Chelsea ManningCommunityThe Dissenter

New Campaign by First Look Media Will Help Ensure Chelsea Manning Has Funds for Legal Appeals

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How Chelsea Manning sees herself

First Look Media and the Freedom of the Press Foundation have launched a matching fund campaign to support United States military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, as she appeals her conviction and challenges how the military prosecuted her.

The media organization’s Press Freedom Litigation Fund will match $50,000 in donations. Journalist Glenn Greenwald will match $10,000 in donations. The Freedom of the Press Foundation will manage the fundraising campaign. [As of 11 am ET on July 16, over $28,000 had already been matched.]

All funds raised will ensure that Manning will be able to mount a strong appeal, which is expected to be filed before the year is over. It will also reduce the stress and anxiety Manning experiences as she worries about whether she can afford an appeal.

“Being in prison while trying to figure out how I will pay for my legal appeal has been a great source of stress and anxiety,” Manning stated. “I’m so honored that a new campaign is supporting me in my effort to vindicate my legal rights, and I am truly grateful to anyone who is helping.”

Nancy Hollander, lead counsel for Manning, shared, “My law partner, Vince Ward, Chelsea’s detailed appellate counsel, Cpt David Hammond, and I are working our way through the longest written record in military history and take on this fight willingly.”

“Chelsea has the right to have someone stand between her and the awesome power of her own government when all that power is directed at her. Vince and my work for Chelsea is sustained by thousands of her supporters, who stand with her to challenge our justice system to honor the rights of all people who put themselves at grave personal risk to protect and defend others,” Hollander added.

Hollander noted that it was nearly two years since Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the “heroic act of truth-telling to protect innocent civilians.”

As extensively covered by this journalist here at Firedoglake, the sentencing verdict was issued on August 21, 2013. Manning received far greater punishment than individuals in the military, who have committed war crimes by killing innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan. She also received greater punishment than soldiers or officers responsible for torture.

From the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack, which showed soldiers gunning down innocent civilians and two Reuters journalists, to military incident reports in Afghanistan, which revealed the operations of an assassination squad known as Task Force 373, to military incident reports in Iraq, which included details of an order instructing US and UK forces to look the other way if Iraqi forces engaged in torture, Manning had classic whistleblower intentions when she chose to provide this information to WikiLeaks.

Yet, the US military prosecuted Manning as if she was a spy who “aided the enemy,” specifically al Qaeda terrorists. She was convicted of several violations of the Espionage Act.

Hollander suggested, “If this case stands—along with other recent cases—anyone who ever leaks a single page of classified information runs the risk of prosecution under the Espionage Act. That Act was meant to punish spies and saboteurs, people who act against the United States. It was never meant to prosecute whistleblowers and this case presents a disastrous precedent that needs to be overturned.”

There also is the issue of how Manning was treated during confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez concluded Manning had endured “cruel and inhuman” punishment, which included being subject to conditions of solitary confienement.

Manning also was “denied her constitutional right to a speedy trial and experienced a wholesale lack of due process,” Hollander claimed.

Although Manning’s court martial had dragged on for longer than 1,000 days, Judge Denise Lind ruled that her Sixth Amendment rights had not been violated. There were six days, where she found no evidence that it met the “good cause requirement” for being excluded from the speedy trial clock. But all the gratuitous delays for reviews of classified information were acceptable to the judge.

In a post at The Intercept, Greenwald argued it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that Manning does not “face limits” to her “ability to pursue her legal rights with full zeal. It’s in our collective interest to ensure that whistleblowers are able to receive a full, vigorous defense of their rights, and that the government’s pernicious anti-transparency theories be contested.”

First Look easily could have raised large amounts of money for Manning and donated the funds without involving the public. Greenwald explained why that approach was not pursued.

“We want to maximize the amount she receives by encouraging people everywhere to donate to the fund, knowing their donation will be instantly doubled,” Greenwald shared. “There is great public value in having as many people as possible express support for Manning’s whistleblower rights and actions by donating, rather than having us do it alone.”

“Seeing that so many people support her will be of great value to Manning personally as she serves out her prison term.”

What First Look is doing is using its stature to revolutionize how media organizations can show solidarity with whistleblowers, who are some of the most valuable sources a reporter can have. The campaign also urges members of the press to see Manning’s case as a case with huge implications for press freedom, which the vast majority of US media have refused to acknowledge.

Firedoglake has previously engaged in this kind of initiative by raising money to support Manning and CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou but not on this scale.

This campaign definitely has the potential to decisively influence how aggressive and thorough Manning is able to be in her legal appeals.

The campaign page for donations to Chelsea Manning’s Legal Defense Fund can be found here.

Image is portrait by Alicia Neal produced for the Chelsea Manning Support Network

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."