WASHINGTON – A federal judge ordered Chelsea Manning jailed Friday after she refused to comply with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury about WikiLeaks.
Manning revealed last week in the New York Times that she was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The subpoena did not specify what prosecutors wanted to ask her about, but there was widespread speculation it related to WikiLeaks and the group's founder Julian Assange.
A spokesperson for Manning said in a statement Friday that Manning "refused to answer questions from prosecutors regarding the release of information she disclosed to the public in 2010" — when Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of military documents to WikiLeaks.
Manning and her lawyers challenged the subpoena. Manning's spokesperson said US District Judge Claude Hilton, who sits in Alexandria, Virginia, found Manning in contempt and ordered her jailed until she complied — the legal term is to "purge" one's self of contempt — or until the grand jury finished its work. Manning can appeal the contempt order. Her lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment.
Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, was arrested in 2010 for leaking hundreds of thousands of military documents to WikiLeaks. A military court found her guilty of violating the Espionage Act in 2013, among other crimes, and she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. But in January 2017, in the final days of the Obama administration, former president Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence, and she was released in May of that year.
Assange praised the clemency decision through his attorney at the time.
Although federal prosecutors have been investigating WikiLeaks, the Justice Department has not publicly commented on the status of any investigations. Special counsel Robert Mueller's office has indicted Russian nationals with leaking emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager John Podesta. Assange has long feared criminal prosecution in the United States, and has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012.
In November, journalists noticed an unusual court filing in the federal district court in Alexandria that included two references to "Assange." The criminal case wasn't related to Assange or WikiLeaks, but involved a request by prosecutors to seal criminal charges against an unrelated defendant, leading to speculation that it was a bad copy-and-paste job by prosecutors from another, sealed court filing related to charges against Assange.
In January, a judge denied a request by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to unseal any court records — if they exist — about Assange.