Manning’s lawyers believe the government may be trying to prove Manning perjured herself during 2013 testimony. Developments come as Manning enters third week of imprisonment.
According to documents made public on Wednesday, defense lawyers for Chelsea Manning believe that government prosecutors are interested in trying to find proof that Manning perjured herself during her 2013 court-martial. The released documents include details of the legal proceedings that led to Manning’s March 8th detention, when she was taken into custody after being found in civil contempt of court. The documents show that on March 1st, Manning’s defense team argued that, “Given the prosecutor’s unwillingness to disclose information to Ms. Manning that would help her evaluate the risks of testifying, she must assume that the grand jury is a ‘perjury trap’ or even worse, a subterfuge for another military prosecution.” The defense team’s allegations seem to suggest that not only was Manning called to testify as part of the government’s plan to prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, but also because the government is interested in proving that Manning perjured herself while under oath. On March 5th, Manning’s defense team reiterated this point, saying, “Since her prior testimony made clear that she acted alone and since we have been advised that she is herself not a target in this investigation, 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.”
The 5th amendment protects individuals from being forced to incriminate themselves, and Manning had cited the 5th amendment as being a justification for her refusal to testify. However, Manning had been given immunity from further prosecution by either the government or the military, which was why the judge did not agree with her use of the 5th amendment. But from Manning’s perspective, finding any hint that Manning had committed perjury at her trial in 2013 would give the prosecution fodder for undermining her credibility on the witness stand if they ever get their hands on Assange. So yes, Manning would not be facing any additional legal punishment for being found to have perjured herself, but she would face a great deal of collateral damage from it, thus her use of the 5th amendment.
In addition to the 5th, Manning also cited the 1st amendment, arguing that the proceedings were being used to make an example of Manning and Assange as part of a wider effort to intimidate journalists, something which is understandably difficult to prove in a court of law.
In the March hearings, lawyers for Manning also claimed she has been the victim of a widespread surveillance and intimidation campaign, following her release from prison two years ago. As Dell Cameron from Gizmodo writes, “The motion stated that she’s experienced “all manner of intrusive surveillance” since her release from prison in 2017, 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.”
As Manning enters her third week of imprisonment, it remains to be seen how far the government is willing to push its case against her, and to what lengths they are willing to go to further punish her and Assange.