Supporting Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, Imprisoned for Refusing to Testify in Grand Jury Case Against WikiLeaks

1.4.19

Chelsea Manning, in a photo from a fashion shoot for Dazed on February 12, 2019, just 24 days before she was imprisoned for refusing to testify in a Grand Jury case against WikiLeaks.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

It’s three weeks since Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for refusing to testify in a Grand Jury case against WikiLeaks, and I wanted to make sure that I expressed my solidarity with her, as, without her contributions to breaking through the US government’s deliberate secrecy surrounding the prisoners held at Guantánamo, we would know far less than we do about how weak so much of the so-called evidence is that has been used to defend the imprisonment without charge or trial of the men — and boys — held at Guantánamo without charge or trial since the disgraceful prison opened in January 2002.

It was while working as an intelligence analyst for the US Army in Iraq, in 2009, that Manning leaked to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified — or unclassified but sensitive — US military and diplomatic documents, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring footage of a US Army helicopter gunning down a group of unarmed civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists, the Afghan and Iraq war logs, a vast number of US diplomatic cables from around the world, and the classified military files from Guantánamo.

I worked as a media partner with WikiLeaks on the release of these documents in April 2011, and as I stated in an article in January 2017, when President Obama commuted the 35-year sentence that Manning had received after her court-martial in 2013:

[An] intelligent analysis of the files … reveals the extent to which they lay bare the cruelty and incompetence of the authorities at Guantánamo, providing the names of the many unreliable witnesses, who, as a result of torture or other forms of abuse, or being bribed with better living conditions, or simply through exhaustion after seemingly endless — and pointless — interrogations, told their interrogators what they wanted to hear. And the interrogators, of course, wanted whatever information would make the prisoners appear significant, when, in truth, they had been rounded up in a largely random manner, or had been bought for bounty payments from the Americans’ Afghan or Pakistani allies, and very few — a maximum of 3% of the 779 men held, I estimate — genuinely had any kind of meaningful connection with al-Qaeda, the leadership of the Taliban, or any related groups. Most were either foot soldiers or civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time, dressed up as “terrorists” to justify a dragnet, from September 2001 to November 2003 (when the transfers to Guantánamo largely ended) that is primarily remarkable because of its stunning incompetence.

I began a detailed study of the Guantánamo files leaked by Manning after their release in 2011, but exhaustion, and a lack of funding, prevented me from analyzing more than the 422 files I covered in detail in 34 articles totaling over half a million words, which are available here, although I do believe that my work on the files constitutes important research. One day I hope to complete the project, but even if I don’t, the files Manning released will provide historians with an unparalleled opportunity to understand the extent to which the so-called intelligence at Guantánamo is a house of cards built on torture and lies, and we should all be grateful to her for leaking them in the first place — just as there are reasons to be grateful for all the other documents she leaked.

On March 8, US District Judge Claude Hilton held Manning in contempt of court and ordered her to be imprisoned after a brief hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, where she confirmed that she had no intention of testifying in the Grand Jury proceedings whose existence was only inadvertently made public last November. 

In a Tweet on March 7, Manning wrote that, they before, she had “appeared before a secret grand jury after being given immunity for my testimony.” She added, “All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013. I responded to each question with the following statement: ‘I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.’”

Manning also stated, “In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. 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.”

Last week, supporters condemned what they described as Manning’s “solitary confinement” at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, where she is held, and where, as the Guardian noted, she “has been held in administrative segregation, or ‘adseg’, with up to 22 hours each day spent in isolation.” 

Just two days ago, Manning’s attorneys “asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate (void) District Court Judge Hilton’s finding of civil contempt,” as reported by the Sparrow Project.

The importance of the case against Manning was effectively highlighted by Chris Hedges in an article for Truthdig, in which he explained:

The US government, determined to extradite and try Julian Assange for espionage, must find a way to separate what Assange and WikiLeaks did in publishing classified material leaked to them by Chelsea Manning from what the New York Times and the Washington Post did in publishing the same material. There is no federal law that prohibits the press from publishing government secrets. It is a crime, however, to steal them. The long persecution of Manning, who on March 8 was sent back to jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury, is about this issue.

If Manning, a former Army private, admits she was instructed by WikiLeaks and Assange in how to obtain and pass on the leaked material, which exposed US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the publisher could be tried for the theft of classified documents. The prosecution of government whistleblowers was accelerated during the Obama administration, which under the Espionage Act charged eight people with leaking to the media—Thomas Drake, Shamai Leibowitz, Stephen Kim, Manning, Donald Sachtleben, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou and Edward Snowden. By the time Donald Trump took office, the vital connection between investigative reporters and sources inside the government had been severed.

As Hedges also stated, “The goal of the corporate state is to shroud in total secrecy the inner workings of power, especially those activities that violate the law. Movement toward this goal is very far advanced. The failure of news organizations such as the New York Times and the Washington Post to vigorously defend Manning and Assange will soon come back to haunt them. The corporate state hardly intends to stop with Manning and Assange. The target is the press itself.”

Here’s Chelsea’s address, via ChelseaResists:

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning
A0181426
William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA
22314

Her jail does NOT accept:
— books or cards

You CAN write letters with pen or colored pencils on paper, and send newspapers.

Further details here.

Also, donations towards legal costs are accepted here.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

17 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    In my latest article, cross-posted from CloseGuantanamo.org, I express my support for Chelsea Manning, who was shamefully imprisoned on March 8 for refusing to testify in a Grand Jury case against WikiLeaks.

    Chelsea, of course, has already paid heavily for leaking documents to WikiLeaks, having been imprisoned for seven years until President Obama commuted her sentence before he left office in January 2017.

    At stake here is the freedom of the press to publish leaked material that is of public importance, but that governments want to keep hidden; in this case, the US government, war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, extraordinary revelations about US diplomatic activity around the world, and, of particular interest to me, classified military files from #Guantanamo, which I worked on as a media partner with WikiLeaks for their release in April 2011, and which spelled out the extent to which the supposed evidence from Guantanamo consisted largely of dubious allegations made by prisoners subjected to torture, abuse or bribery, including numerous prisoners revealed as persistent liars.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Matz wrote:

    When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are ruled by criminals.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Richard!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    Thank you for writing about her, Andy. I think it’s very important.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your interest, Natalia. It’s crucial that everyone involved in exposing secrets is defended – from Chelsea Manning to WikiLeaks to the media that disseminated the leaked material. The latter, in particular, need to make sure that they stand in solidarity with Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. This isn’t about personalities; it’s about principles, and if journalists and their editors don’t defend those who leak information to them then they too will eventually be taken down.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    Andy I have been following Chelsea’s case since she was arrested, wrote to her many letters, and all after she was released. Of course also Assange. What has been to them is horrible and outrageous.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your dedication to justice, Natalia!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Aleksey Penskiy wrote:

    There is no valuable information here, there is pressure on the witness. Causation is easily established in this case. We are seeing a degradation of justice.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Aleksey!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    In politics sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you but it seems that where the military and the law rub up awkwardly in the US it’s usually the law that gets traduced. That is surely not a healthy state of affairs. Manning appears to be doing the ethical thing here in protection of a free press whereas those prosecuting appear punitive and rogue. It’s an ugly message to send. I hope this impasse is soon resolved.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, David. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Anna Elliott wrote:

    Thank you Andy. Shared. Chelsea is a hero, and I’m happy you’re supporting her.🙂

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    How could I not, Anna? Her role in the Guantanamo story is really very significant, even if not enough people know or care about how the classified files she released were a devastating indictment of how much the US authorities had relied on untrustworthy informants within Guantanamo to provide what they tried to pretend was trustworthy evidence.
    My analysis of those files is here – incomplete, but I made a good start! http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/category/2002-2011-the-complete-guantanamo-files-new/

  14. Tom says...

    The Wikileaks grand jury here will continue to be renewed by the DOJ. The only ways she can be released is if she testifies or if the grand jury expires w/no renewal.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. I suppose the third option, which Chelsea’s hoping for, is that her case attracts significant international and domestic outrage on the core issue of the necessary freedom of whistleblowers and the press not to be stopped from telling the world about wrongdoing by their governments.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Steve Wade wrote:

    It was a secret grand jury.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    My experience with assessing grand juries is very limited, Steve, but it seems that secrecy is an integral part of how they operate. I was doing a bit of searching online, and found this informative article from the Daily Beast about how former WikiLeaks volunteer David House, a friend of Manning, cooperated with the Grand Jury, which also provides some background on the case; about how, for example, it seems to have been wound down under Obama, which “ultimately decided that prosecuting Assange for accepting and publishing leaked documents would run into First Amendment issues”, and has only been revived under Trump.

    We know, because of the accidental release of the information in a case last November, that “prosecutors in Alexandria already have a sealed criminal complaint against Assange,” and the Daily Beast also provides some context for the revival of the Grand Jury’s work: “It’s not known if the sealed charges are also about the 2010 Manning leaks, but it’s likely. Prosecutors sometimes file criminal complaints, rather than indictments, as a placeholder to keep an investigation running beyond the statute of limitations for the underlying crime.”

    As a former federal prosecutor told the Daily Beast, “Technically speaking, if you get charged by complaint the grand jury investigation remains open. Maybe they think they’ll be able to get him out at some point. The investigation would probably be over already if he was in a jurisdiction that would extradite him.”

    See: https://www.thedailybeast.com/wikileaks-veteran-i-cooperated-with-feds-in-exchange-for-immunity

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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