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Supporting Whistleblower Chelsea Manning – OpEd

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It’s three weeks since Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for refusing to testify in a Grand Jury case against WikiLeaks, and I wanted to make sure that I expressed my solidarity with her, as, without her contributions to breaking through the US government’s deliberate secrecy surrounding the prisoners held at Guantánamo, we would know far less than we do about how weak so much of the so-called evidence is that has been used to defend the imprisonment without charge or trial of the men — and boys — held at Guantánamo without charge or trial since the disgraceful prison opened in January 2002.

It was while working as an intelligence analyst for the US Army in Iraq, in 2009, that Manning leaked to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified — or unclassified but sensitive — US military and diplomatic documents, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring footage of a US Army helicopter gunning down a group of unarmed civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists, the Afghan and Iraq war logs, a vast number of US diplomatic cables from around the world, and the classified military files from Guantánamo.

I worked as a media partner with WikiLeaks on the release of these documents in April 2011, and as I stated in an article in January 2017, when President Obama commuted the 35-year sentence that Manning had received after her court-martial in 2013:

[An] intelligent analysis of the files … reveals the extent to which they lay bare the cruelty and incompetence of the authorities at Guantánamo, providing the names of the many unreliable witnesses, who, as a result of torture or other forms of abuse, or being bribed with better living conditions, or simply through exhaustion after seemingly endless — and pointless — interrogations, told their interrogators what they wanted to hear. And the interrogators, of course, wanted whatever information would make the prisoners appear significant, when, in truth, they had been rounded up in a largely random manner, or had been bought for bounty payments from the Americans’ Afghan or Pakistani allies, and very few — a maximum of 3% of the 779 men held, I estimate — genuinely had any kind of meaningful connection with al-Qaeda, the leadership of the Taliban, or any related groups. Most were either foot soldiers or civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time, dressed up as “terrorists” to justify a dragnet, from September 2001 to November 2003 (when the transfers to Guantánamo largely ended) that is primarily remarkable because of its stunning incompetence.

I began a detailed study of the Guantánamo files leaked by Manning after their release in 2011, but exhaustion, and a lack of funding, prevented me from analyzing more than the 422 files I covered in detail in 34 articles totaling over half a million words, which are available here, although I do believe that my work on the files constitutes important research. One day I hope to complete the project, but even if I don’t, the files Manning released will provide historians with an unparalleled opportunity to understand the extent to which the so-called intelligence at Guantánamo is a house of cards built on torture and lies, and we should all be grateful to her for leaking them in the first place — just as there are reasons to be grateful for all the other documents she leaked.

On March 8, US District Judge Claude Hilton held Manning in contempt of court and ordered her to be imprisoned after a brief hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, where she confirmed that she had no intention of testifying in the Grand Jury proceedings whose existence was only inadvertently made public last November. 

In a Tweet on March 7, Manning wrote that, they before, she had “appeared before a secret grand jury after being given immunity for my testimony.” She added, “All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013. I responded to each question with the following statement: ‘I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.’”

Manning also stated, “In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available. My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

Last week, supporters condemned what they described as Manning’s “solitary confinement” at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, where she is held, and where, as the Guardian noted, she “has been held in administrative segregation, or ‘adseg’, with up to 22 hours each day spent in isolation.” 

Just two days ago, Manning’s attorneys “asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate (void) District Court Judge Hilton’s finding of civil contempt,” as reported by the Sparrow Project.

The importance of the case against Manning was effectively highlighted by Chris Hedges in an article for Truthdig, in which he explained:

The US government, determined to extradite and try Julian Assange for espionage, must find a way to separate what Assange and WikiLeaks did in publishing classified material leaked to them by Chelsea Manning from what the New York Times and the Washington Post did in publishing the same material. There is no federal law that prohibits the press from publishing government secrets. It is a crime, however, to steal them. The long persecution of Manning, who on March 8 was sent back to jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury, is about this issue.

If Manning, a former Army private, admits she was instructed by WikiLeaks and Assange in how to obtain and pass on the leaked material, which exposed US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the publisher could be tried for the theft of classified documents. The prosecution of government whistleblowers was accelerated during the Obama administration, which under the Espionage Act charged eight people with leaking to the media—Thomas Drake, Shamai Leibowitz, Stephen Kim, Manning, Donald Sachtleben, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou and Edward Snowden. By the time Donald Trump took office, the vital connection between investigative reporters and sources inside the government had been severed.

As Hedges also stated, “The goal of the corporate state is to shroud in total secrecy the inner workings of power, especially those activities that violate the law. Movement toward this goal is very far advanced. The failure of news organizations such as the New York Times and the Washington Post to vigorously defend Manning and Assange will soon come back to haunt them. The corporate state hardly intends to stop with Manning and Assange. The target is the press itself.”

Here’s Chelsea’s address, via ChelseaResists:

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning
A0181426
William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA
22314

Her jail does NOT accept:
— books or cards

You CAN write letters with pen or colored pencils on paper, and send newspapers.

Further details here.

Also, donations towards legal costs are accepted here.

I wrote the above article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.



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Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to his RSS feed (he can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see his definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, and, if you appreciate his work, feel free to make a donation.

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