Chelsea Manning, the Army whistleblower who released hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents to Wikileaks in 2011 and who called attention to war crimes committed by US troops, is back in jail. In fact, she’s been there for a month—not that the mainstream media cares. What’s another whistleblower locked up?
But Manning isn’t being held in the federal lockup in Alexandria, Virginia, for providing classified information to the media. She was already sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for that. (She served seven years before President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.) This time, she’s been thrown behind bars for an indeterminate period of incarceration because she refused to testify before the Wikileaks grand jury. And to make matters worse, she was reportedly held in solitary confinement (or, as sheriff Dana Lawhorne called it, “administrative segregation”) until April 5.
While the hive media has been all but silent, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at least spoke out in support of Manning last week, calling her jail conditions “torture.”
What Manning is doing, in my view, is heroic for myriad reasons. There is no need to rehash what she—then Private First Class Bradley Manning—did in 2011. You don’t have to like Chelsea to acknowledge that she’s a whistleblower. There’s a legal definition of whistleblowing. It is bringing to light any evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, or threats to the public health or safety. That’s exactly what she did when she downloaded and delivered to Wikileaks thousands of pages of government documents that exposed the real truth about the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most damning of these for the government were the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, and the Guantanamo files.
But the price that she has paid has been very high. Manning spent two of her seven years in prison in solitary confinement, a situation the United Nations has characterized as a form of torture. She twice attempted suicide the first time she was in solitary. And she was forced to remain naked for a year in solitary because she was a suicide risk. Authorities were afraid she would use her clothes to hang herself.
In early March, Manning was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in the federal court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The media reported that the Justice Department’s prosecutors wanted her to testify about her relationship with Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange and how she was able to pass classified documents to him in 2011. Manning contended that she had already testified to those questions in her own trial in 2012, and that all the feds had to do was enter into the record the transcript of her trial.
The feds wouldn’t relent. But neither would Manning. She said she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Then the government offered her qualified immunity. Nothing she said before the grand jury would be used against her. (Except if she contradicted her 2011 testimony. That’s a trick the feds love to use to charge people with perjury or with making a false statement. More on that in a minute.) Manning held firm, however. Even with the qualified immunity offer, she said that she would invoke her First Amendment right to freedom of speech, her Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure, and her Sixth Amendment right to due process. She wouldn’t budge, and the Justice Department asked the judge to hold her indefinitely in contempt of court. That is how Manning found herself behind bars again.
Fair Use Excerpt. Read the rest at the American Conservative.