Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning Freed Again, but Her Refusal to Testify Comes With a $256,000 Price Tag

She was imprisoned for a year as she resisted a grand jury's investigation of WikiLeaks.


Chelsea Manning will be released from federal detention, but her freedom comes with a court debt of $256,000. Such is the price of resisting a subpoena.

Manning is famous for passing along archives of military documents to WikiLeaks while she worked as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq. She was caught, arrested, and convicted of several espionage charges (but acquitted of having "aided the enemy"). She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but President Barack Obama commuted her sentence and freed her near the end of his second term.

Yet her troubles weren't over. The Department of Justice was still trying to build a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It subpoenaed Manning and tried to force her to testify to a grand jury about her relationship with WikiLeaks. She refused to cooperate, even after they granted her immunity, and was jailed for this almost exactly a year ago.

Even after Assange was charged with several counts of espionage (itself a dangerous assault on the First Amendment rights of anybody engaging in the act of journalism), the feds hung on to Manning, imprisoning her again after the first subpoena expired.

Now a judge has finally ended her detention, ruling yesterday that "Ms. Manning's appearance before the Grand Jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose." United States District Judge Anthony Trenga then ordered her immediate release.

But she also was being fined $1,000 per day for contempt for her refusal to testify in addition to her imprisonment. Trenga is maintaining that judgment against her, ordering her to pay $256,000 in fines she racked up during that time, stating that the payments are "necessary to the coercive purpose of the Court's civil contempt order."

The imprisonment appears to have been terrible (again) for Manning, and earlier in the week her lawyers reported she had attempted suicide. She also attempted suicide during her original sentence for her leaking back in 2016.