Chelsea Manning Still in Jail, Despite Assange Indictment

REUTERS / Torben Christensen

For over a month, Chelsea Manning has been incarcerated in a federal detention center for refusing to testify before a grand jury that indicted Julian Assange. He was arrested last week at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, in a move by the Trump Justice Department that Noam Chomsky called “scandalous in several respects.”

To prevent Manning from exercising her 5th amendment right, prosecutors offered her immunity for her testimony. Nevertheless, she refused to cooperate, saying “the grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago, and took place six years after an in-depth computer forensics case, in which I testified for almost a full day about these events.”

The Trump Justice Department’s case should be won or lost based on their ability, or lack thereof, to convince the jury that Assange did not just push Manning to provide more documents, he actively aided her in hacking into the Pentagon’s top secret network to obtain the documents.

In an awkward NPR interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out that the Obama Justice Department declined to charge Assange with hacking into SIPRNet, likely because they lacked sufficient evidence. This could be why the Trump Justice Department is still holding Manning in prison, despite Assange’s indictment and arrest.

Following Assange’s arrest, Manning’s legal team filed a brief and released a statement calling for her immediate release, arguing that “continued detention would be purely punitive.” The judge who sent Manning to jail has yet to publicly respond.

The Justice Department’s plan B appears to rely on the fact that many liberals and conservatives share a common enemy in Assange, but unless Manning testifies (spoiler alert: she won’t), they will end up relying on incomplete or circumstantial evidence.

Perhaps the worst possible outcome would be a precedent that as a publisher, Assange violated the law simply by pushing Manning to share more documents. Any precedent that could even remotely be interpreted this way would put countless investigative journalists in legal jeopardy simply for doing their jobs.

By refusing to testify, even after being subjected to a tortuous 28 days of solitary confinement, Manning is denying the Justice Department a key witness in the case against Assange, and doing more to defend the 1st amendment than any journalist in the US today.

Chomsky summed up the whole situation as “efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn’t want the rascal multitude to know about.”

Chomsky continued, “some of you may recall when Mussolini’s fascist government put Antonio Gramsci in jail. The prosecutor said, ‘We have to silence this voice for 20 years. Can’t let it speak.’ That’s Assange.”

“The other scandal is just the extraterritorial reach of the United States, which is shocking. I mean, why should the United States — why should any — no other state could possibly do it. But why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? I mean, it’s an outlandish situation. It goes on all the time. We never even notice it. At least there’s no comment on it.”

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