Chelsea Manning Jailed For Refusing To Comply With Grand Jury Subpoena

Chelsea Manning is in jail for refusing to comply with a Grand Jury subpoena apparently related to an ongoing investigation of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, has been jailed by a Federal District Court Judge in Virginia for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify before a Grand Jury that is reportedly investigating Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange:

WASHINGTON — Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who provided archives of secret military documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, was taken into custody on Friday after a federal judge found her in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury that is investigating the antisecrecy group.

Judge Claude H. Hilton of Federal District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that Ms. Manning must stay in civil detention until she testifies.

“Chelsea is a tremendously courageous person and this outcome was not unexpected but this an appealable order,” said her lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen.

Ms. Manning had vowed not to cooperate in the investigation even though prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia granted immunity for her testimony.

“In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles,” she said on Thursday. “I will exhaust every legal remedy available. My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

The case is part of a long-running criminal inquiry into WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange, that dates to the Obama administration and which the Trump administration revived. Ms. Manning said on Thursday that prosecutors on Wednesday had asked her a series of questions about WikiLeaks before the grand jury, but she had responded to every question by saying it violated her constitutional rights.

(…)

During her court-martial in 2013, Ms. Manning had admitted sending WikiLeaks large archives of secret documents. Her bulk disclosure vaulted the group and Mr. Assange to global fame years before WikiLeaks gained a different type of notoriety for publishing stolen Democratic emails that Russian hackers had stolen during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In a lengthy confession in 2013, Ms. Manning said she had interacted online with someone who was likely Mr. Assange. But she said she acted of her own accord and was not directed by anyone at WikiLeaks.

A military judge had sentenced Ms. Manning to 35 years in prison, and she served about seven in military custody — by far the longest prison time any American has served for leaking government secrets to the public — before President Barack Obama commuted the remainder of her sentence in 2017. As a transgender person struggling to transition to life as a woman, she had a difficult time in a male military prisonand twice tried to commit suicide in 2016.

The contempt hearing on Friday was partly closed, but the judge had opened it for a portion in which she argued to him that Ms. Manning should be confined at home. The judge rejected that request and Ms. Manning was taken to the women’s wing of the federal detention center in Alexandria, Va., Ms. Meltzer-Cohen said.

Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the United States attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, said federal officials had taken steps to ensure that Ms. Manning’s medical needs would be met while she remains in custody. He also relayed a statement Tracy Doherty-McCormick, a federal prosecutor, had made during the open-court portion of the hearing.

“The government does not want to confine Ms. Manning,” Ms. Doherty-McCormick said. “It has always been our intent and hope for her to testify and comply with the valid court order and valid grand jury investigation. Ms. Manning could change her mind right now and do so. It is her choice. This is a rule of law issue, and Ms. Manning is not above the law.”

While it isn’t confirmed that the reason that Manning was subpoenaed was due to her contacts with Wikileaks and Assange during the time that she was in the Army and committed the acts which led to her imprisonment, this would seem to be the most logical conclusion, especially given the apparently inadvertent revelation last year that there may be a sealed indictment against Assange pending in the same court that issued the subpoena to Manning. If that’s not the case, then it would seem clear that, at the very least there is a Grand Jury investigating charges against Wikileaks and/or Assange and that the Grand Jury was persuaded by the U.S. Attorney that Manning is likely to possess information relevant to that investigation. Indeed, it’s hard to conceive of any other reason why Manning would have been subpoenaed by this court in particular. In any case, whatever the purpose of the Grand Jury Manning has no basis in the law to refuse to comply with the subpoena to appear and testify, and this is especially true given the fact that she has already been granted immunity by Federal prosecutors, meaning that she cannot raise the 5th Amendment as a reason not to testify since criminal charges are not going to be pursued against her.

In any case, Manning appears to be taking this stand against testifying with consulting with counsel, or against the advice of whatever attorneys she may have consulted with in connection with all of this. Had she done so, they would have told her that she must comply with the subpoena and that failure to do so could result in her being held in contempt and jailed until she chooses to comply. Under applicable law, the Judge can choose to keep Manning in jail for the remainder of the term of the Grand Jury that subpoenaed, which could mean that she could stay in jail for the next year to year and a half. Alternatively, the Judge could determine at some point that continuing to hold Manning in custody is not going to compel her to talk to the Grand Jury and release her from what is currently a charge of civil contempt. At that point, the U.S. Attorney handling the case could seek to have Manning charged with criminal contempt if she continues to refuse to testify. If convicted of criminal contempt Manning could end up spending even more time in jail than she currently faces. In essence, the ball at this point is in Manning’s court. She can either choose to comply with the subpoena or she can spend what could be a considerable amount of time in jail.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Intelligence, 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 Pearce says:

    Chelsea Manning should have never been a cause celebre and Obama should have never commuted her sentence.

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  2. Jay L Gischer says:

    I have considerable empathy for Manning’s life story, since it overlaps considerably with my own daughter’s journey. From the photo, she is now flourishing after transition, as is so common. I’m pleased.

    At the same time, she has always mystified me as to why she thought she had some sort of duty or higher calling to leak the material she did. Likewise, she’s asserting that she has a constitutional right to remain silent – but which right? She doesn’t say. Perhaps the nature of the sealed proceedings makes this more opaque.

    And then I have questions about the assertion that this investigation was revived by the Trump administration? By whom? Does Trump even know or care about it? Was this seen as a chance to attack a trans woman (which this administration takes whenever it can)? Was Jeff Session really playing both ends against the middle?

    So many questions.

  3. de stijl says:

    From Doug’s OP in his first sentence:

    formerly known as Bradley Manning

    Is this really necessary here? Why not just hyperlink to the Chelsea Manning wiki page. That Chelsea Manning transitioned from male to female seems utterly irrelevant to the story.

    “Doug Mataconis, who wears a Yankees cap in his profile pic, wrote a nice piece about…”

    Seems unneeded and irrelevant.

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  4. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    Is this really necessary here?

    No, it isn’t. it’s called “dead-naming” and it’s rarely appropriate at any time. I didn’t say anything, because I know Doug, and James, and Steven, and most commenters here to be supportive.

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  5. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    Chelsea Manning should have never been a cause celebre and Obama should have never commuted her sentence.

    Let’s tear this apart bit by bit.

    I’ve seen Chelsea Manning used as an example of:
    – overly harsh whistle blower laws
    – overly harsh prison conditions
    – poor treatment of transgender folks
    – ain’t it great she’s a woman now, welcome to LGBTetc.

    The last one, I find problematic. Most transgender folks don’t steal large amounts of classified data and publish it to the world. There’s been a “Free Chelsea Manning”/“Praise Chelsea Manning” contingent in the Seattle Gay Pride parade, and it annoys me — it’s mixing messages.

    I’ll quote @Jay L Gischer: “Was this seen as a chance to attack a trans woman (which this administration takes whenever it can)?” — there’s an assumption that she cannot be criticized or prosecuted without it being a sign of antitrans bigotry. It’s a smaller version of note being able to criticize Israel without being labeled antisemitic.

    But all the other issues she is cause celebre for… those are real, important issues. Not sure I would call her a whistleblower as such, because she was just dumping everything.

    As far as Obama commuting her sentence goes — it’s a crazy ass sentence, and with the treatment she got behind bars, I have no problem with commuting it.

    I hope Reality Winner gets her sentence commuted too, although that will likely have to wait for a Democrat. She actually was acting to expose a coverup, and she is a genuine patriot.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: If someone is most notable for their actions under a previous name, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to remind people of that name. It’s a point where clarity overrules the general guideline of “call people what they want to be called.”

    I think it’s unnecessary here, since everyone knows her previous name, but not inappropriate.

    I think of it like Mark Wahlburg. If you are criticizing (or praising*) his performance in “Transformers: Age Of Extinction”, there is no reason to refer to him as Marky Mark. But, if you are referencing his underwear modeling days, it is entirely appropriate, even if he would likely wince at the name.

    *: No one has ever praised his performance in that movie.

  7. Tyrell says:

    @Gustopher: Was this classified material some sort of military secrets that are vital to national security?
    Our government has classified records dating back to 1865. Why they remain classified is beyond me. Also, the Project Blue Book materials.
    Watch “Project Blue Book” on the History Channel: Dr. J. Allen Hynek and the U.S. Air Force.

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  8. de stijl says:

    This is a decent explanation of “dead-naming” and why it is hurtful.

    https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/deadnaming

    I know Doug, and James, and Steven, and most commenters here to be supportive

    Supportive and open people are amenable to constructive correction. Let this be an opportunity to educate folks on how to properly address and refer to trans people and why that is super important.

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  9. de stijl says:

    @Tyrell:

    Watch “Project Blue Book” on the History Channel

    OMG, you are so adorable! There is no cuter than you. Still, irredeemably wrong on the facts.

    Tyrell may or may not be a false persona, but he is so gulliby innocent. Whether or not Tyrell is real or faked, his experience and comments feels real.

    Shine on, you glorious naive bastard, Tyrell!

    More human than human is our motto.

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  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    People care about odd things, from my POV. I could not care less what people call me, but I am a bit of an outlier – half a dozen aliases and, I think, 9 different pen names. I yam what I yam, even if you don’t call me Popeye. A rose by any other name and all that.

    With my own daughter it took a week or so to make the name switch 90% effective, then there was an extended period of time during which I might slip once or twice a week. Now I’m down to maybe once every three or four months. It’s been interesting as a mental phenomenon – I wish I were more of a scientist – because naming errors now are always in cases of unusual moments or connections. For example if I’m making an unusual request like, ‘Hey, J, grab me that frying pan. Oops, I mean, C.’ It seems to take a while for the new name to propagate down amongst the synapses. Then again any new data has to swim the single malt sea, hack through the cannabis forest and scale the white cliffs of calcification, so it’s a miracle I retain anything.

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    @Gustopher:

    The last one, I find problematic. Most transgender folks don’t steal large amounts of classified data and publish it to the world. There’s been a “Free Chelsea Manning”/“Praise Chelsea Manning” contingent in the Seattle Gay Pride parade, and it annoys me — it’s mixing messages.

    Oh, a trans-basher ‘splaining to the silly gays. You should edit a MAGA hat onto your mutated gopher.

    Had she done so, they would have told her that she must comply with the subpoena and that failure to do so could result in her being held in contempt and jailed until she chooses to comply.

    Doug’s “libertarian” resistance to domination by the state ends when there’s risk of discomfort.

  12. Gustopher says:

    @Ben Wolf: Wolfie, I mean this in the best of all possible ways, but how fvcking stupid are you?

    As a queer man, I think that Gay Pride stuff should be celebrating the rights we (the entire LGBTetc community) have gained over the past few decades, not coddling traitors.

    And we can split hairs on whether or not Chelsea Manning is or is not a traitor, and what crimes she did commit. But, colloquially, a traitor.

    Making her into an icon for transfolk is like making Sammy Davis Jr. an icon for Judaism — they’re both in that group, you’re missing the big picture. But worse, because Sammy Davis Jr. didn’t do anything wrong.

    Chelsea Manning feeds the notion that transgender folk shouldn’t be in the military, and that they are flaky, unstable and untrustworthy. She does more harm than good in that setting.

  13. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I could not care less what people call me, but I am a bit of an outlier

    The reason you don’t care what people call you is that none of the names they could potentially use are inherently harmful or hurtful to your core self. That is not the same as how others will feel.

    Assume that you wanted to be called Michelle and your asshole boss decided to continually call you Michael against your stated preference.

    I think I’m of your first immediate response. Being really poor and homeless (in my case) and slipping Johnny Law (in your case) inoculates you against the tsk-tsk type of social condemnation because you really literally can’t give a crap because you have more pertinent issues to address like survival or liberty.

    Squatting (i.e., being essentially homeless) in my young adulthood was the worst thing I’ve ever faced and the best training for adult life I could have had.

    Jobs are not fantasy self-fulfillment passions; jobs give you money to pay rent and grant you the ability to buy stuff. Access to flip a switch electricity and turn the tap water is a god sent luxury. Even today, folks don’t get that water service and the electrical grid are extraordinary.

    Squatting taught me abject humility. And also superior logistics skills, too. Weird.

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  14. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy: This might not mean anything to you, but I appreciate your graciousness to our hosts. In this case, I don’t think this is “dead naming” because there are people who may have heard about the Bradley Manning/Wikileaks story, but not heard about her transition. Clarifying that up front seems like a wise move, journalistically speaking.

    @Gustopher:

    Most transgender folks don’t steal large amounts of classified data and publish it to the world.

    Also true for cisgender folks.

    I was comfortable with her commutation when it happened, but it’s like that one night in Vegas. Yeah, it was great fun, but man, that tattoo is janky.

    Her sentence was harsh, but it was a military sentence for military crimes. Is it even possible to commute most of a sentence?

    @Tyrell: Project Blue Book! You’re my favorite UFOlogist, man. Just curious, have you ever heard of the Cobell case? When she was at the Dept of the Interior, my Mom worked on the Power and Irrigation Reconciliation Team, trying to figure out water allotments. It was an impossible task.

    The government couldn’t figure out who owned what, but the UFOs they kept a lid on? Trust me, man. The Project Bluebook files, if they exist, are in some rat-chewed box at the back of a stack of other boxes that hasn’t been looked at in years.

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  15. Teve says:

    Making her into an icon for transfolk is like making Sammy Davis Jr. an icon for Judaism —

    Wait, what? What did Sammy do? Rob a bank? Touch the childrens? What did I miss?

    they’re both in that group, you’re missing the big picture. But worse, because Sammy Davis Jr. didn’t do anything wrong.

    Whew. Had me worried for a min.

  16. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    Her sentence was harsh, but it was a military sentence for military crimes. Is it even possible to commute most of a sentence?

    I usually avoid saying “as a veteran…” but in this instance it’s actually relevant to the discussion. As a veteran, I understand why the military does have a quasi-parallel justice system, but the doctrine of avoiding grossly disproportionate sentencing still applies. Manning’s sentence was grossly disproportionate to sentences imposed on other defendants for similar crimes, which was a large part of why Obama commuted it.

    And yes, it’s possible for the CinC to commute most of a military sentence.

  17. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Manning’s sentence was grossly disproportionate to sentences imposed on other defendants for similar crimes

    She was charged with 22 offenses and convicted on 17 of them. Are you sure the sentence is “grossly disproportionate” to what someone else would get in that situation?

    There is, as far as I know, no systemic problem with imposing “grossly disproportionate” sentences on convicted spies, so I’m not sure there’s a “social justice” angle to this at all.

    Obama should have told her, “Thirty five years is too long, kid, but you still have a few more to go before you get out.”

  18. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    Are you sure the sentence is “grossly disproportionate” to what someone else would get in that situation?

    Leakers who plead guilty, as Manning did to many of the charges, don’t get 35 years in prison. Look at Reality Winner, who leaked fewer documents but of a higher classification (TS/SCI vs. Secret). Winner got about five years. 35 for what Manning did was ludicrous, especially considering her guilty plea and clear expression of remorse.

    Obama should have told her, “Thirty five years is too long, kid, but you still have a few more to go before you get out.”

    She’d already served seven years and Obama was about to leave office.

  19. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Leakers who plead guilty, as Manning did to many of the charges, don’t get 35 years in prison.

    They also don’t run for Congress and live as a public figure either.

    The military finally agreed to support her transition. If she got out next year instead of back in 2017, I’d be okay with that.