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Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify on WikiLeaks

Chelsea Manning ordered to go to jail

Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning has been jailed for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ordered Manning to jail for contempt of court on Friday after a brief hearing in which Manning confirmed she has no intention of testifying. 

Manning has said she objects to the secrecy of the grand jury process, and that she already revealed everything she knows at her court martial. She told the judge she "will accept whatever you bring upon me." 

Manning's lawyers had asked that she be sent to home confinement instead of the jail, because of medical complications she faces. 

The judge said she will remain jailed until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work, and that U.S. marshals can handle her medical care. Prosecutor Tracy McCormick said the jail and the marshals have assured the government that her medical needs can be met. 

She was booked into the Alexandria Detention Center, which is located in Virginia and houses about 400 inmates, according to the Alexandria Sheriff's Office.

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Chelsea Manning in a booking photo, March 8, 2019. Alexandria Sheriff's Office

"Specific details about Ms. Manning's confinement will not be made public due to security and privacy concerns," Sheriff Dana Lawhorne said in a statement Friday. "We will work closely with the U.S. Marshals to ensure her proper care while she remains at our facility."

Manning, who is transgender, gained attention after being convicted in 2013 for leaking classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks. She had worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and was arrested in 2010. At the time of her arrest, her name was Bradley.  

She served seven years of a 35-year military sentence for leaking the trove of documents to the anti-secrecy website before then-President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017 -- one of his final acts as president. In May that year, she was released from a Kansas military prison. 

Manning anticipated being jailed again. In a statement before Friday's hearing, she said she invoked her First, Fourth and Sixth amendment protections when she appeared before the grand jury in Alexandria on Wednesday. She said she already answered every substantive question during her 2013 court-martial.

"In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available," she said. 

In another statement on Friday, posted on her Twitter account, she said she "will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech."

McCormick said Manning can easily end her incarceration on the civil charge simply by following the law and testifying. "We hope she changes her mind now," McCormick said. 

Manning's lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, said she believes jailing Manning is an act of cruelty given her medical issues, and said Manning's one-bedroom apartment would be a sufficient manner of confinement. 

"Obviously prison is a terrible place," Meltzer-Cohen said. "I don't see the purpose to incarcerate people." 

Outside the courthouse, about 10 protesters rallied in Manning's support.   

Chelsea Manning Makes Her First Public Appearance In The UK
Former American soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning poses during a photo call outside the Institute Of Contemporary Arts (ICA) ahead of a Q&A event on October 1, 2018 in London, England.  Getty Images

The WikiLeaks investigation has been ongoing for a long time. Last year, prosecutors in Alexandria inadvertently disclosed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing unspecified, sealed criminal charges in the district. 

WikiLeaks has also emerged as an important part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential election, as investigators focus on whether President Donald Trump's campaign knew Russian hackers were going to provide emails to WikiLeaks stolen from Democratic organizations, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Assange's U.S. lawyer, Barry Pollack, said in a statement Friday, "It is unfortunate that the government feels the need to attempt to compel a source to testify about communications with a publisher. Such efforts will chill future whistleblowers and deprive the public of important information."