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Chelsea Manning fights subpoena in Wikileaks probe

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 2019-03-05 Rachel Weiner
a man and a woman taking a selfie: Chelsea Manning prepares to enter the Albert V. Bryan U.S. District Courthouse on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Alexandria, VA. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post) © Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post Chelsea Manning prepares to enter the Albert V. Bryan U.S. District Courthouse on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Alexandria, VA. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning appeared in Alexandria federal court Tuesday to fight a subpoena requiring her to testify in front of a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“I object strenuously to this subpoena, and to the grand jury process in general. We’ve seen this power abused countless times to target political speech,” Manning said in a statement last week. “I have nothing to contribute to this case and I resent being forced to endanger myself by participating in this predatory practice.”

In an hour long closed hearing, Judge Claude Hilton blocked Manning from unsealing her effort to fight the subpoena.

U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger attended the sealed hearing, as did the Assange prosecutorial team -- Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon Kromberg, Tracy McCormick, Evan Turgeon and Kellen Dwyer.

Manning, 31, was convicted in 2013 of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history and served seven years of a 35-year military prison sentence before being released by then-President Obama.

The material she exposed included field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, cables between the State Department and U.S. embassies and assessments of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

During Manning’s 2011 military trial, prosecutors revealed chat logs showing the Army private chatted with Assange about cracking a password to a computer anonymously. But during the trial Manning testified that she acted alone and approached other news organizations before going to WikiLeaks. The anti-secrecy website published the material.

In her statement Friday, Manning said she stood by that testimony and sees no reason to repeat it.

Outside the courthouse Tuesday, Manning said her motion to quash the subpoena was denied but that her team believes they “still have grounds to litigate” and will be back tomorrow. She would not go into detail because her bid to unseal the proceedings was not granted. But she said she was “probably going to be” at the courthouse multiple times in coming days.

“There was an awful lot of government attorneys in there,” she told a crowd of reporters and activists. But, she said, “we didn’t learn anything” about why the government had subpoenaed her now, years after her conviction. “I only can speculate,” she said.

She was represented in court by Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Sandra Freeman and Chris Leibig.

Prosecutors inadvertently exposed Assange has been charged under seal late last year, but the nature of the charges against him remain unknown. U.S. officials speaking anonymously because of grand jury secrecy say the case is based on his pre-2016 conduct, not the election hacks that drew the attention of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Assange has been living in Ecuador’s London embassy for the past seven years to avoid prosecution in Britain for fleeing his bond on Swedish sexual assault charges. Those charges have been dropped, but Assange has resisted leaving the embassy for fear of being extradited to the United States.

Since leaving prison Manning, who was formerly known as Bradley Manning, has become an activist for transgender rights and launched an unsuccessful primary campaign against Sen. Ben Cardin (D).

This is a developing story.

Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

rachel.weiner@washpost.com

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