When Judge Anthony Trenga sent Chelsea Manning back to jail, he urged her to reflect on her principled opposition to testifying before the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.
Manning took Trenga’s admonishment seriously and wrote a letter to Trenga that outlined why she opposes the grand jury in general. She delved into its history in the United States and showed she has a better grasp of how prosecutors have perverted the grand jury than the federal judge.
Her letter recalls its adoption by colonists, who used the grand jury to defend against the monarchy in England. She also emphasizes her opposition to the grand jury’s use against activists and the way in which it generally undermines due process.
Manning particularly highlights the secrecy as one reason why many see the grand jury as similar to the court of the Star Chamber in 15th Century England.
“The tradition of using political grand juries to jail political dissidents and activists is long,” Manning declares. “The concept of a grand jury in which prosecutors subpoena activists and jail them for refusing to comply with the subpoena stands in stark contrast to the institution contemplated in the Constitution.”
“While I may hold the key to my cell,” she adds, “it is held in the beating heart of all I believe. To retrieve that key and do what you are asking of me, your honor, I would have to cut the key out, which would mean killing everything I hold dear, and the beliefs that defined my path.”
Not only does she challenge the institution of the grand jury because the investigation is intended to “frighten” journalists and publishers, but she also believes the grand jury’s current existence runs contrary to key civil liberties protections. It has been many decades since the grand jury bore any resemblance to what the drafters of the Constitution supported.
Kevin Gosztola went through Chelsea Manning’s letter to the judge and highlighted many of her compelling arguments for conscientious objection.
To read his report, head over to Medium.