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Letter from Chelsea Manning to Judge Anthony Trenga

Exhibit 1 to Chelsea and her legal team’s Motion for Reconsideration of Sanctions (Scribd) (SparrowMedia)

References cited in this letter.

May 28, 2019


Dear Judge Trenga,

During the contempt hearing on May 16, 2019, this Honorable Court directed me to take the opportunity during my confinement to reflect on my principles with respect to the institution of grand juries in the United States. This letter responds to that directive.

During the hearing, you stated that there exists “no dishonor” in providing evidence to a grand jury. You suggested that codification of grand juries in the text of the U.S. Constitution provided ample justification for this institution. In response to my suggestion of “preliminary” or “committal” hearings, you expressed skepticism over whether such publicly held hearings served the same purpose without damaging innocent people accused of crimes.

These arguments are raised frequently in discussions about the problems with grand juries. They are certainly not novel to me. Over the last decade, I frequently considered these and many other arguments while forming my opinions about the grand jury process. After spending the last two weeks reflecting on my decision not to testify before this grand jury, I wish to present my position in a more careful and complete manner than an impromptu colloquy can provide. After working with lawyers and researchers, I can also now cite specific sources that support my position.

First, I shall compare grand juries in their earliest form, including the ideals and practical problems they sought to address, to grand juries as they currently operate. Second I want to clarify that while my objection to grand juries emphasizes their historical use against activists, I also view grand juries as an institution that now undermines due process even when used as intended.

The drafters of the U.S. Constitution, despite their many flaws, possessed a sophisticated understanding of modern political theory. The framers did not set out to short-circuit due process protections. Obviously, to a contemporary reader, we now understand the many flaws and compromises in the Constitution, and see some as inherently cruel and indefensible: legal human slavery; the legalizing of subordinate civil status for women; segregation; and the disenfranchisement of those who did not own land come to mind.

Some such practices might have struck contemporaries of the Constitution as “normal” or “necessary,” but with the passage of time, and through the tireless work of millions of people taking bold and dangerous action, they are now obsolete. I am certainly not alone in thinking that the grand jury process, which at one time acted as an independent body of citizens along the lines 2 of a civilian police review board, slowly transitioned into the unbridled arm of the police and prosecution in ways that run contrary to the grand jury’s originally intended purposes.(1)

The 5th Amendment provides many of our most cherished procedural safeguards, concepts foundational to our criminal legal system, including ‘due process,’ a prohibition on double jeopardy, and the right against compelled self-incrimination. The grand jury is also enshrined in the fifth amendment, however, prior to the recent publicity surrounding the Mueller investigation, most Americans only knew two things about the grand jury.

First, people hear that a grand jury could indict a ham sandwich. Early grand juries acted independently, as investigations by citizens. Now, the grand jury process means the prosecutor decides what the grand jurors see – and what they don’t see. The grand jury imagined by the drafters of the fifth amendment – which did not involve a prosecutor – bears no resemblance to what we see today, where more than 99.9% of indictments sought are granted.

Second, we learn another, more sinister thing about grand juries: they don’t indict law enforcement. For example, in Dallas over a stretch of several years, more than 80 police shootings came before grand juries. Only one returned an indictment.(2) Grand juries have protected police officers since the slave patrols. They were used to indict abolitionists, but not people capturing and re-enslaving people seeking freedom from bondage. They were used to indict reconstructionists, while actively protecting lynch mobs. Both the ‘ham sandwich’ statement and selective indictment happen because of grand jury secrecy.

Also, a prosecutor’s presentation of a case is shaped by their own ideas and goals. There does not need to be any misconduct or bad intent on the part of a prosecutor to influence the grand jurors in a way that destroys their independence. If you look at legal scholarship about the history of the grand jury, you can see how today’s grand juries are unrecognizable from English and early American ones. The original grand jury was more than an investigator; they were supposed to protect citizens not just from unjust indictments but from unjust laws. In England, grand jurors who even allowed a prosecutor to come into the grand jury room were seen as having violated their oath.(3)

I am positive that the founders never intended the grand jury to function like those we see today. If grand juries were actually independent bodies that nullified unjust laws or their unjust application, to determine whether it was really in the public interest to decide who should be made “infamous” under the law, I would feel differently. Reading the history of grand juries, I have read of how during the American Revolutionary war, grand jurors refused to indict tax resisters against the crown, because while it was technically illegal, the grand jurors recognized that what made it a criminal act was a law imposed by an authority that most of them by that time did not recognize (4). Nonetheless, the grand jury once provided a modicum of due process, at least to the class of people to whom due process was made available.

In 2019, the federal grand jury exists as a mockery of the institution that once stood against the whims of monarchs. It undermines the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of due process. Today’s grand juries do not safeguard such fundamental rights, and they are easily subject to abuse.

Secret proceedings lend unearned legitimacy to prosecutorial decisions that protect the powerful against accountability and over-punish the marginalized. It is not surprising that members of the defense bar are generally unsupportive of grand jury proceedings. Even the Department of Justice released a report acknowledging that “grand juries are notorious for being ‘rubber stamps’ for the prosecutor for virtually all routine criminal matters.” (5) Moreover, because prosecutors can compel people to show up and testify or produce documents to the grand jury without having to show probable cause, their unmonitored subpoena power functions to let them side-step the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Imagine a world in which you were not a judge and were not connected to judges and prosecutors personally. If you or a loved one has charges brought before a grand jury, charges of which you or they were innocent, would you believe for one moment that the grand jury might not indict? What rights, specifically, would you consider safeguarded by the fifth amendment’s provision for a grand jury? Consider that it is more than six times as likely that you will be struck by lightning than that a federal grand jury will decline to indict. I object to grand juries even when used in the ways that are typically understood to be legitimate.

The ability of grand juries to be abused or used for political ends is entrenched and perpetuated by the fact that jeopardy doesn’t attach with a grand jury, so prosecutors can repeatedly bring the same changes. Even though there are some laws that say prosecutors must either show they have new evidence or that it is in the public interest to extend or reconvene a grand jury, this is hardly an obstacle. For instance, Thomas Jefferson had to convene three separate grand juries in order to indict Aaron Burr for sedition – but he was able to continue to convene those grand juries until he obtained that indictment.

Additionally, in the Antebellum South, grand juries routinely indicted anti-slavery activists for sedition, while those in the North sometimes refused — but charges would re-presented to new grand juries until they stuck. In 1968, a San Francisco Grand Jury was asked by Mayor Alioto to investigate the Black Panther Party. They refused, and the foreman gave a press conference about political overreach. Unfortunately, in 1969, a new grand jury began an investigation.

These examples run to the political, but grand jury shopping is something that can be done with any kind of case. Grand juries can also be used to coerce defendants to give up their trial rights and take pleas, both by threatening to indict for more severe charges than are warranted (which we know can be done easily), or by threatening to call a defendant’s loved ones before a grand jury as witnesses. The very threat of the secret proceeding is in itself terrifying to people. The secrecy of grand jury proceedings fuel paranoia and fear, running contrary to our ideals of open courts and stoking our disdain for secret testimony. I find, when I explain the secrecy of grand juries, people are often truly shocked that they are constitutional, and frequently compare them to the Court of Star Chamber.

The Court of the Star Chamber existed in England from the 15th to 17th centuries. This court lacked the same procedures as normal courts, and often pursued political and religious dissidents, and others who “sinned” against the crown. It lacked evidentiary standards and proceeded on rumor and hearsay. It imposed all kinds of arbitrary punishments, except the death penalty. In 1641, Parliament abolished the Court of Star Chamber as a dangerous relic of the past for its brutality and capriciousness. The grand jury was once a progressive and protective replacement for things like the Star Chamber, but in its current incarnation it bears far more resemblance to the Court of the Star Chamber than to its intended role as a bulwark against arbitrary state power. Apart from the fact that the grand jury itself does not impose punishments, the biggest difference between the grand jury and the Court of the Star Chamber is that Star Chamber proceedings were in fact largely open to the public.

I am not alone in objecting to the grand jury as a dangerous relic that has evolved in ways that increase its power without increasing its protections. This is not even a partisan issue. For instance, even the Cato Institute has made statements critical of the grand jury:

Prosecutors defend their actions by reminding everyone that legislators have approved the procedures. Legislators defend what they have done by reminding everyone that the courts have approved the procedures. Judges defend what they have done by reminding everyone that prosecutors and legislators are free to do otherwise—and that the people seem content since they have not revolted against the elected officials who run the system. Citizens, in turn, too often assume that someone in the government is looking out for their welfare, including their constitutional rights. No one takes responsibility for the fact that constitutional rights are slipping away. (6)

During the hearing on the 16th, you pointedly asked me whether I had taken an oath to uphold the constitution. What is more important than my willingness to blindly follow that document is my commitment to its general principles of due process and fundamental rights. I refuse to participate in a process that has clearly transformed into something that violates the spirit if not the letter of the law. Since I reject the grand jury process, I am totally ready to propose alternatives to it and point out that such alternatives already exist.

Only two common law systems of justice use the grand jury: the United States and Liberia. Even within the United States, half of the states have dispensed with the use of grand juries. While they reliably end with indictments, they do not reliably end with justice. While the grand jury is anomalous in the world, other countries are nevertheless able to prosecute people, demonstrating that there are alternatives to the grand jury.

While the United States is one of two countries to maintain a grand jury system, countries that used to have grand juries include England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Belgium, Japan and Sierra Leone. In those countries, grand jury proceedings have been replaced by an open and adversarial “preliminary” or “committal” hearing system. Additionally, the United States military, through the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. §801 et seq, sets forth procedures for preliminary hearings, rather than grand juries, providing service members with significantly more protections than the average person.

Preliminary hearings throw open the doors to the best of all disinfectants: sunshine. Nearly every country that used grand juries replaced it with these hearings, which save time and expense, don’t criminalize refusal to comply with prosecutorial whims, and better equip all parties to prepare for fairer and more balanced inquiries into the truth of matters. There exists no shortage of due process and nothing prevents a witness who wishes to remain anonymous from speaking to law enforcement or the prosecution. A common justification for grand jury secrecy is to preserve the reputation of those investigated. First of all, as noted, almost nobody investigated by a grand jury is not indicted. Moreover, in countries that have preliminary hearings, people have an opportunity to defend themselves, and simply being investigated does not end in ruin.

Now, I want to address my specific concerns about the ways in which grand juries can be used politically.

Across the world and throughout history, it has been common practice to incarcerate or even kill dissidents and political rivals on the mere suspicion of being a member of an opposition group. While in the United States we are perhaps less overt in our persecution of dissidents most of the time, the grand jury subpoena combined with compulsory immunity gives unrestrained powers to U.S. prosecutors to oppress activists and their communities. Generally, people have no obligation to cooperate with law enforcement investigations. But in the context of a grand jury subpoena, people who refuse to talk about their first amendment beliefs and associations can be locked away via contempt.

During the McCarthy era, when people were publicly interrogated about their beliefs and associations, the public was eventually outraged, and the McCarthy hearings are widely seen as a disgraceful episode of modern history. This kind of questioning, however, routinely happens under the grand jury system. Due to the secrecy of grand juries, the public is less aware of it, and less outraged, and therefore, it continues without interruption. However, this is because they are unaware it is happening and cannot feel its effects.

The investigative grand jury as we know it was developed in the wake of McCarthy, during the Nixon years. It was developed purportedly to battle organized crime, but was promptly used to subpoena members of anti-war groups, the women’s movement, and black liberation groups. Prosecutors issued subpoenas in conjunction with grants of immunity, in order to compel testimony, and routinely had resistant activists imprisoned for contempt. For instance, while federal agencies were investigating the Puerto Rican independence movement, several community organizers refused to comply out of solidarity with their communities. They were arrested at gunpoint for contempt of court. 6 Senator Ted Kennedy was not shy about expressing his alarm:

“Over the past four years, under the present administration, we have witnessed the birth of a new breed of political animal — the kangaroo grand jury — spawned in a dark corner of the Department of Justice, nourished by an administration bent on twisting law enforcement to serve its own political ends, a dangerous modern form of Star Chamber secret inquisition that is trampling the rights of American citizens from coast to coast.” (7)

The tradition of using political grand juries to jail political dissidents and activists is long. The concept of a grand jury in which prosecutors subpoena activists and jail them for refusing to comply with the subpoena stands in stark contrast to the institution contemplated in the Constitution.

The foregoing is intended to give you a better and more nuanced understanding of my conscientious objection to the grand jury. I understand the idea that as a civil contemnor, I hold the key to my cell – that I can free myself by talking to the grand jury. While I may hold the key to my cell, it is held in the beating heart of all I believe. To retrieve that key and do what you are asking of me, your honor, I would have to cut the key out, which would mean killing everything that I hold dear, and the beliefs that have defined my path.

Each person must make the world we want to live in around us where we stand. I believe in due process, freedom of the press, and a transparent court system. I object to the use of grand juries as tools to tear apart vulnerable communities. I object to this grand jury in particular as an effort to frighten journalists and publishers, who serve a crucial public good. I have had these values since I was a child, and I’ve had years of confinement to reflect on them. For much of that time, I depended for survival on my values, my decisions, and my conscience. I will not abandon them now.

Sincerely,

Chelsea Manning

**end**

References:

1. District Judge Edward Becker concluded, without chagrin, that it is true, generally, that “the grand jury is essentially controlled by the United States Attorney and is his prosecutorial tool” Robert Hawthorne, Inc. v. Dir. of Internal Revenue, 406 F. Supp. 1098, 1119 (E.D. Pa. 1975) https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/406/1098/2143411/

2. A grand jury could ‘indict a ham sandwich’, but apparently not a white police officerThe Guardian, Tuesday 25 November 2014 – As reprinted in The Independent: https://my.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/a-grand-jury-could-indict-a-ham-sandwich-but-apparently-not-a-white-police-officer-9882529.html

3. Roots, Roger, PhD, (2010) Grand Juries Gone Wrong

Roots, Roger, Grand Juries Gone Wrong (2011). Richmond Journal of Law & Public Interest, Vol. 14, p. 331, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1771994

4. The Improper Use of the Federal Grand Jury: An Instrument for the Internment of Political Activists, Michael E. Deutsch, 1984 Northwestern School of Law https://peopleslawoffice.com/improper-use-of-federal-grand-jury-michael-deutsch-political-repression/

5. Plea Bargaining: Critical Issues and Common Practices, by William F. McDonald, (U.S. DOJ, National Institute of Justice, 1985) https://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/nij-ojp/31/

6. W. Thomas Dillard, Stephen R. Johnson, and Timothy Lynch, A Grand Façade How the Grand Jury Was Captured by Government, Policy Analysis 1–18 (2003). https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/grand-facade-how-grand-jury-was-captured-government

7. Washington Post, March 14, 1972, at 2, col. 3

Editor’s Note: Reference #7, which we were unable to find an online copy of, is also mentioned in Reference(4) above:

Testifying before a House Judiciary sub-committee investigating the tactics of an ISD grand jury which had subpoenaed five pro-Republican Irish-Americans from New York to a grand jury in Fort [*1182] Worth, Texas, n105 Senator Edward M. Kennedy captured the essence of the Nixonian use of the grand jury:

Over the past four years, under the present administration, we have witnessed the birth of a new breed of political animal — the kangaroo grand jury — spawned in a dark corner of the Department of Justice, nourished by an administration bent on twisting law enforcement to serve its own political ends, a dangerous modern form of Star Chamber secret inquisition that is trampling the rights of American citizens from coast to coast.

Chelsea’s Grand Jury Cases: Statements & Legal Documents

Updated June 2, 2019

New! June 2!  Letter from Chelsea Manning – Now in HTML!

In it, Chelsea explains the history of grand juries, after reflecting long and hard on the reasons for her resistance, at the request of Judge Anthony Trenga  (original in PDF)

New!   May 31, 2019: Motion to Reconsider Sanctions

New! May 31, 2019: Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Files Motion to Reconsider Sanctions

Updated! May 31, 2019: Timeline of Developments: Chelsea’s Resistence To A Grand Jury Subpoena

RECAP PAGE FOR ALL LEGAL DOCUMENTS IN THIS CASE

Chelsea lost her Appeal in the 4th Circuit, challenging the District Court’s finding of contempt. Here’s the statement from her legal team.

To keep up with developments, please follow the Chelsea Resists Twitter feed here.      Donate to her Legal Fund here.

Updated Index:

Solitary Confinement Statement From Chelsea’s Support Committee – March 23, 2019

Chelsea is being held in solitary confinement. See the definition of solitary confinement compared to the jail’s own definition of the “Administrative Segregation” conditions under which Chelsea is being held:

Chelsea’s statement March 8th (from her Twitter account):

“I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury. Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.

The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago, and took place six years after and in-depth computer forensics case, in which I testified for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous public testimony.

I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

Daniel Ellsberg’s Statement of Support

From the Freedom of the Press Foundation website:

“Chelsea Manning is again acting heroically in the name of press freedom, and it’s a travesty that she has been sent back to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury. An investigation into WikiLeaks for publishing is a grave threat to all journalists’ rights, and Chelsea is doing us all a service for fighting it. She has already been tortured, spent years in jail, and has suffered more than enough. She should be released immediately.”

Chelsea Resists Legal Defense Fund: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/chelsea-manning-needs-legal-funds-to-resist-a-grand-jury-subpoena

Address for writing Chelsea in Jail:

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning
A0181426
William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA 22314

Dos and Don’ts for Writing Chelsea in Jail (IMPORTANT)

Statement from Chelsea Manning Regarding Grand Jury and Consequences Associated with Her Refusal – March 7, 2019:

Statement from Chelsea Manning Regarding Grand Jury and Consequences Associated with Her Refusal

“Yesterday, I appeared before a secret grand jury after being given immunity for my testimony. All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013. I responded to each question with the following statement: ‘I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.’

“In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available. My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

Past Statements by Chelsea & her legal and suport team:

References: (work in progress – will keep adding to this)

1. Why Chelsea Manning Decided to Go to Jail in Protest, March 8, 2019, by Dell Cameron for Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com/why-chelsea-manning-decided-to-go-to-jail-in-protest-1833164311

“Manning, whose right to remain silent was supplanted as part of the grand jury process, was subpoenaed last month in the U.S. Justice Department’s not-so-sealed investigation into Julian Assange. Her defiance of this secret inquisition, however, is not about protecting the WikiLeaks founder at all.

Manning says she is resisting because she, like many other politically minded Americans, believes grand juries are an illegal instrument designed to aide prosecutors on fishing expeditions; a tool for stripping witnesses of their constitutional rights that has been historically used against peaceful political activists by men in power who would have them labelled “terrorists” and “enemies of the state…”

“Manning’s association with WikiLeaks nearly a decade ago was dissected in exhaustive detail during her 2013 court-martial, in which all manner of evidence about her brief contact with WikiLeaks, including the transcripts of their conversations, was presented. But now she is meant to regurgitate that story based on her own flawed memories while under the threat of prolonged incarceration if she finds any reason to refuse.

“We hope she changes her mind now,” the prosecutor, Tracy McCormick, told the Associated Press.

Although Manning is constitutionally protected from double jeopardy—from being charged twice for the same crime—her political right to silence has effectively been stripped away…”

2. Chelsea Manning Fights Subpoena — Showing How Federal Grand Juries Are Unaccountable Tools of Repression – By Natasha Lennard, March 2 2019 https://theintercept.com/2019/03/02/chelsea-manning-subpoena-grand-jury/

“Manning’s decision to fight her subpoena is an act of resistance against government repression and in defense of a free press.”

 

3. Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Say No Formal Accusation She Gave False Statements During Court Martial (By Dell Cameron For Gizmodo)

4. Court Unseals Documents Regarding Chelsea Manning Subpoena (Documents are available via Lawfareblog)

5. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Chelsea’s Appeal & Bail Motion last Monday, April 22. Here are statements from Chelsea and her team: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/04/chelsea-manning-and-her-attorneys-respond-to-4th-circuit-court-of-appeals-ruling-affirming-contempt-and-continuing-her-detention/

6. Chelsea has been let out of her solitary confinement conditions (Administrative Segregation), the definition of which, is nearly identical to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture’s definition of solitary confinement.

 

Chelsea Manning’s May 10 Video Statement – Full Transcription

Chelsea Manning speaks from the heart in a YouTube video on May 10, 2019.
Chelsea was incarcerated for 63 days for refusing to testify to a Grand Jury.
28 of those days were under solitary confinement conditions.

See the video here.

Complete Transcription:

Good evening.

Two months ago, the federal government summoned me before a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.

As a general principle, I object to grand juries.

Prosecutors run grand juries behind closed doors and in secret, without a judge present.

Therefore, I declined to cooperate or answer any questions.

Based on my refusal to answer questions, District Court Judge Hilton ordered me held in contempt until the grand jury ended.

Yesterday, the grand jury expired, and I left the Alexandria Detention Center.

Throughout this ordeal, an incredible spring of solidarity and love boiled over. I received thousands of letters, including dozens to hundreds of them a day.

This means the world to me, and keeps me going.

Jail and prisons exist as a dark stain on our society, with more people confined in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.

During my time, I spent 28 days in solitary confinement–a traumatic experience I already endured for a year in prison before.

Only a few months before reincarceration, I recieved gender confirmation surgery.

This left my body vulnerable to injury and infection, leading to possible complications that I am now seeking treatment for.

My absence severely hampers both my public and private life.

The law requires that civil contempt only be used to coerce witnesses to testify.

As I cannot be coerced, it instead exists as an additional punishment on top of the seven years I served.

Last week, I handwrote a statement outlining the fact I will never agree to testify before this or any other grand jury.

Several of my closest family, friends and colleagues supported this fact.

Our statements were filed in court.

The government knows I can’t be coerced.

When I arrive at the courthouse this coming Thursday, what happened last time will occur again.

I will not cooperate with this or any other grand jury.

Throughout the last decade, I accepted full responsibilty for my actions.

Facing jail again, this week, does not change this fact.

The prosecutors deliberately place me in an impossible situation: I either go to jail, or turn my back on the principles that I have.

The truth is, the government can construct no prison worse than to betray my conscience or my principles.

Thank you, and good night.

SB-1421; When Will We Get The Records?

By Tracy Rosenberg (Oakland Privacy and The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project)

SB 1421 isn’t perfect…But even with its limitations, the bill provides more law enforcement personnel transparency than has been possible in California for decades.

When then-governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1421 in October of 2018, police misconduct records were expected to start flowing on January 1.

That isn’t what’s happened, although small quantities of records have started to come out from certain cities, including Burlingame, Oakland and Berkeley.

To recap, SB 1421, one in a long line of bills that for more than a decade have tried to crack open California’s restrictive police officer’s bill of rights, turned records of investigations and discipline after incidents of lethal force or sustained incidents of sexual assault, evidence planting or lying, into public records that could be gotten with a public records request.

SB 1421 isn’t perfect. It freezes records when there are internal investigations going on and when lawsuits are in progress, which can cause lengthy delays before there is public transparency. And in cases where sexual assault, perjury and evidence-planting allegations aren’t sustained internally or in a court, records will still be sealed. But even with its limitations, the bill provides more law enforcement personnel transparency than has been possible in California for decades.

Even this modest of a change was met with outrage and rebellion by many of the state’s police unions, which have relied on the obscurity of misconduct proceedings to protect member cops from accountability for the crimes they commit.

Police unions ran into court all over California, asking for stays and injunctions in San Bernardino County, Ventura County, Los Angeles, Orange County and in Contra Costa County. Because you can’t unrelease a record after it has already been released, the courts have had to issue temporary stays while considering the issue, but at the now four courts where the cases have been fully argued, Contra Costa, LA, and now Orange County and San Diego, the police unions have lost big.

Arguing that cops involved in lethal incidents or caught lying and/or planting evidence relied on their investigative hearings hidden from view has drawn skepticism from judges, who have continued to insist that the public’s right to know outweighs the police right to hide and that illegal and criminal behavior from the police is not protected behavior that the State should help to conceal.

All the lower court rulings have been appealed, so there will be a few more months of legal jousting, but in the end, the records are going to flow. At least the ones that are left, since a few enterprising police unions have been convincing their City Councils to revise document retention protocols in order to pitch them. The first and second district of the Court of Appeals have upheld the lower court decisions releasing misconduct records and the California Supreme Court has resisted every request to intervene so so far it is public records 6, police unions 0. Those results are expected to be the same in any further legal suits.

For more background on SB-1421, here are a few references:

  1. SB-1421 Peace officers: release of records. (California Legislative Information Page) https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1421

  2. ACLU Northern California: Lifting the Veil of Secrecy: Police Misconduct & Use of Force (SB 1421) Author: Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) https://www.aclunc.org/our-work/legislation/lifting-veil-secrecy-police-misconduct-use-force-sb-1421

  3. KQED’s California Report, January 2, 2019: State Supreme Court Denies Attempt to Block New Access to Police Misconduct, Shooting Records https://www.kqed.org/news/11715442/state-supreme-court-denies-attempt-to-block-new-access-to-police-misconduct-shooting-records

Daniel Ellsberg on Chelsea Manning: She Should Be Released Immediately

Daniel Ellsberg and Chelsea Manning at the 2018 EFF Pioneer Awards, in San Francisco, in September 2018. (Chelsea was one of the recipients of the 2017 EFF Pioneer Awards.) Photo credit: Lisa Rein

To keep up with developments, please follow Chelsea Resists Twitter (@ResistsChelsea).    Donate to her Legal Fund.

A fully indexed page of Chelsea’s official statements & other useful resources.

This is a partial transcription from this Democracy Now broadcast:

Quotes from Daniel Ellsberg:

This is a continuation of seven-and-a-half years of torture of Chelsea Manning…

Although Donald Trump has made it very plain he would love to prosecute and convict The New York Times, he doesn’t have the guts to do that, to do what he wants, fortunately, because it would be so obviously unconstitutional, that although his base would be happy with it and he would be happy with it, he would get into too much trouble constitutionally…

They’re resorting again to torture, which does work at getting false confessions. That’s what it’s for. That’s what it mainly does…

She behaved in relation to WikiLeaks exactly as she would have to The New York Times or The Washington Post, to whom she went first, before going to WikiLeaks. And they didn’t pick up on what she was offering, so she went to WikiLeaks. But she took sole responsibility, not to spare them, but because that was the truth. And she tells the truth…

I admired her then. I admire her now. And right now she’s refusing to take part in basically a conspiracy against press freedom in this country, led by the president of the United States and the Secretary of State.

Daniel Ellsberg also published this Statement of Support on the Freedom of the Press Foundation website:

“Chelsea Manning is again acting heroically in the name of press freedom, and it’s a travesty that she has been sent back to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury.

An investigation into WikiLeaks for publishing is a grave threat to all journalists’ rights, and Chelsea is doing us all a service for fighting it. She has already been tortured, spent years in jail, and has suffered more than enough. She should be released immediately.”

Updated Statement by the Chelsea Resists Support Committee

Donate to her legal fund here.

Follow them on twitter here.

The Chelsea Resists support committee issued a new statement today shedding a little light on what’s going on with her situation.

Chelsea Manning Continues to Challenge Grand Jury Subpoena, Motion to Quash Denied, Remains Under Seal Punitive Risks from Opaque Grand Jury Echo Trump Administration Resentment Towards Manning and President Obama’s Decision to Commute her Sentence

Alexandria, VA — This morning a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) denied a motion filed by Chelsea Manning’s attorneys to quash a subpoena compelling grand jury testimony from Chelsea.

Chelsea and her attorneys plan to utilize every available avenue to challenge this subpoena. Chelsea has been compelled to come back to court tomorrow. Following today’s events Chelsea’s support committee, Chelsea Resists!, has issued a solidarity statement:

“Today we stand in solidarity with Chelsea Manning, and her fight against the dangerous and undemocratic grand jury system. Grand juries operate in secret, allowing the government to retaliate against activists and dissidents behind closed doors.

“This case is no exception. By demanding that Chelsea testify and keeping the basic facts of this grand jury under seal, the government today denied the public’s right to see this oppressive process in the light of day.

“Donald Trump and his administration have publicly declared their disdain for Chelsea, and for President Obama’s decision to commute her sentence. Chelsea has stood by the testimony from her 2013 court martial, and this subpoena serves no legitimate purpose. It is a punitive effort to reverse Obama’s legacy, exposing Chelsea to legal hardship and possible imprisonment.

“Even further, this case has profound 1st Amendment implications. It threatens to erode the rights of journalists who publish information in the public interest. The grand jury could also subject Chelsea’s activist networks to intrusive surveillance for engaging in lawfully-protected activity.

“By challenging this subpoena, Chelsea joins dozens of activists who have refused to jeopardize themselves and their communities. After seven years of imprisonment and torture, Chelsea has suffered enough. We demand an end to this vindictive fishing expedition, and the abolition of the repressive grand jury system. #LeaveChelseaAlone!”

 

 

Chelsea Manning Needs Legal Funds to Resist a Grand Jury Subpoena

Updated: March 7, 2019

Donate to her legal fund here. Statement from the Chelsea Resists Support Committee: “Leave Chelsea Alone”

 

See list of References below that will be up to date soon and updated every morning, as we get more information.

Updated statement from her support team on March 5, 2019:


Hello Friends :-)

We need to help our friend Chelsea again, as she needs legal funds in order to resist a Grand Jury Subpoena that she has been served with.

From the Chelsea Resists Legal Fund web page:

Chelsea Manning has been summoned to appear and give testimony before a federal grand jury. The grand jury is related to her 2010 disclosures of information about the nature of asymmetric warfare to the public.

Following in the footsteps of scores of other activists, Chelsea refused to testify in front of the grand jury, and is currently incarcerated for civil attempt. She may be held until she “purges”- which she won’t- or until the grand jury is released.

Chelsea risked so much for public good, and has been through a lot of hardship. Let’s show her solidarity together and let the State know their punitive harassment won’t be tolerated.

What are grand juries?

Grand juries are used to establish “probable cause” that a felony offense has been committed. Prosecutors run the proceedings behind closed doors, without a judge or defense attorney present. Basically, the whole process is rigged to favor indictment of the individual accused of a crime. They have also been used historically to oppress and frighten targeted groups, in particular, people perceived as dissidents and activists.

Why Resist a grand jury?

Due to their secretive nature and limitless subpoena power, the government has utilized grand jury processes as tools for garnering information about movements by questioning witnesses behind closed doors. Since testimony before grand juries is secret, grand juries can create fear by suggesting that some members of a political community may be secretly cooperating with the government. In this way, grand juries can seed suspicion and fear in activist communities.

What will funds go toward specifically?

We will need legal funds for Chelsea’s legal fees, and legal costs such as court transcripts and travel, and commissary.

If Chelsea does not end up needing these funds they will go to other radical projects of our choosing.

Thank you for your support!

References:

  1. Chelsea Manning Fights Subpoena — Showing How Federal Grand Juries Are Unaccountable Tools of Repression – March 2, 2019 – by Natasha Lennard for The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/02/chelsea-manning-subpoena-grand-jury/

2. Questions regarding Chelsea Manning’s support committee should be directed to ChelseaResists@protonmail.com

3. Chelsea Manning is represented by Moira Meltzer-Cohen, appellate attorney Vincent Ward, and local counsel Chris Leibig and Sandra Freeman.

Meet Visual Artist Projekt Seahorse – Performing at Raw Thought This Friday, March 8th

Projekt Seahorse will be performing at the next Raw Thought at the DNA Lounge from 9pm-2am on March 8th!

Dance, play with robots, watch a beautiful shamanic dancer perform (Lael Marie) or just chill in artist Grumpy Green’s super special Psychedelic Chill Room (an immersive art installation).

DJs include: Melotronix, Tha Spyryt, Ailz, & Cain MacWitish – with visuals by Projekt Seahorse and shamanic dance by Lael Marie – all at our March 8th Raw Thought at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco! TICKETS

A Conversation with Projekt Seahorse a.k.a. Aaron Moun10

by Lisa Rein for Mondo 2000.

Projekt Seahorse will be performing with shamanic dancer Lael Marie for the first time on March 8th!

Watch a highlight clip of Projekt Seahorse performing with Raw Thought DJ Tha Spyryt.

The Edirol V-4

Projekt Seahorse a.k.a. Aaron Moun10 is known for his analog mixed-media art, which he performs live in real time. We interviewed him about his techniques and process in creating his real time masterpieces.

Lisa Rein: So how do you make your visuals? Is everything analog? Are there any digital components? How does it work?

Projekt Seahorse: I’m like a live band. I’m running everything from 4-6 different VHS players and two DVD players and two laptops, all into a video mixer, and then I’m sequencing all of it live.

LR: So your using that old video mixer?

PS: Yes I’m mixing it all live to the energy of whatever music artist I’m working with.

LR: So it’s still analog mixing then, when you are using that video mixing board?

PS: Yes. Analog mixing in real time….

Shamanic Dancer Lael Marie dances while Projekt Seahorse projects his analog video performance art. (Click to see a short video :)

LR: So Lael Marie will be performing with you for the first time at our Raw Thought show on March 11. I’ve seen you guys perform together during a practice session and she’s absolutely amazing; and the two of you together are quite impressive. How did you ever find her?

PS: We met at a party and she’s always looking for new progressive projects and events where she can dance, so I told her about Raw Thought.

LR: Yes she mentioned she was always looking for interesting collaborations, and said this was a dream come true for her, as she had been looking for a projectionist to collaborate with for a while. (I’ll have an interview with her up later this week!)

PS: Werd.