Yesterday I took a look at the upcoming hearing where Chelsea Manning was facing possible contempt of court charges for failing to answer questions before a grand jury in Virginia. At the time I speculated that the judge might be hesitant to toss Manning in jail (for up to a maximum of 18 months or the end of the grand jury’s impanelment) just because of the craptacular media circus that would follow. It turns out that Virginia federal court Judge Claude Hilton had no such qualms and he promptly turned around and threw Manning in the slammer after he continued to refuse to answer. (NY Post)

Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was convicted for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, was thrown in jail Friday for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating the group.

Manning was taken into custody on contempt charges following a brief hearing in which she informed Virginia federal court Judge Claude Hilton that she had no intention of testifying.

Saying she objected to the secrecy behind grand jury proceedings, Manning told the judge she “will accept whatever you bring upon me.” She also said she told everything she knows to her court martial.

Manning can file all the appeals he likes, but Judge Hilton stated flatly that Manning would stay in jail until either he “agreed to testify or the grand jury wraps up the case.” I don’t see any indication of how long this particular jury has already been in the box, so it’s tough to say when Manning might be getting out.

I wouldn’t feel too badly for Manning in any case. As I speculated yesterday, this is precisely the type of drama and publicity he’s seemed to crave since his release. You can hear it in the statements Manning made before the court. Saying he would “accept whatever you bring upon me” sounds like a line straight out of central casting for the soon-to-be martyr that’s about to be burned at the stake by the evil inquisition.

It’s a play that’s already working, to be sure. Manning is getting just what he wants from outlets like Gizmodo. And they’re fully on board with the idea that Manning can protest the use of grand juries. (Emphasis added)

Why Chelsea Manning Decided to Go to Jail in Protest

Chelsea Manning is not accused of committing any new crime. But she is now a prisoner of the U.S. government once again and may remain one for up to 18 months…

Manning, whose right to remain silent was supplanted as part of the grand jury process, was subpoenaed last month in the U.S. Justice Department’s not-so-sealed investigation into Julian Assange. Her defiance of this secret inquisition, however, is not about protecting the WikiLeaks founder at all.

Manning says she is resisting because she, like many other politically minded Americans, believes grand juries are an illegal instrument designed to aide prosecutions on fishing expeditions; a tool for robbing witnesses of their constitutional rights that has historically been used against peaceful political activists by men in power who would label these activists enemies of the state.

How dramatic! An inquisition has made an activist a prisoner of the government, robbing them of their constitutional rights. That’s pretty much a movie treatment ready to submit to Hollywood with little further development required.

Let me just say that I could come up with a few complaints about the grand jury process myself. While I understand the need for secrecy and detailed investigations that can stretch on for months or years, the process is clunky and can result in a lot of misunderstandings. But it’s also the law of the land. If you are called in to testify and there’s reasonable cause to believe that you have information relevant to the case, you have to answer the questions or be prepared to be punished for failing to comply. I’m sure many people aren’t thrilled with the process, but if you don’t like it you should start lobbying to change the laws.

In this case, there may be something big cooking regarding Julian Assange, in a case that could have serious implications for both national security and future questions about the limits of press freedom when it comes to revealing secret intelligence data. Manning is obviously in a position to offer some insights on that. And there was no need for him to fear giving answers because the prosecutors already granted him full immunity for any testimony he gave. (He’s also already protected by double jeopardy rules anyway.) This entire episode is looking more and more like a stunt.

I will disagree with Gizmodo on one other point, however. They heavily imply that there’s no threat to America or national security going on here. I would argue there’s definitely a threat to the nation in play. And he’d still be in Leavenworth if Barack Obama hasn’t commuted his sentence.