Defending Rights & Dissent stands with Chelsea Manning as she resists a grand jury subpoena. Last week, it was announced that a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia has subpoenaed Manning to appear before it. Manning has vowed to fight it, has obtained counsel, and has filed a motion to quash the subpoena.
Obestentiablly, federal grand juries are supposed to determine whether probable cause exists for a criminal indictment. However, as Manning’s attorney, civil rights litigation Moira Meltzer-Cohen, told The Intercept, a grand jury “can be — and historically has been — used by prosecutors to gather intelligence to which they are not entitled, for example about lawful and constitutionally protected political activity.” This is made possible by the secretive and coercive nature of grand jury proceedings. The public–including press and attorneys–are barred. Individuals who refuse to testify can face prison time for contempt.
The government has not publicly stated why Manning has been subpoenaed, but the proceeding most likely deals with the secret indictment against WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. Late last year, the US government accidentally revealed that it had a sealed indictment against Assange in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Manning is being called to testify. Gordon Kromberg, the prosecutor who signed Manning’s subpoena, is also involved in Assange’s case. And anonymous officials have confirmed to the Washington Post that Manning’s subpoena is part of the investigation.
Manning’s subpoena would indicate that the sealed indictment against Assange pertains to WikiLeaks’ publishing of classified documents. As Defending Rights & Dissent has previously, explained regardless of what one thinks of Assange or WikLeaks, such a prosecution would be an unprecedented assault on press freedom. The New York Time’s general counsel has explained that any precedent allowing for prosecuting Assange or WikiLeaks for publishing classified information would pave the way for the New York Times to be prosecuted for doing the same. It is precisely for this reason that even the Obama Administration, which was ruthless in its relentless persecutions of whistleblowers, viewed such a prosecution as going too far. But Trump is now the president and it’s clear that he hates the free press.
Manning heroically made public information about US war crimes and other misdoings. As a result, she was court martialed and spent seven years in a military prison–longer than anyone else for giving informationation to the media–before having the remainder of her unheard of 35 year sentence commuted. Trump immediately expressed his anger Obama’s decision to set Manning free.
Given that she has already been court martialed, it’s unclear what prosecutors could hope to learn from Manning’s testimony. Subpoenaing Manning does, however, give the government a chance to harass her yet again and possibly incarcerate her. For this reason, supporters of Chelsea Manning have organized Chelsea Resists and are calling on people to rally outside the courthouse. The protest is:
March 5, 2018
401 Courthouse Square,
Alexandria, VA 22314
Defending Rights & Dissent supports these organizing efforts. In the past, Defending Rights & Dissent helped to organize one of the first protests in support of Chelsea Manning. We joined the efforts to call on Obama to commute her sentence (though we believe she was a hero deserving of a full pardon).
We continue to stand with Manning.