2019 Grand Jury Resistance
Chelsea Manning was summoned to appear and give testimony before a federal grand jury. While the exact nature of the grand jury is unknown, signs indicate it is related to her 2010 disclosures of information about the nature of asymmetric warfare to the public. Following in the footsteps of scores of other activists, Chelsea is challenging the grand jury subpoena, and therefore risks being placed in jail for for up to 18 months if she is found in contempt of court. She was released from jail in March of 2020.
What are grand juries?
Grand juries are used to establish probable cause that a felony offense has been committed. Prosecutors run the proceedings behind closed doors, without a judge or defense attorney present. Basically, the whole process is rigged to favor indictment of the individual accused of a crime. They have also been used historically to oppress and frighten targeted groups, in particular, people perceived as dissidents and activists.
Why resist a grand jury?
Due to their secretive nature and limitless subpoena power, the government has utilized grand jury processes as tools for garnering information about movements by questioning witnesses behind closed doors. Since testimony before grand juries is secret, grand juries can create fear by suggesting that some members of a political community may be secretly cooperating with the government. In this way, grand juries can seed suspicion and fear in activist communities.
Previous case: On April 4, 2010, whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks published a classified video of a United States Apache helicopter firing on civilians in New Baghdad in 2007. In late July 2010, the U.S. Military alleged that Manning was the chief suspect in the “Afghan Diaries” leak of U.S. Military combat and incident reports from the occupation of Afghanistan. The Afghan Diaries is the largest collection of leaked intelligence records in U.S. history, and details what Wikileaks and others have described as “countless war crimes” by U.S. and NATO forces. On August 21, 2013, Pvt. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. However, just before leaving office in January 2017, President Obama commuted Chelsea's sentence.
The trial of military whistle-blower and democracy advocate Chelsea Manning (known as Bradley Manning until her Aug 22, 2013 announcement) finished on August 21st of 2013. Prosecution starkly showcased US government officials’ misplaced priorities when it comes to human rights. This case sets a dangerous precedent for the first amendment, opening whistle-blowers and those who help them to extreme prosecution. However, as we enter the appeals process, Chelsea Manning’s story is far from over.
The information that Manning gave to the public exposed the unjust detainment of innocent people at Guantanamo Bay, shown us the true human cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and changed journalism forever. There is no evidence that anyone died as a result of the leaked information. Through WikiLeaks, Manning revealed:
- the Collateral Murder video that exposed the killing of unarmed civilians and two Reuters journalists by a US Apache helicopter crew in Iraq
- the Afghan War Diary that revealed uninvestigated civilian casualties and contractor abuse
- the Iraq War Logs that revealed civilian casualties, and uninvestigated reports of torture
- the US diplomatic cables that revealed the role that corporate interests and spying play in international diplomacy