Letter to the Editor: Set the Record Straight on Chelsea Manning

To the Editor:

We write to express our deep dissatisfaction with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for rescinding Chelsea Manning’s invitation to serve as a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics. We call on the Kennedy School to immediately reinstate Ms. Manning’s designation and to issue her a personal apology.

The withdrawal of Chelsea Manning’s fellowship is a classic case of selective outrage. Harvard has not severed its affiliation with General David Petraeus, currently a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School who was convicted for leaking classified information to his mistress while Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Another fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics, Corey Lewandowski, assaulted a reporter while managing President Donald Trump’s campaign. Chelsea Manning’s critics are not actually concerned with the law or the safety of soldiers (the Pentagon itself has admitted her leaks had no significant impact on U.S. military efforts). What they take issue with is her exposure of unchecked military violence.

Chelsea Manning has not yet been afforded the gloss of time, as have widely respected whistleblowers of the past—from Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the secret escalation of the Vietnam War, to Mark Felt, who revealed crucial details of the Watergate scandal—but her contributions will undoubtedly be recognized in time. Ms. Manning willingly sacrificed her own liberty to expose tens of thousands of previously unrecorded deaths in Iraq, civilian slaughter so frequent as to appear routine, and the United States’ failure to investigate hundreds of reports of torture. The war logs among the documents she leaked reveal the disturbingly cavalier attitude of military personnel towards the torture and murder of those whom they purported to liberate; one now-infamous recording reveals a helicopter crew laughing at the civilians—“dead bastards”—they had just killed. Americans have a right to know the atrocities their government commits in their name, and we are all indebted to Ms. Manning for bringing these atrocities to light.

Chelsea Manning’s experiences as an incarcerated trans woman make her perspective all the more important and her exclusion all the more inexcusable. Amid pervasive and targeted torture at the hands of the United States government, Ms. Manning has relentlessly fought for justice for herself and others. Her refusal to stay silent while being kept in men’s military prisons and denied life-saving health care led to a case that set a precedent for trans-related healthcare for people in this nation’s prisons. Chelsea Manning’s groundbreaking struggle for dignity and respect sheds light on the experiences of trans prisoners throughout the U.S., and her story deserves a platform at Harvard.


In light of her selfless sacrifices as a whistleblower, her dedication to the truth, and her commitment to human rights, we call upon the Harvard Kennedy School to reinstate Chelsea Manning’s designation as a fellow at the Institute of Politics.

Lily M. Velona ’18 is a Social Studies concentrator in Adams House. Samuel R. Heller ’18 is a Statistics concentrator in Mather House. Theodore G. Waechter ’18, a Crimson Editorial editor, is an African Studies concentrator in Quincy House.

Their letter has been endorsed by the following groups: Harvard Anti-Islamophobia Network, Harvard Asian American Women’s Association, Harvard College Pakistan Students Association, Harvard Global Health and AIDS Coalition, United Auto Workers Organizing Committee of the Harvard Graduate Students Union, Harvard Islamic Society, Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Reform, Harvard Progressive Jewish Alliance, Harvard Queer Students and Allies, Harvard Student Labor Action Movement, Harvard Trans Task Force, and Renegade Collective.


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