Chelsea Manning is fighting a grand jury subpoena and we don't know why

This story just started bubbling to the surface at the end of the week and it’s still tough to say whether there’s any meat on the bone or if it’s a nothingburger. The last we heard from Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning was when he was running a Senate primary bid that wound up being slightly less successful than the final flight of the Hindenburg. But now Manning is back in the news for what may turn out to be more familiar reasons. Virginia prosecutors have issued a subpoena for him to appear before a grand jury, but Manning is preparing to fight the order. Why are these things happening? That’s a good question. (WaPo)

Chelsea Manning has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the investigation of Julian Assange, officials said, one of several indicators that prosecutors remain interested in WikiLeaks’ publication of diplomatic cables and military war logs in 2010.

Prosecutors in Virginia have been pursuing a case based on conduct that predates WikiLeaks’ publication of hacked emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, and it’s not clear investigators are interested in that activity. Officials discussed the investigation of Assange, who founded WikiLeaks, on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the grand jury process.

Manning, whose subpoena was first reported by the New York Times, is a former Army private who served seven years in a military prison for passing secret State Department cables and military documents to WikiLeaks before receiving a commutation from President Barack Obama.

The New York Times had the subpoena story first, but Manning’s supporters were very quick to respond. They’ve set up a legal defense fund so the public can once again pour tons of money into whatever crusade he’s involved in now.

The first question here is why the prosecutors want Manning to testify to begin with. There’s no indication that the betrayer of our country has done anything new that’s illegal, so it’s probably a fairly safe bet that it’s something to do with the Assange investigation, as suggested in the WaPo article. If they’re thinking of going after Wikileaks for the publication of the hacked DNC/Clinton emails, it makes sense that they might want to roll in some charges involved the publication of all the material Manning gave them as well.

For his part, Manning is claiming that this is an attempt to entrap him into providing false testimony under oath or some other “procedural crime” along those lines. This is part of a press release sent out by a group calling themselves the Chelsea Resists Support Committee.

By serving Chelsea Manning with a grand jury subpoena, the government is attempting once again to punish an outspoken whistleblower for her historic disclosures. We stand with Chelsea in support of her refusal to participate in this repressive and undemocratic process.

“Grand juries are notoriously mired in secrecy, and have historically been used to silence and retaliate against political activists. Their indiscriminate nature means the government can attempt to artificially coerce a witness into perjury or contempt. Chelsea gave voluminous testimony during her court martial. She has stood by the truth of her prior statements, and there is no legitimate purpose to having her rehash them before a hostile grand jury.

Being concerned over possible perjury or contempt charges is valid in this case. That’s a very real danger if Manning isn’t willing to cooperate, but why refuse at this late stage of the game? As Peter Zeidenberg pointed out for the linked article, Manning has already been charged, convicted and served time for all of those offenses. As such, there’s no Fifth Amendment question over self-incrimination because of double jeopardy concerns. If Manning refuses to testify he could be held in contempt.

We’ll keep an eye on this story as it develops, but with the secrecy that always surrounds grand jury proceedings, it may be a while before we know anything more concrete. The interesting aspect of this story may not wind up having much to do with Manning at all, but rather what plans our government has for Julian Assange if he ever emerges from that embassy in London.

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