.  But, as an institution, the Kennedy School’s decision will assist Ms. Manning in her long-standing effort to legitimize the criminal path that she took to prominence, an attempt that may encourage others to leak classified information as well.  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.

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 US military. I also fully support Ms. Manning’s right to publicly discuss the circumstances that surrounded her crimes as well as the IOP’s right to invite whomever they believe will further the education of Harvard’s student body.  But, it is my right, indeed my duty, to argue that the School’s decision is wholly inappropriate and to protest it by resigning from the Kennedy School – in order to make the fundamental point that leaking classified information is disgraceful and damaging to our nation.



Michael Morell

Former Deputy Director and Acting Director, CIA

The Author is Michael J. Morell

Michael Morell, the former Acting Director and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is one of our nation's leading national security professionals, with extensive experience in intelligence and foreign policy.  He has been at the center of our nation's fight against terrorism, its work to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and its efforts to respond to trends that are altering the international landscape—including the Arab Spring, the rise of China,... Read More

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