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‘No Useful Information’: Manning’s Lawyers Argue Her Testimony Is Unnecessary

© AP Photo / Markus SchreiberChelsea Manning attends a discussion at the media convention 'Republica' in Berlin, Wednesday, May 2, 2018.
Chelsea Manning attends a discussion at the media convention 'Republica' in Berlin, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. - Sputnik International
Lawyers for whistleblower Chelsea Manning have filed a new motion seeking her release from a Virginia jail, arguing she “has no useful information” for the grand jury and believes “the government does not actually require her testimony.”

"She is suffering physically and psychologically, and is at the time of this writing in the process of losing her home as a result of her present confinement," Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Sandra Freeman and Christopher Leibig, Manning's lawyers, wrote in a motion filed Friday in a Virginia federal court.

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"She has made clear she prefers to become homeless rather than betray her principles. Her intransigence, at this point, is not reasonably in question. What is in doubt, however, is the government's need for her testimony," they said.

On May 16, US Circuit Court Judge Anthony Trenga ordered Manning jailed in contempt of a grand jury before which she had been summoned to testify for its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Manning had been released only a week prior from a previous 62-day jail stay for the same reason, only being let out because the grand jury's term expired.

However, this grand jury will be around for another 18 months, and when Trenga ordered Manning back to jail to try and coerce her to testify, he slapped a stiff financial penalty on her: after 30 days, she'll be fined $500 a day, and after 60 days, $1,000 a day.

During her first jailing, Manning articulated her philosophy that grand juries are fundamentally unfair and that, because she opposes them on moral grounds, will never be moved to testify before them.

"I can either go to jail or betray my principles," she wrote on May 7, during her previous jailing. "The latter exists as a much worse prison than the government can construct."

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"I will not cooperate with this or any other grand jury. It doesn't matter… what it is or what the case is," Manning told members of the press on May 16 before her hearing. "The truth is, no matter what happens today… I'm not going to comply with this grand jury,"

Now the dispute has become a jurisprudential polemic with Judge Trenga. The federal judge told Manning that grand juries are specifically referenced in the US Constitution, so there is no dishonor in testifying before them. He said he hoped sitting in jail would give her time to reflect on that, the Washington Post reported.

However, Manning pushed back, arguing in a subsequent letter to Judge Trenga that the grand jury process was a "rubber stamp" that gave prosecutors "unearned legitimacy" in the courtroom.

"I refuse to participate in a process that has clearly transformed into something that violates the spirit if not the letter of the law," she wrote, according to the Post. "I object to this grand jury in particular as an effort to frighten journalists and publishers, who serve a crucial public good."

"I am positive that the founders never intended the grand jury to function like those we see today," she said.

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In their Friday motion, Manning's lawyers also argued that, since Assange is both sitting in a British jail and charged with 18 criminal counts by US prosecutors, compelling Manning to testify about her relationship with Assange is pointless.

"What remains to be seen is whether the government can claim with a straight face to have an ongoing need for her testimony," they wrote.

In 2010, Manning, then a US Army intelligence analyst, published via WikiLeaks a trove of classified US government documents proving the US routinely covered up war crimes by US forces and their allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning apologized for the crime, which earned her a 35-year prison sentence, but that was commuted by President Barack Obama as he left office in January 2017, and she was freed that May.

Manning was grilled about this extensively during her trial, and part of her refusal to testify before this grand jury stems from her belief that since she's already testified about it, asking her again many years later could be used to entrap her if her wording or recollection of events differs from before.

The charges against Assange stem from the help he allegedly gave Manning in covering her tracks while stealing those documents, as well as allegedly encouraging her to leak even more. Federal prosecutors have invoked the 1917 Espionage Act against him, effectively accusing him of being a spy and not a journalist.

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