CNN Editorial Research
Here’s a look at WikiLeaks and the trial of Chelsea Manning.
WikiLeaks is purportedly an organization that facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information through its website.
It was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange, activist, computer programmer and hacker.
Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning), a former Army intelligence analyst who provided WikiLeaks with classified documents, was convicted of violating the Espionage Act in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her sentence was later commuted by President Barack Obama.
December 2007 – WikiLeaks posts the US Army manual for soldiers dealing with prisoners at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay.
March 2008 – WikiLeaks posts internal documents from the Church of Scientology.
September 2008 – WikiLeaks posts emails from the Yahoo email account of Sarah Palin.
November 2008 – WikiLeaks posts a list of names and addresses of people it claims belong to the far-right British National Party.
November 2009 – WikiLeaks posts what it claims are 500,000 messages sent during the September 11, 2001 attacks.
April 5, 2010 – A classified military video is posted by WikiLeaks. It shows a US Apache helicopter firing on and killing two journalists and a number of Iraqi civilians in 2007. The military claimed that the helicopter crew believed the targets were armed insurgents, not civilians.
May 2010 – The US military detains Manning for allegedly leaking US combat video, including the US helicopter gunship attack posted on WikiLeaks, and classified State Department records. Manning was turned in by Adrian Lamo, a former hacker, who Manning confided in about leaking the classified records.
July 6, 2010 – The military announces it has charged Manning with violating army regulations by transferring classified information to a personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system and of violating federal laws of governing the handling of classified information.
July 25, 2010 – WikiLeaks posts more than 90,000 classified documents relating to the Afghanistan war in what has been called the biggest leak since the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. The documents are divided into more than 100 categories and touch on everything from the hunt for Osama bin Laden to Afghan civilian deaths resulting from US military actions.
October 22, 2010 – WikiLeaks publishes nearly 400,000 classified military documents from the Iraq War, providing a new picture of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed, the role that Iran has played in supporting Iraqi militants and many accounts of abuse by Iraq’s army and police.
November 28, 2010 – WikiLeaks begins publishing approximately 250,000 leaked State Department cables dating back to 1966. The site says the documents will be released “in stages over the next few months.”
November 28, 2010 – The WikiLeaks website suffers an attack designed to make it unavailable to users. A Twitter user called Jester claims responsibility for the attack.
December 1, 2010 – Amazon removes WikiLeaks from its servers.
April 24, 2011 – Nearly 800 classified US military documents obtained by WikiLeaks reveal details about the alleged terrorist activities of al Qaeda operatives captured and housed in Guantanamo Bay.
September 2, 2011 – WikiLeaks releases its archive of more than 250,000 unredacted US diplomatic cables.
October 24, 2011 – WikiLeaks announces that it is temporarily halting publication to “aggressively fundraise.” Assange states that a financial blockade by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union has cut off 95% of WikiLeaks’ revenue.
December 16, 2011 – Manning’s Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing that will determine whether enough evidence exists to merit a court-martial, begins.
February 23, 2012 – Manning is formally charged with aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, transmitting national defense information and theft of public property or records.
February 26, 2012 – WikiLeaks begins releasing what it says are five million emails from the private intelligence company, Stratfor, starting with a company “glossary” that features unflattering descriptions of US government agencies. The authenticity of the documents can’t be independently confirmed.
July 5, 2012 – WikiLeaks begins publishing more than 2.4 million emails from Syrian politicians, government ministries and companies dating back to 2006.
February 28, 2013 – Manning pleads guilty to some of the 22 charges against him, but not the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, which carries a life sentence.
June 3, 2013 – Manning’s court-martial begins.
July 30, 2013 – Manning is acquitted of aiding the enemy, but found guilty on 20 other counts, including violations of the Espionage Act.
August 21, 2013 – A military judge sentences Manning to 35 years in prison.
August 22, 2013 – Through a statement read on NBC’s Today show, Manning announces he wants to live life as a woman and wants to be known by his new name, Chelsea Manning. She later formally changes her name.
July 22, 2016 – WikiLeaks releases nearly 20,000 emails from Democratic National Committee staffers. The emails appear to show the committee favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the US presidential primary.
October 7, 2016 – More than 2,000 hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta are published by WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks claims that it has more than 50,000 of Podesta’s emails and pledges to continue releasing batches of documents during the weeks leading up to the election.
January 3, 2017 – During an interview on the Fox News Network, Assange says that Russia did not give WikiLeaks hacked emails.
January 12, 2017 – WikiLeaks tweets that Assange will agree to be extradited to the United States if Obama grants clemency to Manning.
January 17, 2017 – Obama commutes Manning’s sentence, setting the stage for her to be released on May 17.
March 7, 2017 – WikiLeaks publishes what they say are thousands of internal CIA documents, including alleged discussions of a covert hacking program and the development of spy software targeting cellphones, smart TVs and computer systems in cars. In a statement, Assange says that the website published the documents as a warning about the risk of the proliferation of “cyber weapons.” The documents are not independently authenticated.
April 20, 2017 – Authorities tell CNN that they are taking steps to seek the arrest of Assange, preparing criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder. The investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates back to 2010 but prosecutors struggled with the question of whether the First Amendment protected Assange. Now, they reportedly have found a way to proceed but offered no details on the nature of the charges they plan to file.
May 3, 2017 – During a Senate hearing, FBI Director James Comey refers to WikiLeaks as “intelligence porn,” declaring that the site’s disclosures are intended to damage the United States rather than educate the public.
May 17, 2017 – Manning is released from prison.
September 15, 2017 – Harvard Kennedy School withdraws an invitation to Manning to be a visiting fellow.
October 2017- CNN reports that in 2016 a Cambridge Analytica executive reached out to WikiLeaks requesting access to Clinton emails. Assange confirmed the exchange in a tweet, saying “I can confirm an approach by Cambridge Analytica [prior to November last year] and can confirm that it was rejected by WikiLeaks.“
May 31, 2018 – The US Army Court of Criminal Appeals upholds Manning’s 2013 court-martial conviction. Although Manning’s sentence was commuted, her conviction under the Espionage Act, still stands.
March 5, 2019 – A federal judge denies Manning’s effort to quash a subpoena and avoid testifying before a grand jury in Virginia. It is not publicly known what the grand jury in Virginia is investigating and what prosecutors’ interest in Manning is.
March 8-May 9, 2019 – Manning spends 62 days in federal custody for refusing to testify about her disclosures to WikiLeaks. A group of Manning supporters called Chelsea Resists issues a statement claiming Manning is being kept in her cell for 22 hours a day, which they say constitutes solitary confinement and surmounts to “torture.”
April 11, 2019 – Assange is arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London on an extradition warrant from the US Justice Department. He is charged with conspiracy to attempt to hack a computer in connection with the 2010 release of classified military info obtained via Manning. Assange’s attorney says the indictment is troubling because of its implications for freedom of the press.
May 16, 2019 – Manning is again found in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury and returns to jail.
March 11, 2020 – Manning is hospitalized after attempting suicide. The next day, Federal District Court judge Anthony Trenga orders Manning to be released from jail after being held for 10 months.
January 4, 2021 – A British judge rejects a US request to extradite Assange to America, but the decision is overturned in December. On March 14, 2022, the UK Supreme Court denies Assange’s appeal against the extradition decision. A formal extradition order is issued on April 20.
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