Category Archives: Chelsea Manning

Amnesty International Produces Podcast “In Chelsea’s Own Words” as Voiced by actress Michelle Hendley

chelsea_large croppedChelsea Manning, who prepared a statement for last year’s Aaron Swartz Day, has just announced a podcast about her life story that just went up a few hours ago.

It’s impossible to hear Chelsea’s actual voice, as she is not allowed to have her voice recorded while she is incarcerated, so Amnesty International decided to do the next best thing. They enlisted actress Michelle Hendley to portray Chelsea.

One section that stands out, apart the stories about Chelsea’s experience growing up, is where she describes the harsh and cruel techniques used upon her during her incarceration, before she had even been convicted of any crimes.

From the podcast:

I expected to be treated like any other military prisoner or detainee would be – with dignity and respect, I had no reason to expect otherwise until I was transferred to the cage.

It was very hot, and it was dark in the tent. I remember you couldn’t tell If it was day or night outside. The facility operated 24/7 so only the meals would give you a hint as to what time it was. Eventually, it all became a blur. It’s difficult to for me to explain in any detail.

My memory of that time is very foggy. It’s all blended together as a really personal mess.

Being alone in that tent for hours on end without having any access to the outside world, I was left without any Idea of what was going on anywhere. I barely knew what month it was, or how long I had been there. I hadn’t started talking regularly to an attorney yet, and I didn’t even know what I was being charged with, exactly, either.

After a few weeks of living in this mental blur – I began to become entirely dependent on the staff that came to watch me and deliver food to me. They were my only connection to the outside world. But, they were not very talkative or reliable – at least in retrospect. My mind was very malleable and I was susceptible to believing all kinds of things because I didn’t have any other information. So – if a guard told me that I was going to be transferred to a ship off the coast of the horn of Africa, it made sense to me and I totally believed it was possible. I had no idea if the rest of the world knew where I was, or where I was going. Anything could have happened.

When I arrived at Marine Corps Base Quantico I was basically subjected to the same conditions that I was in Kuwait – except it was a permanent, air-conditioned building in Virginia. After being there for a couple of days I was allowed to have visitors which was very helpful to catching up on what had happened in the two or three months prior.

I lived in a small 8 by 6 feet Cell – roughly 2.5 by 2 meters. I was in a cell-block with a bunch of other cells that were all empty. I was not allowed to talk to anyone else – even though there wasn’t anybody near me. There were at least two Marines that watched me from behind a one-way reflective glass window at all times. I could see myself in the reflection of the window ail day long. it was like a mirror right outside my cell.

I was not allowed to have anything in my cell that I wasn’t actually using. I would turn in most of my clothes at night. If I wanted to use the toilet – I had to ask for toilet paper, and I would have to return it when I was done. it was the same with toothbrushes, books, and sometimes even my glasses. I was not allowed to lie down or sleep during the duty day from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. I was only allowed to sit up straight on my bed and literally stare at the wall for hours on end. I was sometimes allowed to watch television during the evening, but I had
no control over what was on. Even then, Marines would monitor what I was watching, and would change the channel when anything like news or current events shows would come on.

The entire experience was such a surreal nightmare – it just seemed comical to me. I mean, it was just an incredibly crazy experience. It just seems that you have to have a sense of humor in these kinds of situations, or else you won’t be able to cope with painful or emotionally complicated situations.

I viewed the junior enlisted Marines who watched me and escorted me to the shower and to the recreation pen every day as just being young people who were doing their job. Most of the younger ones were very recently out of high school – some with as little as 3 to 6 months in the Marine Corps. I didn’t really interact with anyone else, so I never really developed an impression of the more senior people Involved.

The conditions in my cell were far beyond what is normally associated with solitary confinement. I needed permission to do anything in my cell. I was not allowed to move around the cell to exercise. I was not allowed to sit down with my back against the wall. I had no possessions inside the cell except when I was actually using something. I mean, I had a guard watch me brush my teeth every morning! the rules just seemed crazy!

Chelsea Manning Interviewed on BoingBoing

Chelsea Manning interview: DNA, big data, official secrecy, and citizenship

by Cory Doctorow for BoingBoing.

Photo of the actual exhibit, in Davos, Switzerland, at last week's Economic Forum. Photo by: danah boyd, Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum
Photo of the actual exhibit, in Davos, Switzerland, at last week’s World Economic Forum. Photo by: danah boyd, Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum

From the article:

The U.S. Government has refused to confirm or deny that there is any ongoing investigation in to your matter, but it looks like they spilled some beans to you? Can you explain what happened, and what it means?

Nearly two years ago, I requested a copy of the FBI files related to their role in the investigation of my case. After going through a lengthy FOIA process, I finally filed a lawsuit to compel the FBI and the Department of Justice to turn over these records.

The basis of their denial is that there is still an ongoing investigation into my case. They have admitted as such before the court in a joint filing. This is the reason that they won’t turn these records over. However, their response is still vague. The government has not acknowledged who they are investigating, or why—just that it is directly related to my case and court martial…

What’s your call to arms for people who care about the issues that sent you to jail? What should they be doing? What would you be doing, if you were free?

Read everything. Ask your own questions. Be your own filter. Nobody is going to look at the world around you and tell you what important things are happening that affect you and the ones you love.

They will sell you things. They will ask you to vote for them. They will offer their services to you. They have an ambiguous agenda that doesn’t really involve your interests as a citizen. There is a difference between a consumer—who passively receives the information that they are spoon fed—and a citizen—who engages with society, asks questions, does research, and works towards making a difference in their neighborhood, city, and country. This is what I try to be—whether I’m in prison or outside—I keep reading and asking questions as a citizen.

Chelsea Manning digital rendering from DNA - gender parameter assigned female - photo credit Heather Dewey-Hagborg
Chelsea Manning digital rendering from DNA – gender parameter assigned female – photo credit Heather Dewey-Hagborg

Chelsea Manning Reviews “The Boy Who Could Change The World”

boy_who_could_change_the_world_finalRemembering Aaron Swartz: My Review of “The Boy Who Could Change The World – By Chelsea Manning

From the review:

For me, reading this book was a revelatory experience. This compilation reminded me of when I read The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a teenager a number of years ago. Unlike Dr. King, I honestly never really knew just deep the brilliance and idealism of Aaron was until I read some of his lesser known and older pieces…

Throughout his writing, Aaron ceaselessly and confidently expresses his underlying ideology. At times, Aaron — being a young person throughout — is inconsistent and contradictory. However, at the root of it all, is his unwavering belief in the power of the people — especially the average citizen. He believes in the strength of the little guy. Aaron also prods us to create tools that make the world better for everyone, whether rich or poor…

I feel like the world abandoned Aaron in his time of need. I feel like the world — myself included — took Aaron for granted. He intelligently and thoughtfully challenged everything and everyone: software companies, corporations, multimedia conglomerates, governments, and even modern school systems! Yet, in his final challenge — we only stood on the sidelines and rooted for him, waiting for him to win again. Instead, he lost. Then, we lost.

Read the complete review here.

Wish Chelsea Manning a Happy 28th Birthday!

Send Chelsea Manning a birthday card!

Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning is spending her 28th birthday in a military prison. She’s been incarcerated since she was 22 for helping expose some of the U.S. government’s worst abuses.


It’s so important that we show heroic whistleblowers like Chelsea that they will not be forgotten, so we want to make sure she gets lots of birthday love! Just fill out this page, and we’ll mail your customized birthday card to Chelsea to remind her that she’s not alone—Happy Birthday, Chelsea Manning!

Learn more from Fight For The Future!

Read Chelsea’s statement from this year’s Aaron Swartz Day.

Chelsea Manning’s Statement for Aaron Swartz Day 2015

Donate to Chelsea’s legal defense fund to help with her appeal.

Download Chelsea Manning’s Statements as a PDF file.

Chelsea E. Manning 89289                                                                                   1300 North Warehouse Road                                                                             Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-2304


Statement for Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon-2015

The Human Element – International Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon

Hello Everyone,

First, I’d like to apologize for the awkwardness of this written medium. I would love to speak in person – as well as attend and contribute to – events like these, but certain circumstances are complicating my ability to travel and communicate in any fashion recognizable to most of us in the 21st century.

In fact – seeing that this is a technology event – l’d like to talk about the incredible ubiquity and access that society now has to highly connected information technology devices. It seems to me, at least, that as we enter the era of ubiquitous computing, the so called “Internet of Things” – with cell phones hugging against our hips, laptops and tablets in everyone’s bag, and toasters that have the uncanny ability to sort our music libraries in the wrong way and have uncomfortable conversations with our grumpy selves in the morning – we have begun to blur the lines within our Human society in unexpected and even exciting ways.

Looking at the rapid advances in our social and political sphere in the information era – such as the cultural progress queer and trans movements have started to make – the relationships between such things as gender and sexuality, between art and work, between gender and work, and between sexuality and art, have blurred in incredible ways. Now there are elements and ideas which seem to implement the concepts of “transhumanism,” and its becoming normal for more and more people who anticipate – as well as fear – the economic, information, and technological “singularity” at the supposed end of our exponential graphs in our own lifetimes.

But, consider the paradox that technology has provided for us. We seem more diverse and open as a society, but isn’t it also the case that we are more homogenous and insecure than we ever have been in the last century or so? You might try and tell me something like – “Well, today’s tools provide us with the ability to be more independent from the control of our governments and corporations than ever before.” But, I ask, do they really? I don’t think very many people in here are convinced that technology is a purely liberating tool, as we are now seeing that it can also be used to censor, to control, to monitor, to anticipate, to imprison, and sometimes even kill.

I am arguing that we can be independent and liberated as a society even without advanced technology. It seems that some people today even find their independence by embracing the Luddite philosophy – ditching their cell phones for the weekends, or avoiding the Internet at certain times of the day or week. But, I hope you don’t think that you have to run to the hills of Montana and live in a cabin for years on end – that seems a little disproportionate, haha.

Today, as is obvious in some of the headlines that we see online – we are in a constant technological arms race, and I think that it’s important to realize that we are always only a single breakthrough away from making the methods of network obfuscation and encryption pointless or unusable. While I agree that it’s unlikely, it certainly is well within the realm of possibility that we might wake up tomorrow morning – or, if we’re really honest, tomorrow afternoon for some of us – and find out that some truly brilliant or devious mathematician or mathematicians have solved the Riemann Hypothesis, throwing entire regions of our encryption arsenal into turmoil. Or, we might wake up and find out that a six, eight, or even ten qubit quantum computer with near perfect error correction has been built, effectively accomplishing the same thing.

The point I’m trying to make here is that – and it is sometimes hard for those of us in the tech community to accept – that our technology can only take us so far on its own. Rather, it is the Human element that is so important, and unfortunately very easy to forget.

As most of us are acutely aware, our software can be written to accomplish a task that, in the right hands, solves incredible problems, creates miracles, eliminates boundaries, and saves lives. Think about, for instance, the entertainment provided by streaming videos and video games, the real-time artificial intelligence applications that are used in automated cars, manufacturing plants, and medical equipment, or the so called “big data” platforms being applied for Internet search, marketing, political campaigning, and healthcare.

Yet, that very same software with a few minor tweaks can, in the wrong hands, cause immense problems, create nightmares, raise insurmountable boundaries, and destroy and even end lives. Think about how the same technology used in streaming video, video games, real-time command and controls, and artificial intelligence, can also be used in unmanned aircraft armed with missiles to wreak havoc on barely discernible people hundreds or thousands of miles away. Think about the statistical “nudges” in big data algorithms that create gender, racial, ethnic, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious, political and other biases across large swaths of the online population. Also, think about the intensifying polarization and heavy focus on precision targeting on “swing voters” in the political realm. Real people in real places in real time are affected – sometimes on an immense scale.

Software is only a tool. Technology is only a toolbox. It’s what we create our software for, what we intend to use it for, and who we allow to use it, and how much, that really count.

I now believe that today’s coders and engineers have an extra “hat” that we have to wear on top of the colorful spectrum of hats we already have – namely, the technology ethicist and moralist hat. Whether we’re amateurs or professionals, and despite whether we want to or not, it has now become another duty that we have. I only hope that the majority of us can figure out and fully understand what that is going to entail as we approach the edge of our graphs. In fact, Human lives and the future of Humanity may depend on it.

Thank you for your time everyone, and good luck in your endeavors. I would especially like to thank Lisa Rein for her lovely letter last month inviting me to speak before you all. It was an incredibly warm and heartfelt letter that made my day a little brighter.

Good night, everyone.



Chelsea’s statement is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Chelsea Manning Prepares Special Statement For Aaron Swartz Day Celebration

Donate to Chelsea’s legal defense fund to help with her appeal.

In support of this year’s Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon, Chelsea Manning has prepared a special statement that will be read at Saturday night’s Celebration of Hackers and Whistleblowers at the Internet Archive.

HERE IS THE LINK FOR A LIVE WEBCAST OF TONIGHT’S SPEAKERS, at 8:00 pm PST. (Movies only seen by attendees.)

Meanwhile, Chelsea has written an Op-Ed for the Guardian on why the FISA courts should be abolished. (She’s also published a 129-page surveillance reform bill.)

Sign this petition from Fight For The Future to tell your politicians to read Chelsea’s bill.

Fisa courts stifle the due process they were supposed to protect. End them

Intelligence agencies will always seek to collect more data. But the courts that oversee them must be as concerned about due process as they are with secrets

From the article:

 Those courts were established nearly 40 years ago, in response to allegations that the intelligence community was abusing their power in order to spy on US citizens: the US Senate’s Church Committee conducted a massive investigation into the intelligence community and expressed concerns that the privacy rights of US citizens had been violated by activities conducted under pretenses of foreign intelligence collection.

The result then was new procedures and the creation of a new court system – the Foreign Intelligence Court – to process surveillance requests by the government in secret. Unfortunately, it also created a new host of oversight problems: only a similar secret court process can review the actions taken by the courts, leaving many in Congress and all of the American public in the dark.

Some of these systemic problems have finally been examined by non-Fisa courts in the last two years – most notably by the US court of appeals for the second circuit early in 2015. However, because of the continuing secrecy of the Fisa courts, any ruling by a court of appeals was only a symbolic gesture. The USA Freedom Act, for all that it’s trumpeted as the solution to some of the excessed, does little to institute real oversight over the Fisa courts.

The solution: we should abolish the entire Fisa Court system and bring all surveillance requests into the oldest and most tested court system in America: the US district courts and courts of appeal.