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Defying WikiLeaks Grand Jury, Chelsea Manning Carries On Tradition Of Resistance And Goes To Jail

A federal judge sent Chelsea Manning to jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury that is investigating WikiLeaks.

“I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury,” Manning declared in a statement. “Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.”

“The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago and took place six years after an in-depth computer forensics case, in which I testified for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous public testimony.”

“I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech,” Manning added.

On March 6, Manning appeared before the grand jury after she was granted a minor form of immunity for her testimony.

“All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony during my court-martial in 2013,” Manning stated afterward. “I responded to each question with the following statement: ‘I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.’”

Judge Claude Hilton had Manning jailed on a civil charge of contempt. She will be jailed as long as she refuses to testify or as long as the grand jury is empaneled in Alexandria, Virginia.

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who served a prison sentence and supports Manning, said, “I have great admiration for what she did for the simple reason that she could have taken two other ways out. She could have testified or she could have gone before the grand jury and just answered each question with the words, ‘I don’t recall.’ But she didn’t do either one of those things. She cited her constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments.”

“She took the hard way, and the hard way is the admirable way because she’s standing on principle, and for that, I have great admiration,” Kiriakou added.

When she was a U.S. Army intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq, Manning disclosed around a half million or more documents that exposed war crimes, diplomatic misconduct, and other instances of wrongdoing and questionable conduct by U.S. government officials. She was arrested, subject to a court-martial, and convicted of violating the Espionage Act and other related offenses.

She received a 35-year sentence and was released after six years in military prisons because a grassroots campaign successfully pressured President Barack Obama to commute her sentence.

During her time in prison, Manning struggled with mental health problems and fought for access to health care and her rights to live as a transgender woman in prison. She attempted suicide as a result of some of the trauma she was enduring. Her re-incarceration could trigger a host of psychological issues.

“I was only in prison for 23 months and I was never in solitary confinement. She was in prison for more than 6 years and spent 2 years in solitary confinement,” Kiriakou said. “And I have PTSD from prison. I can’t imagine having to go back to prison, even if it’s on a relatively temporary basis just because to go back is such a psychological trauma.”

“I’m not even sure how I would deal with it. So, the fact that she went in with her eyes open just confirms to me how brave she was to stand on her principles.”

Manning’s attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen urged the court to place Manning in home confinement so her health could be taken care of properly. The court refused.

The uncertainty and hardship surrounding access to health care behind bars will undoubtedly help the government in pressuring Manning to give up her resistance and testify.

Similar to when she chose to disclose documents to WikiLeaks, Manning fully accepted the reality that she would likely wind up incarcerated again.

Manning believes there is a moral imperative to stand up against a grand jury investigation that was largely abandoned by President Barack Obama’s administration because officials realized they could not charge WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange or any staff members with crimes without exposing journalists at the New York Times or the Washington Post to potential prosecution.

There is a tradition of resistance to grand juries in the United States, particularly when the goals of a grand jury were clearly unjust. The tradition goes all the way back to abolitionists who were fighting slavery in the 1800s. It includes activists targeted by COINTELPRO, who were hauled before grand juries when Richard Nixon was president. Chelsea Manning is carrying on this tradition through her bold defiance.

The post was updated to include the statement released by Chelsea Manning.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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