Former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning leaves after speaking to the press ahead of a Grand Jury appearance about WikiLeaks, in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 16, 2019.
Former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning leaves after speaking to the press ahead of a Grand Jury appearance about WikiLeaks, in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 16, 2019.
Photo: Eric Baradat (Getty

Attorneys for imprisoned activist and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning have filed a new motion for her release from the Virginia jail that’s been holding her for almost a year.

Manning, citing her contempt for the judge-less grand jury process and the judicial practice of imprisoning reluctant witnesses without charge, has racked up fines totaling nearly a quarter-million dollars while defying a subpoena to testify about her 2010 communiqués with, allegedly, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder currently battling extradition to the U.S. from London.

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Prosecutors have said Manning, 32, is being held only in an attempt to coerce her testimony and that her imprisonment is not a form of punishment, as she’s been charged with no crime. However, the motion filed Wednesday by Manning’s lawyers argues a preponderance of evidence exists showing there’s “no reasonable possibility that she will testify,” regardless of her confinement or other sanctions.

“All evidence suggests that she is a deeply principled woman, who has suffered, expects to suffer, and is prepared to suffer for her principles, whether she is in or out of jail,” the motion says.

Aiming to convince a judge of that, Manning’s attorneys also attached a report by Dr. Sara Boyd of the University of Virginia Forensic Clinic, which found the activist “constitutionally incapable” of acting against her conscience, the lawyers said.

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The full report by Dr. Boyd was filed under seal to protect Manning’s privacy, attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen said. The 27-page motion shared with Gizmodo—which also seeks to paint Manning as unmoved by threats of financial ruin—includes several excerpts from the report:

“Ms. Manning exhibits longstanding personality features that relate to her scrupulousness, her persistence and dedication, and her willingness to endure social disapproval as well as formal punishments. She also has a tendency to see issues in black and white terms with regard to ethical and values-based judgment. These personality features are not likely to be modified by any intervention. . . . Ms. Manning has a history of continuing to pursue her ... values even when faced with serious ... negative consequences .... she has not wavered in this decision-making regarding cooperation for the past [eleven] months and she did not make any statements indicating that ... there was any information that could be provided to her that would change her mind.”

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The motion seeking Manning’s release from the Alexandria Detention Center also cites the findings of Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, who in November labeled Manning’s treatment a “deprivation of liberty.

The “open-ended, progressively severe” penalties Manning faces fulfill “all the constitutive elements of torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” wrote Melzer.

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“Whatever one may make of her beliefs, it is evident that they are inflexible, robust, and sincerely held,” said Manning’s attorneys. “She will cleave to them as her most trustworthy touchstone.”

Assange, whom Manning previously wrote she had contact with online in January 2010, faces an 18-count indictment in the United States, including alleged violations of the Espionage Act, for publishing thousands of secret diplomatic cables and battlefield reports related to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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In 2013, a military judge sentenced Manning to 35 years in prison for the leaks, which include the now-infamous footage of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed two reporters for the Reuters news agency. President Barack Obama, in one of his final acts in office, commuted her sentence after seven years.

In December, the Washington Post revealed the existence of thousands of interviews with senior diplomats and military commanders who—while serving under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama—calculated that the war in Afghanistan was aimless and unwinnable, even as U.S. leaders fed the public more than optimistic accounts of the conflict.

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Senior Reporter, Privacy & Security

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