Lawyers for Chelsea Manning said prosecutors contend she made “false or mistaken” statements during her military trial nine years ago for sharing classified information with WikiLeaks, according to newly unsealed court documents.
Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who spent seven years in a military prison for those 2010 leaks, is in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. She says she revealed everything she knew in her court-martial.
Assange has been charged under seal, officials have confirmed, a case prosecutors accidentally disclosed in an unrelated filing.
According to a motion from her attorneys unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors think “some of Ms. Manning’s statements at the court-martial were either false or mistaken and that the grand jury would benefit from hearing more details about Ms. Manning’s contacts and communications with respect to the 2010 disclosures.”
No specifics were offered as to what prosecutors may think was inaccurate in Manning’s court-martial statements.
Manning’s attorneys say that on the contrary, she “gave extensive and truthful testimony” at her court-martial that “the government appears not to accept.”
In a statement, Manning’s support team said that nowhere in the unsealed record do prosecutors accuse her of lying. They said prosecutors gave “a preliminary suggestion that she might have new or different testimony now,” a conclusion her attorneys said may be “based on intercepted and misunderstood third party communications.”
Manning told her military judge that she acted alone in giving secret diplomatic cables and war logs to WikiLeaks after she approached several news organizations and got no response. But she did not take the stand in her own defense and so was never cross-examined by a prosecutor.
“It would appear that the government may harbor an interest in undermining her previous testimony since it doesn’t inculpate anyone else who might be a target,” attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen said at a closed hearing this month. A transcript of the proceeding was unsealed this week.
Manning was granted immunity from a new prosecution either in federal or military court, according to the filings. But Meltzer-Cohen said she could be accused of perjury “in order to undermine her as a potential defense witness.”
The attorney said Manning could still be prosecuted by a foreign court.
In addition, Manning’s attorneys said she opposed, on constitutional grounds, being “compelled to disclose protected information about lawful First Amendment protected associations and activities.”
Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department decided not to pursue charges against WikiLeaks members after concluding that doing so would be akin to prosecuting a news organization for publishing classified information. But after President Trump took office, the investigation was revived, and officials said publicly that the First Amendment did not protect WikiLeaks.
“Criminal acts committed by citizens and journalists alike in obtaining information is a proper subject of inquiry by a grand jury,” prosecutors wrote in one of the filings unsealed Wednesday. “The government is confident that its questioning will pose no legitimate First Amendment concerns.”
Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year prison sentence in 2017, and Manning suggested some officials wanted to see her put behind bars again.
“The most powerful actors in the federal government are greatly displeased at her release and have made efforts to undermine and harass her,” her attorneys wrote in one motion.
Earlier this month, Judge Claude M. Hilton denied Manning’s motion to quash the subpoena and ordered her to remain in jail until she testifies or the grand jury is disbanded.
Manning has appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
In a government court filing, prosecutors said Manning’s “testimony is highly relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.”
In the unsealed filings, attorneys for Manning accused the government of using “illegal electronic surveillance” to prepare their grand jury questions.
“Since her release, Ms. Manning has experienced all manner of intrusive surveillance, including surveillance vans parked outside her apartment, federal agents following her, and strangers attempting to goad her into an absurdly contrived conversation about selling dual-use technologies to foreign actors,” they wrote in their motion.
Prosecutors would not confirm or deny the existence of any such surveillance, according to the documents.
Prosecutors said in the filings that they “offered to meet Manning in advance of the grand jury to ask the questions and obtain answers in the presence of her attorneys” and that she refused the meeting. They said Manning was being “misleading” in claiming to have already given “exhaustive testimony,” during the court-martial, when she “chose what facts to admit.”