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From Prison, Chelsea Manning Proposes Free Speech Protection Bill

Legislation would amend existing rules with an eye toward expanding transparency and access to information as well as free speech and press protections

In what the Guardian calls "a highly unusual move for an inmate in military custody," Chelsea Manning has proposed the reform legislation from prison. (Photo: Screenshot)

Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army whistleblower currently serving a 35-year sentence for leaking thousands of internal military and State Department documents that helped expose wrongdoing by the U.S. government, has proposed legislation from prison aimed at helping others avoid her fate.

The bill, called the National Integrity and Free Speech Protection Act (pdf), would amend laws including the Freedom of Information Act and Espionage Act and federal disclosure rules for journalists, with an eye toward expanding transparency and access to information as well as free speech and press protections.

As the Guardian reports, "[t]he model bill would shift the legal advantage away from government prosecutors acting in the name of 'national security' and towards journalists and their sources. The proposal is significant coming from the individual who has personally felt the wrath of the US government towards official leakers more than anyone else in recent times."

The bill would codify measures Manning called for in an op-ed published Wednesday at the Guardian, in which she declared: "The US needs legislation to protect the public's right to free speech and a free press, to protect it from the actions of the executive branch and to promote the integrity and transparency of the US government."

She wrote: 

I believe that when the public lacks even the most fundamental access to what its governments and militaries are doing in their names, then they cease to be involved in the act of citizenship. There is a bright distinction between citizens, who have rights and privileges protected by the state, and subjects, who are under the complete control and authority of the state.

In the past decade or so there have been an increasing number of clashes – both in the public and behind the scenes – between the US government, the news media and those in the public who want fair access to records that pertain to the implementation of policies by their government.

In addition to the 31-page proposed bill, Manning has prepared a section-by-section analysis (pdf) of its language.

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