Chelsea Manning Released From Jail, But It Won’t Last For Long

Chelsea Manning, who was being held in jail for refusing to comply with a Grand Jury subpoena, was released yesterday but it's likely to only be a temporary freedom.

Chelsea Manning, who was being held in a Virginia jail for her refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by a Grand Jury investigating Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has been released from confinement but her freedom may only be temporary:

Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who provided secret military documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, was released from jail Thursday after being held for two months for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the online leak-publishing organization.

Ms. Manning’s release came on the day that the term of the grand jury that served her with a subpoena in January expired and the grand jurors were dismissed, said Moira Meltzer-Cohen, her lawyer. Ms. Manning, 31, was held for 62 days.

But she may return to jail as early as next week. Her lawyer said Ms. Manning was served with a new subpoena on Wednesday to appear before a different grand jury on May 16, where she is expected to be asked “the same questions” about WikiLeaks. Ms. Manning will appear before the new grand jury but will not answer its questions, her lawyer said.

Prosecutors had granted immunity to Ms. Manning for her testimony, but when she appeared before the grand jury in March she responded to each question by saying that it violated her constitutional rights. Judge Claude H. Hilton of Federal District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia held her in contempt and ruled at the time that she remain in custody until she testified.

The investigation into WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange, is part of a long-running criminal inquiry that began during the Obama administration and has continued under President Trump.

Mr. Assange evaded the investigation for seven years by holing up in Ecuador’s embassy in Britain, where he continued his activities with WikiLeaks. That included working on the release of thousands of Democratic emails stolen by Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But over time Mr. Assange wore out his welcome. Ecuador suspended the citizenship it had granted him and kicked him out of the embassy last month. He was quickly arrested to face allegations in the United States that he conspired to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010.

During her court-martial in 2013, Ms. Manning admitted sending secret documents to WikiLeaks: 250,000 American diplomatic cables and roughly 480,000 Army reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
She also confessed to interacting online with someone who was probably Mr. Assange. But she said she had acted on her own, out of principle, and was not working for WikiLeaks. In March, she said prosecutors wanted to question her about that period once again.

“The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago and took place six years after an in-depth computer forensics case, in which I testified for almost a full day about these events,” she said in a statement at the time. “I stand by my previous public testimony.”

In early March, Manning jailed for refusing to comply with a Grand Jury subpoena apparently related to charges pending against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Roughly two weeks ago, 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. Under Federal law, though, Manning could not be held in jail once the Grand Jury that had originally subpoenaed her came to the end of its term. This is the reason that she has been released now, but given the fact that she has been subpoenaed yet again to appear before the new Grand Jury that is apparently continuing to hear evidence regarding potential charges against Assange, it’s likely that her freedom will only be temporary. More likely than not, Manning will refuse to testify again and the presiding Judge will be forced to hold her in contempt and jail her again. At that point, she will be subject to being held until she decides to cooperate until she cooperates or until the term of the new Grand Jury ends. Alternatively, the Judge presiding over the case 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.

As Jazz Shaw notes, Manning’s position here is a curious one:

While everyone has the right to their own opinion, Manning’s protest here is certainly curious, to say the least. She’s not just saying that she refuses to answer any questions about Wikileaks and Julian Assange. She’s refusing to answer any questions about anything in front of a grand jury as a protest of the grand jury system itself. Somehow I don’t think the entire nation is going to abandon the grand jury system simply because of a political stunt from one former resident of Fort Leavenworth. With that in mind, she might want to prepare for another long stretch of eating jail food.

Manning is certainly putting herself in an odd position. I suppose she really believes she is acting out of some broader principle, but this doesn’t seem to be the best way to stand up for those principles. Complicating this issue, of course, is the suggestion that many people close to Manning have made in the past that her mental state may not be in the best shape irrespective of the fact that she was being held in jail for contempt. It was only a few years ago, in fact, that Manning posted some odd things on social media that made it seem as though she was suicidal. This came in the middle of her ill-fated campaign for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Maryland but appears to have raised real concerns among those close to her. Whether that is playing a role here or not is unclear. One assumes that jail officials are aware of events like these in Manning’s past and that she is receiving appropriate counseling or medication if she wants it, but the fact that she may not be entirely in her right mind makes one wonder if her decision to sit in jail for the sake of Julian Assange is really a cry for help.

FILED UNDER: 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


  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    There’s a definite opacity to the whole affair. Manning says her constitutional rights would be violated/are being violated. But which one(s)? That’s never mentioned. Perhaps it can’t be mentioned because of the confidential nature of the Grand Jury. Maybe that’s what’s creating a problem for her?

    Suicidal ideation is common before and during transition. Mostly I associate any such feelings with that.

  2. Kathy says:

    I can’t conceive lifting a finger for Julian F***g Assange, much less suffering imprisonment for the man who helped elect Donald F***g Trump.

  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    Well I just read Jazz Shaw’s linked post. Shaw handles things well, but their commenters are deeply offensive. In short they deny the existence of gender dysphoria, and have a merry old time doing it. Because that’s what’s really important in life. There’s plenty of things about Manning which I do not approve of, but her gender and transition is not one of those things.

    I continue to wonder if being trans isn’t related to this somehow. Perhaps she believes the questions are meant to trap her into a legal statement of male gender? I could see this administration trying stuff like that, especially after witnessing the glee with which she is mocked on Shaw’s site.

  4. Gustopher says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Well I just read Jazz Shaw’s linked post. Shaw handles things well, but their commenters are deeply offensive.

    Why did I go and read those comments? Somehow, it was irresistible like “try this, it’s disgusting!”

    Half the comments were hourly work spam (“I just made $900/hr from home, blowing goats”), and they were by far the best comments. He has some horrible commenters.

  5. The commenters at Hot Air are pretty bad as a general rule