Chelsea Manning to face contempt charges today

Last weekend we talked about the report that convicted betrayer of the nation Chelsea Manning had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Virginia, presumably to answer questions about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. At the time, Manning claimed that he planned to fight the order and did not intend to cooperate, fearing that it was some sort of trick intended to nail him on a perjury charge or something.

As it turns out, Manning seems to have attorneys with a bit of common sense, so he wound up showing up anyway. But even though he had been given immunity for any testimony he offered, the former Army intelligence specialist refused to answer each and every question, bizarrely citing his First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights (though not taking the Fifth). That didn’t sit well with the judge, and today Manning will be back in court to find out if he’s going to be held on contempt charges. (Gizmodo)

Whistleblower and activist Chelsea Manning has been ordered to appear at a contempt hearing this Friday for refusing to answer questions about her association with WikiLeaks nearly a decade ago before a federal grand jury in Virginia.

Manning, 31, was subpoenaed last month to appear behind closed doors this week to answer questions as part of the ongoing criminal investigation into Julian Assange. An indictment against the WikiLeaks founder was inadvertently leaked by prosecutors in a court filing in November. The nature of the charges against him remain unclear.

Although Manning was granted immunity in exchange for testimony—a device commonly used to increase witness cooperation—she declined to answer any of the government’s questions, citing the First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, among other statutory rights, according to a source with knowledge of events.

How the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendments apply in this situation is something of a mystery, but the judge will probably still have to rule on that issue as well. If Manning is found to be in contempt, he could be held in jail for up to 18 months (if the grand jury is impaneled for that long), but there may be other questions to address as well. Grand jury proceedings are held in secret for many reasons, not least of which is to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation. No sooner had Manning left the courtroom than he was out there talking to reporters, telling them the nature of the questions he was asked (and subsequently refused to answer). That could create another legal problem for him.

I’m skeptical as to whether or not this judge will actually have Manning thrown in jail. It depends on how much the judge wants to have the case muddied up with politics. Also, they would likely be playing right into Manning’s own plans. It’s fairly obvious what Manning is up to here. In a dramatic announcement after his court appearance, he stated that he was “prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

Odds are that, on some level, Manning actually wants to be put in jail. He’s been playing the victim and making a living off of it ever since Barack Obama commuted his sentence on his way out the door of the Oval Office. And Manning has an army of liberal sycophants out there who drum up media attention for him and help cook up wacky ideas like having him run for a Senate seat. He’s been out of the news for a while and a stretch in jail for “sticking by his principles” would probably be just what he needs for his media stock to rise again. In any event, we may know by the end of the day what the next chapter of this story will entail.