Just before President Donald Trump took office, he praised the work done by WikiLeaks following their disclosure of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Now, his administration is trying to get witnesses to testify against Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ founder.
While there was little commotion surrounding the news the Trump administration was preparing secret criminal proceedings against the organization back in January, news outlets are once again covering this story thanks to former U.S. army analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
She was arrested this Friday for refusing to testify about her interactions with WikiLeaks.
During the ruling, Judge Claude M. Hilton told Manning she was in contempt of court and that she would be sent to jail “either until [she purges herself] or the end of the life of the grand jury.”
On Twitter, Manning explained she was not going to testify before a secret grand jury. To each question she was given, she said in her public statement, she wrote she objected “to the question and [refused] to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of” her First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, as well as other statutory rights.
She added she had already provided answers to substantive questions during her 2013 court-martial testimony. Despite her strong objections, she was penalized for standing firm.
It Was Never About WikiLeaks
This arrest, and the realization that the Trump administration is working on building a case against WikiLeaks, comes on the heels of reports claiming U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had evidence longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks to discuss the release of the Democratic Party emails.
But whether the administration is doubling down on WikiLeaks as a response to how Trump was criticized over his former praise of the organization, especially as the Russia gate investigation continues, it is laughable to think that a news outlet is at the heart of both of these cases.
WikiLeaks is not in the business of stealing documents. It is, however, in the business of serving as an outlet for whistleblowers trying to expose, in many cases, wrongdoing by government agencies, public officials, and big business names.
You do not have to like or support personalities like Assange and Manning to understand that any effort to target WikiLeaks is really about targeting reporters doing their job. And even if you’ve chosen to take everything WikiLeaks reports with a grain of salt, it is clear that the incessant government-backed effort to shut down WikiLeaks is really about scaring whistleblowers into staying quiet.
Whether it was under Barack Obama or now under Trump, the war on government workers opening their mouths — and the reporters doing their job — is the real issue here. Unfortunately, people like Manning and Assange will continue to be the scapegoats. Until, of course, the federal government has what it wants, and that is to completely scare potential whistleblowers from ever daring to stand up to Goliath again.
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