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Breaking: Chelsea Manning Ordered Released From Prison

A day after her suicide attempt, judge ruled that Manning's appearance before Assange grand jury 'no longer needed.'

Chelsea Manning in front of the U.S. District Courthouse in Alexandria, Va., in March before she was jailed. (NBC News screenshot)

UPDATE: 3/12/20, 8:13 P.M.: According to reports, a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., has ordered the release of Chelsea Manning, a day after a reported suicide attempt. She had been in the federal jail there  for a full year, on account that she refused to testify in the Assange/Wikileaks grand jury (more below).

From The Intercept tonight:

While Manning’s release is vastly long overdue and most welcome, the framing and timing of the decision are galling. On Friday, Manning was scheduled to appear at a court hearing on a motion to end her continued imprisonment, predicated on her unshakeable resistance proving coercion to be impossible, and her incarceration therefore illegal. She endured months of extreme suffering, driving her to near death, but never wavered on her principled refusal to speak.

According to Manning’s lawyers, in a statement released Thursday night, the judge ordered that she pay the $256,000 in fines which accrued each day she refused to cooperate with the grand jury.

More here.

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Chelsea Manning, who did seven years of prison time—much of that in solitary and/or under duress—for leaking unauthorized classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010—has attempted suicide in jail, according to lawyers.

Manning, who transitioned from a man (she was Pvt. Bradley Manning when the leaks occurred and was court martialed, has been languishing in a Virginia federal jail cell since March 8, 2019. She is there on a contempt of court charge after she refused last year to cooperate in a federal investigation against Wikileaks and Julian Assange (who is slowly losing his own health in a jail cell in Britain). Manning has said publicly that she had given all of her testimony to the government in her own trial (she was convicted while in prison in 2013) and is does not believe testifying further is in the interest of her rights, or security, or for the truth:

“We’ve seen this power abused countless times to target political speech,” she said last year to the press. “I have nothing to contribute to this case and I resent being forced to endanger myself by participating in this predatory practice.”

The Department of Justice has slapped fines of $1,000 every day she remains in jail and not cooperating; her appeals have been denied as she has repeatedly resisted demands to testify before the grand jury. Her case has drawn wide attention and sympathy—just not from the right people, like the American mainstream media. United Nations special rapporteur Nils Melzer released a letter in December 2019 calling her treatment “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Funny how this all works out: Manning was a hero during the Bush administration because her work to bring all of the lies about the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars mostly embarrassed the Republican power elite in Washington at the time. One would think her symbolic strength as a trans woman, a veteran, and whistleblower would earn her the support of the press and advocacy groups. But then Wikileaks and Assange became linked to Russia and Trump and now they have all been cast off, quite pettily, as unworthy of the slightest concern for their rights under the rule of law. What is happening to each of these individuals is not humane, no matter how you slice it. Assange’s health is deteriorating as he rots in prison on a failure to appear charge.

The U.S. is now trying to extradite Assange for theft and espionage and he has been kept in an armored glass box at the back of the court room, separate from his own lawyers, during his extradition hearing. Third world dictators and mass murderers are afforded fairer conditions under the law. Not to mention we know now the U.S. was bugging the embassy and all of his private conversations with his lawyers for an untold number of years while he was holed up there. Is this going to be a fair trial? Is this what America stands for?

Chelsea Manning has always been a tragic character—there’s no need to replay her childhood, what led her to the military, and to her ultimate judgement in leaking classified files. But Manning did her time and was well on the way to reconciling her past with a brighter future. The federal government felt the need to jack boot Manning right back behind bars. Such a slight figure—is she such a threat to our national security? There is much more here than meets the eye. But the real question is when will the people who could really help her finally stand up?

 

 

about the author

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, executive editor, has been writing for TAC since 2007, focusing on national security, foreign policy, civil liberties and domestic politics. She served for 15 years as a Washington bureau reporter for FoxNews.com, and at WTOP News in Washington from 2013-2017 as a writer, digital editor and social media strategist. She has also worked as a beat reporter at Bridge News financial wire (now part of Reuters) and Homeland Security Today, and as a regular contributor at Antiwar.com. A native Nutmegger, she got her start in Connecticut newspapers, but now resides with her family in Arlington, Va.

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