After rebuffing a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury as part of a WikiLeaks probe, Chelsea Manning was jailed Friday.
The former Army private had served seven years of a 35-year sentence for sharing classified documents with the whistleblower site – President Obama commuted her sentence in 2017 shortly before he left office.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been in the crosshairs since he released documents nicked by former Manning, scrutiny that intensified after Assange leaked a raft of stolen DNC emails damaging to Hillary Clinton – at a steady drip – during the waning months of the 2016 presidential election.
A court filing in Virginia last fall inadvertently revealed that Justice Department has an indictment ready to go against him. The Assange indictment came to light in a Virginia court filing seeking to seal a criminal complaint and supporting documents against Seitu Sulayman Kokayi in a sex case.
United States attorney office for the Eastern District of Virginia Spokesman Joshua Stueve told the New York Times “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.”
Manning has expressed a “moral objection to the secretive and oppressive grand jury process,” according to a statement from her support committee.
“We reject the logic that Chelsea should comply and answer questions regarding events for which she has already provided ample testimony, and we condemn the government's punitive efforts to back her into a corner,” the committee said, contending that members of the current administration, including President Trump, have expressed contempt for Manning.
“Donald Trump himself has tweeted about his desire to undo Barack Obama's commutation and put Chelsea back in jail,” the statement said. “We reject the logic that Chelsea should comply and answer questions regarding events for which she has already provided ample testimony, and we condemn the government's punitive efforts to back her into a corner.”
Noting that grand juries have been used to punish and harass activists, Fight for the Future Deputy Director Evan Greer said Manning is unlikely to comply with the subpoena. “There is a long and important history of resisting these acts of government overreach,” said Greer. “Punishing her with more prison time is not going to change her decision –– it will simply cause her more unnecessary suffering.”
Reporters Without Borders also called the ruling “punitive” and noted Manning’s extensive testimony during her 2013 court martial about the data shared with WikiLeaks.
“Rulings like these pose a grave threat to press freedom in the United States, where the bravery of whistleblowers like Manning inform some of the nation’s most impactful reporting,” the organization said. “Whistleblowers must not be treated as criminals, and instead must be recognized for their critical role in maintaining a thriving democracy.”