Court Rules Chelsea Manning Must Stay in Jail for Refusing to Provide Testimony in WikiLeaks Case

Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea Manning will stay in jail for refusing to testify to a federal grand jury about WikiLeaks, according to a new ruling from a panel of three judges at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Manning has been in an Alexandria, Virginia jail since March 8 and has at times been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, a punishment regarded as torture by international human rights groups.

First reported by Politico, the ruling is just two pages and upholds a judge’s decision that Manning should be jailed until she testifies or for the life of the grand jury, which is expected to last as long as 18 months.

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The federal grand jury was assembled to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was hauled out of Ecuador’s London embassy on April 11. Assange claimed asylum in the embassy, where he lived for almost seven years before Ecuador revoked his asylum claim. The WikiLeaks publisher faces extradition to the United States for allegedly helping Manning try to hack a classified government computer.

It’s believed that the hack in question didn’t work, but Manning otherwise provided WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of classified documents from the U.S. government’s Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet) in 2010. Aside from the documents, Manning also gave WikiLeaks a 39-minute video from 2007 showing two U.S. Apache helicopters killing over a dozen people, including two Reuters journalists. That video was titled “Collateral Murder” by WikiLeaks.

Manning already served seven years in prison before the outgoing President of the United States, Barack Obama, granted her clemency in early 2017. While Manning is protected against “double jeopardy,” meaning that she won’t be charged for the same crime twice, the courts have typically ruled that witnesses have no 5th Amendment rights in front of a grand jury.

“While disappointing, we can still raise issues as the government continues to abuse the grand jury process. I don’t have anything to contribute to this, or any other grand jury,” Manning said in a statement.While I miss home, they can continue to hold me in jail, with all the harmful consequences that brings. I will not give up. Thank you all so very much for your love and solidarity through letters and contributions.”

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As the Washington Post points out, Manning can appeal the panel’s ruling so that it can be heard by the entire Fourth Circuit or she has the option of taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court. But as the Supreme Court has been stacked with conservatives who are expected to dismantle everything from Roe v Wade to the U.S. Census, it seems depressingly unlikely that a ruling would go in her favor.

Update 5:30pm ET: Attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen, a member of Manning’s legal team, released the following statement on Monday, stating that hersubpoena and confinement should be considered grand jury abuse. We also added a statement from Manning above:

“We are of course disappointed that the Circuit declined to follow clearly established law, or consider the ample evidence of grand jury abuse.

“It is improper for a prosecutor to use the grand jury to prepare for trial. As pointed out in Ms. Manning’s motions and appeals, since her testimony is not necessary to the grand jury’s investigation, the likely purpose for her subpoena is to help the prosecutor preview and undermine her potential testimony as a defense witness for a pending trial.

“We believed that the Appeals court would consider this, as it is strong evidence of an abuse of grand jury power that should excuse her testimony.”

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[Politico and Washington Post]

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Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog