Following Harvard University's decision to select Chelsea Manning, the transgender former US Army soldier who was convicted of leaking classified data, as a visiting fellow, CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday decided not to speak at a school-sponsored forum that was scheduled the same day.

In a letter addressed to Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Director of the Intelligence and Defense Project at the Belfer Center at Harvard University, Pompeo, a former soldier and a graduate of Harvard Law School, said it was a decision he “did not make lightly,” calling Manning an “American traitor.”

Chelsea Manning

Army photo

“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.”

On Thursday evening, Douglas Elmendorf, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, said in a statement that the school would be withdrawing its invitation to Manning and that “designating [Manning] as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake.”

“I still think that having her speak in the Forum and talk with students is consistent with our longstanding approach, which puts great emphasis on the value of hearing from a diverse collection of people,” Elmendorf wrote. “But 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.”

“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,” Elmendorf continued.

Manning was released from military prison in May after serving seven years for passing government secrets in what was considered the biggest such breach in US history. Critics of Manning alleged that her actions put the lives of US service members in danger and hurt diplomatic ties with foreign nations.

“Broadening the range and depth of opportunity for students to hear from and engage with experts, leaders and policy-shapers is a cornerstone of the Institute of Politics,” Bill Delhunt, acting director of the institute at the Harvard Kennedy School, said after Manning's appointment, according to Reuters. “We welcome the breadth of thought-provoking viewpoints on race, gender, politics and the media.”

“Let me be clear,” Pompeo continued in his letter, “this has nothing to do with Ms. Manning's identity as a transgender person. It has everything to do with her identity as a traitor to the United States of America and my loyalty to the officers of the CIA.”

“I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”

Pompeo's decision comes after former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell's decision to resign as a senior fellow at the school, following Manning's acceptance.

“I applaud the decision of Michael Morell,” Pompeo wrote. “I am saddened, however, at Harvard's loss. You have traded a respected individual who served his country with dignity for one who served it with disgrace and who violated the warrior ethos she promised to uphold when she voluntarily chose to join the United States Army.”

Following Pompeo's decision, Manning tweeted: “good #WeGotThis.”

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