Unprecedented Secrecy at Manning Trial; Rights Groups Request Transparency

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Common Dreams

Unprecedented Secrecy at Manning Trial; Rights Groups Request Transparency

Center for Constitutional Rights files petition for information

by
Common Dreams staff

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, in handcuffs, is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Maryland February 23, 2012. (Reuters/Jose Luis Magana)

On Thursday, a coalition led by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a petition requesting Colonel Denise Lind, the judge presiding over the trial of WikiLeaks whistleblower Private Bradley Manning, to grant the public and press access to the trial's motion papers, court orders, transcripts of proceedings, and other information usually made public.

Thus far, the hearings have proceeded with unusual secrecy, exceeding "the controversial military commission proceedings ongoing at Guantánamo Bay," CCR reports. The requested information has not been made public to date. The petition also calls attention to the fact that multiple legal matters in the court martial have been argued and decided in secret, outside of the court room.

Among CCR, the petition includes reporter Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, The Nation with Jeremy Scahill, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, and many more voices for transparency.

“Public scrutiny plays a vital role in government accountability. Media access to the Manning trial proceedings and documents is critical for the transparency on which democratic government and faith in our justice system rests,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy. “Portions of the hearings themselves have been open to a small number attorneys and press, but the Manning proceedings have been open in name only.”

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Center for Constitutional Rights: Constitutional Rights Attorneys, Media Challenge Secrecy of Manning Court Martial

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a petition requesting the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to order the Judge in the court martial of alleged Wikileaks leaker Private Bradley Manning to grant the public and press access to the government’s motion papers, the court’s own orders, and transcripts of proceedings, none of which have been made public to date. In addition, the petition challenges the fact that substantive legal matters in the court martial – including a pretrial publicity order – have been argued and decided in secret.

The petitioners include CCR itself and a diverse group of media figures: Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, The Nation and its national security correspondent Jeremy Scahill, and Wikileaks and its publisher, Julian Assange. Also included are Kevin Gosztola, co-author of Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning and civil liberties blogger covering the Manning court martial, and Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning and a contributing editor to The American Conservative. [...]

Said Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation: “Since its founding in 1865, The Nation has been committed to the elementary democratic principle that government operate openly and be subject to public oversight. We believe citizens have a right to know what their government is doing. IT IS therefore vital that the media covering Pfc. Bradley Manning's court martial be able to view documents filed in public proceedings.”

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The Guardian/UK: Bradley Manning military trial: group petitions for a more open court

The military trial of the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning is being conducted amid far more secrecy than even the prosecution of the alleged 9/11 plotters in Guantanamo, a coalition of lawyers and media outlets protest.

Led by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the coalition has petitioned the Army court of criminal appeals calling for the court-martial against Manning to be opened up to the press and public. The group complains that the way the trial is being handled by the trial judge Colonel Denise Lind is a violation of the First Amendment of the constitution that requires public access unless the government can specifically demonstrate the need for secrecy.

The petition lists the many ways in which the public are being kept in the dark over the prosecution of Bradley Manning, who faces 22 charges related to the leaking of a vast trove of US state secrets to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. He was arrested in May 2010 at a military base outside Baghdad where he was working as an intelligence analyst on suspicion of passing hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables as well as warlogs from Iraq and Afghanistan to the site.

The army has allowed the publication of not one single motion submitted by the prosecution to the court-martial, nor any prosecution replies to defence motions, not even in redacted form. None of the orders issued by the court have been made public, and no transcripts have been provided of any of the proceedings – not even those that were fully open to the press.

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