ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — After a week of freedom, former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning was ordered back to jail on Thursday for once again refusing to testify before a federal grand jury.
Manning had been jailed for two months starting on March 8 after she refused to answer questions before a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, about WikiLeaks and the group's founder Julian Assange — specifically, about the cache of classified military documents that she gave to WikiLeaks in 2010. She was released on May 9 because the term of the grand jury expired.
US District Judge Anthony Trenga ordered Manning jailed on Thursday following a two-hour hearing, half of which was sealed. During the second, public portion of the hearing, Trenga announced that he had once again found Manning in civil contempt, and decided that notwithstanding her pledge not to cooperate, he thought there was still a chance that more jail time could convince her otherwise. The government had argued that because Manning had an appeal pending during part of the previous two months she served, she spent part of her earlier jail time with some hope of release.
"It's unfortunate we're at this point," the judge said. Before remanding her to the custody of the US Marshals, Trenga told Manning that there was nothing "dishonorable" about fulfilling one's duties as a US citizen, and he hoped she'd consider that.
Manning, wearing a black jacket, shirt, pants, and boots, told the judge she would rather "starve to death" than change her opinion, and added that she meant that "literally."
"The government cannot build a prison bad enough, cannot create a system worse than the idea that I would ever change my principles," she said.
The judge has the power to keep Manning in jail until she testifies or until the term of the grand jury expires again. Trenga also imposed a fine — after 30 days in jail, a daily fine of $500 will kick in, and that amount will go up to $1,000 per day after 60 days. The grand jury could be in service for up to 18 months. During the hearing, Assistant US Attorney Thomas Traxler told the judge that they didn't think a fine would compel Manning to testify, since she could just go on social media and launch a fundraising campaign.
Manning did not have an emotional reaction as the judge announced his decision. She was still seated with her lawyer when guards cleared the courtroom.
After the previous grand jury expired earlier this month and Manning was released, prosecutors convened a new grand jury in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and issued a new subpoena to Manning, requiring her to come back and testify. Speaking to reporters before she went into the courthouse, Manning again vowed not to answer any questions.
"I will not cooperate with this or any other grand jury," Manning said.