Federal Appeals Court Rules Chelsea Manning Must Testify Or Remain In Jail

A Federal Appeals Court has rejected Chelsea Manning's bid to be released from jail notwithstanding her refusal to comply with a Grand Jury Subpoena.

It’s been nearly two months now since Chelsea Manning was jailed for refusing to comply with a Grand Jury subpoena apparently related to charges pending against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Today, a Federal Appeals Court denied her effort to be set free, saying that she must remain in jail as long as she refuses to comply with a valid subpoena for her testimony:

Chelsea Manning must stay in jail on contempt of court for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, an appeals court ruled Monday.

Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy website, was charged under seal in Alexandria, Va., federal court last year with conspiring to help Manning break a Defense Department password. The case was made public when he was arrested in London earlier this month. But prosecutors are still investigating and may file more charges before moving forward with an extradition request. In court filings, Manning has said she believes they want to undermine her potential testimony as a defense witness.

“The court finds no error in the district court’s rulings and affirms its finding of civil contempt,” a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit wrote in a brief order. The panel also rejected Manning’s bid to be let out of jail while she fights the subpoena. She can still appeal to the full 4th Circuit or Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Manning declined to comment before speaking with her.
Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, has admitted that she leaked hundreds of thousands of classified government documents to Assange in 2010. She served seven years in prison before her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama.

In March, Manning was called before a federal grand jury in Alexandria investigating Assange and jailed for declining to answer questions.

From a legal point of view, there’s really no question that Manning has no leg to stand on here. As long as the subpoena was validly issued, the only basis upon which Manning or anyone else can decline to answer questions would be if doing so would violate their rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. Given the fact that Manning has already been tried and convicted for her role in the leaks to Wikileaks that she was responsible for, there doesn’t appear to be any valid argument that can be made on her part regarding the possibility of self-incrimination. Additionally, it is generally the case that the Amendment can only be invoked with regard to specific questions that might tend to incriminate the potential witness, not as a shield that would prevent them from having to testify at all. This is why the Court dealt with Manning’s application in a short and concise opinion that basically says Manning can be released when she agrees to testify or when the term of the Grand Jury that issued the subpoena expires, which could be more than a year from now.

Manning could seek an en banc appeal from the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals or appeal this matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the law on this issue is so crystal clear it seems obvious that either choice would lead to the same inevitable result. If Manning wants to be released from jail, she has two choices. Either she talks to the Grand Jury, or she remains in jail for a considerably long period of time.

In any case, here’s the Court’s ruling:

U.S. v. Chelsea Manning by on Scribd

https://www.scribd.com/document/407165400/U-S-v-Chelsea-Manning
FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, National Security, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    [T]he law on this issue is so crystal clear it seems obvious that either choice would lead to the same inevitable result.

    Indeed. I can’t imagine a judge creating a right to refuse to do . . . [checks notes] . . . what judges order them to do.

  2. de stijl says:

    I’m missing something.

    If she’s already been convicted of the leaks to Assange, and her sentence was later commuted, why is she refusing to testify at least just to decline to answer on 5th Amendment grounds? (I’m assuming one can plead the 5th in front of a grand jury, right?)

    Is it that her sentence was commuted, rather receiving a pardon? So, if she testified to a technically new crime related to the Wikileaks case she could be on the hook again?

    I get that she has been subpoenaed and must comply. But why is she refusing to testify if her sentence has already been commuted? If she shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, then it makes sense why she wouldn’t – it’s an entirely unrelated matter, but why would testifying to a directly related matter to her previous conviction be risky?

    Is there a danger that she could be charged for a new crime regarding the Wikileaks matter?

    I is confuzed.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @de stijl:

    But why is she refusing to testify if her sentence has already been commuted?

    One presumes she’s still loyal to Assange and the WikiLeaks cause? And, having already received Presidential commutation, she presumably can’t plead the 5th.

  4. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    One presumes she’s still loyal to Assange and the WikiLeaks cause?

    Enough to go to jail?

  5. Joe says:

    Given the general suspicion that the Trump campaign “coordinated” or something with Assange to get Wikileaks to dump the DNC emails at opportune times, I find it interesting that this administration is pursuing Assange and Manning so aggressively. If the Administration is truly pulling strings at DOJ, why is this even a thing? Thoughts?

  6. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Joe: Well, Chelsea is a trans woman, and this administration is deeply unfriendly toward people like that.

    I hope it isn’t that petty, but I can’t rule it out. I can’t think of any other reason for this. Contrariwise, I’m not sure I understand Manning’s refusal to testify either. I feel like I’m missing a bunch of important facts.

  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    I have a recollection that she is refusing to cooperate with the government on principle, rather than protecting/supporting Assange.

  8. Gustopher says:

    So long as Manning is being treated well in jail, I’m ok with this.

    The government treated her terribly in jail the first time around, and the sentence was far too long for the crimes and impact. I supported commuting her sentence because of that.

    But, for refusing to testify this is pretty standard treatment.

  9. Gustopher says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Assange is accused of helping Manning avoid detection while stealing government data. I would assume that Manning’s testimony is going to be very relevant to that case.

    There might also be some anti-trans bias thrown in there, but it’s not the primary motivation by a long shot.

  10. Gustopher says:

    @Joe: People can have multiple motives and goals at once, and an administration full of people more so.

    If it wasn’t for Snowden, Wikileaks might be getting a gentler treatment from this administration. But, since Snowden does exist, and Assange received that stolen information after the fact and may be protected by first amendment press protections, they will go after him for this.

    Also, isn’t it very Trumplike to discard people like a used tissue when he’s done with them? He’s transactional, the transaction is over, and he thinks the Mueller report cleared him, so what good is Assange now?

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    Setting aside the underlying issue for a moment, Assange is an idiot. He publicly, visibly went to war with the western intelligence community. What did he think was going to happen? Did he think that was going to end well? Hey, fuck you CIA, NSA, GCHQ, MI6, Mossad, DGSE, BND and all the rest of the initials! Really? Thought that was a good idea?

    Getting back to the underlying issue, what did Assange accomplish for openness and transparency? Not a damned thing. Guantanamo is still open, we’re still in Afghanistan, and he helped elect an amoral, criminal pig who is openly hostile to the free press, and strengthened a kleptocratic Russian regime that has no interest in transparency. He’s done nothing but damage to the free press. If he’s a reporter he owns the record for own goals.

    Assange is a POS and Chelsea Manning is a bit of a nitwit, though reasonably well-motivated by nitwit standards. The thing is you can’t save people who want to be martyrs. Assange picked a fight he had at some level to know he’d lose, and he did it for ignoble reasons and accomplished in the end the opposite of his professed goal. He’s basically a Confederate general: belligerent, stupid and on the wrong side of history. Manning, sadly, looks like she’s playing out a sort of public suicide.

  12. rachel says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Chelsea Manning is a bit of a nitwit

    More than a bit. Sigh.

  13. James Joyner says:

    @de stijl: I mean, she spent seven years in jail the first time and was facing another 25 years or so before the commutation. That’s the nature of being a fanatic.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl:

    In court filings, Manning has said she believes they want to undermine her potential testimony as a defense witness.

    She does not want statements made to a grand jury available to refute whatever she might say in defense of Assange.

    Did that help?

  15. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    Getting back to the underlying issue, what did Assange accomplish for openness and transparency? … he helped elect an amoral, criminal pig who is openly hostile to the free press, and strengthened a kleptocratic Russian regime that has no interest in transparency. He’s done nothing but damage to the free press.

    Who’s to say these were not his goals? Seems to me that spreading chaos could very well be a desired goal. On the other hand, I’m only an abyss and may not understand misplaced altruism.