An interview with Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of espionage for sharing classified documents with WikiLeaks, abruptly ended when she declined to discuss her reaction to hearing that some of that material may have reached Osama bin Laden.
Triple J, an Australian government-funded radio station, published audio of a brief interview Friday in which Ms. Manning refused to weigh in on a claim raised by prosecutors during her military court-martial, quickly bringing the conversation to an unexpected close.
“Some of your leaked documents were found in Osama bin Laden’s compound though, after his death, that’s information in the hands of one of America’s biggest enemies,” radio host Tom Tilley said during the interview. “Do you have any regrets about that outcome? What did you think when you heard that?”
Ms. Manning deferred to comment, responding: “I can’t really talk about specifics of my court-martial. The record of trial is still classified.”
“But why does that mean you can’t say how you felt when you found out that piece of information? Do you dispute that’s true?” Mr. Tiley asked.
“I can’t even tell you whether or not we dispute that it’s true. It’s that highly classified,” Ms. Manning replied.
Two people described by the radio station as “media minders” subsequently intervened in the telephone call before of them instructed Ms. Manning to “hang up.”
“I understand there might be nothing wrong with your questioning, but we just want to be really respectful to Chelsea, because she’s given up her time to have this conversation,” said Suzi Jamil, a Sydney-based events organizer participating in the call.
Neither Ms. Manning nor Ms. Jamil immediately responded to messages seeking comment.
“I believe that if someone with a well-known controversial history is going to get the opportunity to speak on the national broadcaster and air their political views, they also need to be prepared to answer some accountability questions for their actions,” Mr. Tilley said during a radio segment after broadcasting the truncated conversation.
“As to why I made sure the people jumping in knew they’d be going to air — as journalists we can’t let a precedent be set where media minders can interrupt interviews whenever they want,” he added. “It would mean they could do it all the time, and they’d have too much power to manipulate the messages.
Ms. Manning, 30, was arrested in 2010 in connection with disclosing classified material, including Department of State diplomatic cables and Department of Defense documents containing sensitive information involving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She was convicted in 2013 on counts of crimes including espionage and theft, but acquitted of “aiding the enemy” — a capital offense brought by military prosecutors in response to her leaks.
Navy SEALs searching bin Laden’s compound in May 2011 discovered copies of certain documents that Ms. Manning had leaked to the WikiLeaks website for publication, military prosecutors claimed during the soldier’s court-martial.
Ms. Manning was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment prior to having most of that punishment commuted by former President Barack Obama in early 2017.
She previously deferred discussing certain aspects of her case, including during a public question-and-answer sessions following her appearance at the Hackers On Planet Earth conference in New York City in July 2018 when an attendee inquired about WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
“I’m under a nondisclosure agreement about the case-file. There were closed hearings,” she said.
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