With all this talk of whistleblowers, one might think we’d be hearing a little bit more about Chelsea Manning — perhaps the “first” big whistleblower. She was called a traitor and a spy too, so it’s no surprise that Trump is using those exact same terms to describe whoever blew the lid off his conversation with Ukraine’s president. Manning’s 35-year prison sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama back in 2017 after she had already served seven of those years.
She was called before a grand jury earlier this year in order to answer questions about what she knew about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange — questions that perhaps should have already been asked and answered (and were) the first time she was sent to prison. And that’s why it’s somewhat discomforting to know that the exact same crimes for which she was imprisoned the first time have landed her in jail again.
She refused to answer the grand jury’s questions. The judge held her in contempt of court, sending her to stew in a prison cell until she changed her mind and decided to answer those questions. In addition, she was hit with outrageously high fines for her lack of cooperation. Fines that no reasonably well-off American could possibly afford to pay.
Activists are still championing Manning and her story, but perhaps enough of us aren’t even aware that she’s in trouble again.
She was temporarily released in May. When a new grand jury arrived, she was once again ordered to testify about WikiLeaks. Once again, she refused and was sent back to prison with the same $1,000 a day fine attached to her sentence.
Before being reincarcerated (the second time), Manning said, “The government cannot build a prison bad enough, cannot create a system worse than the idea that I would ever change my principles.”
Opponents of her incarceration believe that she is simply being used as a piece on a chess board to charge Julian Assange with a number of new crimes (as if they didn’t have all the evidence they needed to charge him with whatever they like already). Even so, Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charge was directly related to providing Manning with help in electronically disseminating documents classified by the United States government.
The truth is this: the prosecutors, and the government, have yet to clarify exactly why they require Manning’s help. All we have are educated guesses.