By Niles Niemuth
9 August 2019
Federal District Judge Anthony Trenga rejected a motion Monday from imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning to reconsider the imposition of daily fines for her principled refusal to testify before a grand jury impaneled to bring frame-up charges against WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange.
Manning has been held in contempt of court for 149 days in the Alexandria City Jail. She now owes $40,000 in fines and is being assessed $1,000 for every day she refuses to testify, up from $500 per day assessed in her second month of confinement.
Manning expects to spend approximately 400 more days in jail if the grand jury does not conclude before its 18-month term is up. This means she would face a total of $441,000 in fines.
The 31-year-old former Army intelligence analyst is being vindictively pursued by the Trump administration for her role in exposing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. She leaked to WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of military war logs, diplomatic cables and the infamous Collateral Murder video, which showed an Apache helicopter airstrike in Baghdad that killed at least a dozen civilians, including two Reuters journalists.
Manning was already convicted in 2013 on a number of charges, including under the Espionage Act. She served seven years in military detention, including one year in solitary confinement, before her 35-year sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017 as part of a cynical effort to burnish his record just before leaving office.
Assange is currently being imprisoned at Belmarsh Prison in England after being illegally snatched by police from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had been granted asylum. He was quickly convicted on a bogus bail-jumping charge and is awaiting an extradition hearing February 25 on his rendition to the United States.
Assange currently faces 18 charges, including 17 under the Espionage Act, and up to 175 years in prison for publishing the information which he received from Manning in 2010.
Last month, federal district judge John Koeltl dismissed a civil lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee which attempted to smear WikiLeaks and Assange as assets of the Russian government for publishing leaked DNC emails during the 2016 election. The ruling was a vindication of WikiLeaks’s rights as a publisher and exposed the ongoing effort to prosecute Assange over the publication of the documents provided by Manning.
The fact that Manning is still being detained in an effort to compel her testimony indicates that further charges are being considered which would be unsealed once Assange is firmly in Washington’s grips—even though current British and US law does not allow for further charges to be unsealed after a formal extradition request.
The charge which was used to justify the ending of his asylum and removal from the embassy, conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, names Manning as a co-conspirator, raising the prospect that she could also face criminal charges.