Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who released 730,000 damning documents to WikiLeaks, has been arrested again.
By S.T. Patrick
In a country that relishes every opportunity to tout its First Amendment freedoms to the rest of the world, no American had ever spent more than three years in jail for exposing government secrets to the public. That was before Chelsea Manning spent seven years imprisoned for doing just that—exercising what Manning believes to be First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press in an effort to inform average Americans of what was really happening within their government’s perpetual war state. Today, Manning is behind bars once again for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before a grand jury.
In 2009, Manning was assigned as an intelligence analyst to an Army unit in Iraq. A year later, Manning released classified videos and documents to WikiLeaks. In total, more than 251,000 diplomatic cables and 482,000 Army reports (“The Iraq War Logs”) were released. Manning was arrested and prosecuted after threat analyst and hacker Adrian Lamo, a “friend” of Manning’s, reported the releases to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command. Manning was acquitted of “aiding the enemy,” which could have brought a death sentence, but was still sentenced to 35 years in prison at the maximum-security facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. In January 2017, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to seven years dating back to the May 2010 arrest.
Manning has remained a controversial figure, both in the media and on college campuses. In September 2017, Manning was named a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. After complaints were levied by former acting director of the CIA Michael Morell and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Harvard rescinded its offer to Manning.
“I’m not ashamed of being disinvited. I view that just as much of an honored distinction as the fellowship itself,” Manning said. “This is military intelligence, and it is a police state in which we can no longer engage in actual political discourse in our institutions.”
After refusing to testify against Assange in early March, U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ordered that Manning be imprisoned for contempt of court. There was a brief hearing in which Manning re-emphasized a refusal to testify. Then Manning bravely told the judge, “I will accept whatever you bring upon me.”
Manning has logical objections for refusing to testify before the grand jury. Manning objects to the secretive process of grand juries and has already revealed everything at a court-martial hearing. Second, the grand jury process has often been used to “entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.” Third, because prosecutors granted Manning immunity for testimony at the court-martial hearing, Manning’s ability to invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination no longer applies, thus eliminating any constitutional protections.
With every case that comes to court hereafter, being called to testify means once again opening Manning to new charges. It’s a twisted, legal way of continually persecuting someone for actions stemming from the same offense.
Manning will be in jail now until the grand jury has finished its investigation.
While the military and media establishment could have controlled the Manning story 40 to 50 years ago (pre-Internet), the rise of the alternative media means that different perspectives of each story can be aired unedited. No longer can someone be so easily labeled a traitor. Whistleblowers exist in the vacuum where the mainstream media has failed. Whistleblowers like Manning, Assange, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and former FBI agent Coleen Rowley now inform the public more in one courageous action than CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the major networks do in a year.
Writing for Consortium News, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray supported Manning’s decision not to testify.
“I am in awe of Chelsea’s courage in refusing to testify, and shocked at a system that imprisons somebody for contempt of court for maintaining dignified silence,” Murray wrote. “Chelsea has also done a great service in finally stripping away the last vestige of excuse from the figures who refuse to support Julian Assange, pretending that they do not believe he faces extradition to the United States, and that the legal issue is not about WikiLeaks’s right to publish.”
Prosecutors have said that the Assange grand jury has no link to the investigation of Robert Mueller, though both would have a shared interest in seeing Assange prosecuted.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]. He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ), a new conspiracy-focused publication carried by the AFP Online Store.