WikiLeaks leaker Chelsea Manning ordered to testify to grand jury

Former US soldier Chelsea Manning, pictured in 2018, is considered a hero by anti-war and anti-secrecy activists, but US establishment figures have branded her a traitor. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: A US judge on Tuesday rejected a bid by WikiLeaks leaker Chelsea Manning to fight a subpoena to testify in a closed-door probe believed to target the anti-secrecy group.

Manning told journalists outside the Alexandria, Virginia, federal courthouse that her push to defeat a grand jury subpoena was rejected, but that she will continue to fight it over the coming days.

“The motion to quash was denied. We still have grounds to litigate so we’re going to be here tomorrow,” Manning said.

Manning was subpoenaed last week and not told what the case was about.

But she said she opposed grand juries, which she said are abused by prosecutors to unfairly compel testimony with little transparency.

“It’s a secret proceeding in which evidence that would not normally be used or allowed can be reviewed,” she told reporters.

“There’s no adversarial process. You’re not allowed to have your attorney in there. It’s just a really bad process to have all together.”

In 2010 the former army intelligence analyst, who is transgender and was then known as Bradley Manning, gave WikiLeaks more than 700,000 classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those revelations exposed covered-up misdeeds and possible crimes by US troops and allies and made public the secret communications of US diplomats around the world.

Her actions made her a hero to anti-war and anti-secrecy activists, but US establishment figures branded her a traitor. The leak also made WikiLeaks a force in the global anti-secrecy movement.

Manning was jailed for 35 years in 2013, but President Barack Obama later commuted her sentence, leading to her release in May 2017.

Manning said Tuesday that the Alexandria court gave no information on what the grand jury is investigating.

“We didn’t learn anything apart from there was a whole lot of government lawyers in there.”

But it is widely believed that federal prosecutors are investigating WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange on national security grounds.

WikiLeaks played a pivotal role in the 2016 US presidential election when it published data hacked from Democratic Party computers by Russian intelligence, according to US officials.

Assange, who has been living in Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid arrest, says the United States wants him extradited to stand trial over WikiLeaks’ activities, which he says are no different than what journalists do.

Hanna Jonasson, a lawyer for Assange, said they believe that the US case is focused on the 2010 leak that involved Manning.

In a statement, WikiLeaks called the ruling against Manning “a dark day for journalism.”

“Forcing a source to testify against a journalist for publishing true information is an extreme normally only seen in the world’s most authoritarian states,” WikiLeaks said.