Mike Morell Resigns Out of Conscience because of [Leaks about] Torture

Former Deputy Director of CIA Mike Morell is resigning from Harvard’s Belfer Center because Harvard’s Institute of Politics has hired Chelsea Manning.

I am writing to inform you that I am resigning, effective immediately, as a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center.


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.

Morell goes on to talk about his great stand of conscience.

[T]he 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.


[I]t 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.

Of course, you could replace every instance where Morell invokes leaks with torture. You could replace every instance where Morell mentions Kennedy School’s (allegedly) poor decision and replace it with CIA’s.

And then it would become clear where Morell’s values lie.

Chelsea Manning started leaking because she was asked to support the repression of Iraqis engaged in peaceful opposition to Nuri al-Maliki — a view that came to be conventional wisdom long after Manning was in prison for her actions. Manning also exposed US complicity in torture in Iraq and Condi’s efforts to cover up the CIA’s torture. Manning also served seven years for her crimes, including a period where the US government subjected her to treatment most countries consider torture.

Chelsea Manning, too, took a stand of conscience. She stood against torture, which was disgraceful and damaging to our nation. Morell? He took no stand of conscience against torture. Instead, he stands against leaks about torture with which he was complicit.

22 replies
  1. Phillip Bauer says:

    Do you know if Morrell had any direct role in the RDI program? I know he was Bush’s PDB briefer when it got started, and that he was in charge of compiling the CIA response to the Committee study, but was he involved in the actual program more directly? His memoir is a little vague on that point.

  2. Peterr says:

    “I cannot be part of an organization — the administration of President George W. Bush — that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information, Scooter Libby,” said Mike Morrell on no occasion ever.

    Some leaks are more equal than others, I suppose.


    • Rugger9 says:

      Not just a leaker, but Scooter was the guy responsible for outing a NOC CIA agent. One can bet everyone Plame met with over the years was rolled up and liquidated.

      It’s another problem with the “look forward, not backward” Obama policy, because without accountability to rein in bad behavior you’ll get more of it.  The same concept is proven by the financial meltdown at the end of Shrub’s “administration”, which may (total speculation here) have been intended to create the fear factor to get McCain elected.  However, it backfired. The Captains of Finance are still trying to pull the same scams, however and demanding the Congress let them do it.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    I’m sure the staff meetings would have been awwwwwkward….

    But more to the point, Manning was a PFC in the Army, so what degree does Manning have to provide the academic gravitas needed to be a Senior Fellow?  Maybe I missed something.

    • Bardi says:

      what degree does Manning have to provide the academic gravitas needed to be a Senior Fellow?

      Some get their “gravitas” reading books, others through actual experience and many with a combination of both.  I’d much sooner look to intelligent discourse with someone like her than someone spending most of their lives in an ivory tower.  Just sayin’

  4. Jorma says:

    Morrell is demonstrating the only form of loyalty which matters in the modern world. That is loyalty to ones organization. Government, NGO, corporate, no matter the kind of organization all it’s leaders, most of it’s management right down to the shop floor or wherever, and most employees, those who have hopes of rising, are loyal to their organization above all things. Status is conferred  in proportion to ones demonstrated loyalty to the organization. That is any organization they may become part of.

    The submergence of individualism, and matters of conscience are the best test of individualism,  is mandatory and almost always given without thought. It’s a cultural thing. (It’s the “elites” actually but that is veering off course here) Oh sure, you may have an unusual hobby and a unique look, or may have mastered some craft to express yourself, but when the organization does something like opening a million bank accounts without being asked to, they will defend the organization almost right up to death

    This is one hallmark of the modern age. If one is not an organzation man, person, or party man or company man one will not gain status. Period. Not via an organizational route. The lone individual can gain status as an entertainer of some sort, and that’s about it.

    • GKJames says:

      Agreed. Yet the myth of rugged American individualism continues to thrive. It may be that chasm between myth and reality which, to some extent, explains the agitated state of things these days.

  5. orionATL says:

    but for a slight spelling difference, i’d say morrell’s morals and the man himself arose from spores in the fetid underground bunkers of the cia.

    “i have an obligation to my conscience…” proclaims the newly enlightened spook. conscience? do they teach conscience in the bunkers? from what edward snowden said of his time in the fetid bunkers, he left because there seemed to be no need for a conscience when working for the cia.

    “… [morrell] is a critic of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 report on the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which many consider to be torture…] **

    i wonder what new job morell was positioning himself for? morrells and pompeo, what a dish!


    • Bardi says:

      the man himself arose from spores in the fetid underground bunkers of the cia.

      Come on, we are not all that way.  :-)

      • orionATL says:

        “Come on, we are not all that way.  :-)”

        who is “we”?

        are you cia or ex – cia?

        actually cia used to be divided into two parts – operational (the folks with little fear and no conscience) and analytical. the only two cia guys i ever knew personal and up close were the latter – a chemist snd a historian – one a die-hard republican, the other a liberal, neither seemed to have any problems expressing a common sense of morality.

        morrall clearly does; he can never confess his sins. he behaves so because his whole defense to the world (and possibly to himself) for supporting unconsionable behavior that needlessly brought enduring disgrace and contempt to the nation and the cia is that he was a loyal operating official of a valuable and acceptable government activity (torture) WHICH MUST NEVER BE NAMED.

        looked at this way, mike morrell is employing a version of the eichmann defense.

        then there is this:


        what did i tell you? in league together.

        • orionATL says:

          but let us not forget,

          this whole morrell resigns & pompeo refuses to speak game is about the cia trying to intimidate an academic institution. in general, there are no more cowardly administrators than academic administrators, all the more so when a big money donor joins in the intimidation process.

          soon we’ll learn just how much fortitude administrators at Harvard ‘s institute of politics have.

          personally, i can’ t forget the example for craveness set by new america’s ann-marie slaughter.

  6. jerryy says:

    Rugger9 says:
    September 14, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    … so what degree does Manning have to provide the academic gravitas needed to be a Senior Fellow? …

    How much did John Yoo have when he went on to become Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley?

  7. Rugger9 says:

    Yoo had his J.D. well before he was a Bushie, whereas Manning as an enlisted man (at the time) on his first tour of duty would not have much in the way of experience to discuss other than what he handled in the traffic. The Senior Fellow is usually a post-doctorate level billet. Other than some personal insight, others would do a better job explaining why things happen.

    Berkeley has better standards and Boalt Law School is quite well respected. Yoo’s problem isn’t his knowledge base, it is his moral compass (and FWIW I think UCB needs to send him on his way even if he is tenured).

  8. jerryy says:


    That may help you understand some of what goes into being a fellow. (She was going to be listed as a visiting fellow rather than a senior fellow). There are other points in your answer regarding John Yoo, being a ‘bushie’ and Berkeley, but well, …, with the invite being withdrawn, …, perhaps another time.

  9. Rugger9 says:

    OT, but interesting.  The Flynn hits just keep coming.  While in the WH, Mikey, Jaren and Bannon went to a secret meeting to promote / arrange for nuclear reactors in the ME with the King of Jordan in order to benefit Mikey’s former military friends.  Another example of selling out US interests (it doesn’t take much to make them into breeders) for filthy lucre, so exactly how is this an honorable officer?


  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    One might ask what economic sanctions the intel “community” threatened to impose on mighty Harvard. Its fears of reputational damage seem questionable; fear over interruptions in tens and hundreds of millions in annual support for various programs would be more persuasive.

    It would also be interesting to hear the byplay among Harvard’s governing board. Herbert Hoover, for example, wielded veto power over important decisions at Stanford for decades; the Ivies are subject to similar influence, much of it from the right.

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