07:56 GMT25 February 2021
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    A US federal judge has denied whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s appeal to have financial penalties for her refusal to cooperate with a grand jury reconsidered. Manning and her supporters believe the government hopes to trick her into perjury by asking repeat questions, a journalist told Sputnik.

    The Trump administration “wants to get her back in jail to punish her for her original crime because they don’t agree” with her 2017 commutation by the previous Obama administration, Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Wednesday.

    “That is a very logical and possible explanation for why they’re holding her.”

    US District Judge Anthony Trenga said in a Wednesday order that Manning “has proffered a substantial number of financial records documenting her assets, liabilities, and current and future earnings,” and therefore “has the ability to comply with the Court’s financial sanctions or will have the ability after her release from confinement. Therefore, the imposed fines of $500 per day after 30 days and $1,000 per day after 60 days is not so excessive as to relieve her of those sanctions or to constitute punishment rather than a coercive measure.”

    Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, has refused to cooperate with an Alexandria, Virginia, grand jury in its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Manning published stolen US government documents on the website in 2010, which proved the US military was guilty of performing and covering up war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but was released in 2017 after US President Barack Obama reduced her sentence to seven years in confinement.

    Manning says the details sought by the grand jury were covered thoroughly in her 2013 trial, and so has refused to testify about them again, believing it to be an attempt to entrap and discredit her for giving a different account than before. She was subsequently jailed in March 2019, and then re-jailed in May after a new grand jury found her in contempt once more. However, the second time around, the court prescribed the financial penalties Trenga mentioned: $500 a day after the first 30 days, and $1,000 a day after the first 60 days.

    At that rate, Manning could accumulate $441,000 in fines by the time the grand jury’s term expires in 15 months, her lawyers wrote on Sparrow Media Wednesday.

    In her appeal, Manning argued that this was so far beyond her ability to pay as to render it “meaningless” as a punishment, but noted that she would “rather be in debt forever” than betray her principles. Grand juries are not permitted to punish those subpoenaed to testify if the punishment isn’t believed to be able to compel them to cooperate.

    “I am disappointed but not at all surprised,” Manning said Wednesday in response to the news. “The government and the judge must know by now that this doesn’t change my position one bit.”

    Lauria told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that the US had already handed down Assange’s indictments, which include 18 charges, some stemming from the 1917 Espionage Act, so there was no clear reason why the government would continue to hold Manning.

    Nancy Hollander, one of Manning’s former lawyers, told Lauria on the podcast CN Live! last month that she believes the grand jury wants to ask Manning “trick questions” to try and catch her with a perjury charge, since the Trump administration doesn’t agree with Obama’s decision to commute the whistleblower’s sentence and free her.

    “The perjury would be something to match up her previous testimony during her court martial and ask her some questions now about that and see if she gives a different answer,” Lauria said.

    Kiriakou, himself a whistleblower who went to federal prison for his disclosures, noted that such “setups” are common for whistleblowers.

    “The way to avoid being set up is don’t testify,” Lauria noted. “That’s why she’s not testifying - one of the reasons!” However, Manning has also made it clear that she objects to grand juries in principle, noting that few nations still make use what she considers an unfair institution.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


    Chelsea Manning Ordered Back to Jail for Refusing to Testify to Grand Jury
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    Chelsea Manning ‘Would Rather Be In Debt Forever’ Than Pay ‘Putative’ Court Fines
    WikiLeaks, Perjury, Loud and Clear, jail, fines, grand jury, Joe Lauria, Chelsea Manning
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