In vigorous support of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, a group including Wikileaks founder Julian Assange filed a suit against the Department of Defense, demanding transparency in Manning’s trial, The Huffington Post reports. This lawsuit marks the second attempt to allow open, public access to Manning’s trial.
U.S. Army private and, as of 2012, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Manning was indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 for leaking over 700,000 documents and videos to Wikileaks in 2010. Manning was one of six in a wave of indictments under the Espionage Act since Obama took office in 2009. The group of journalists and activists associated with Assange are now laying their hopes in federal civilian courts.
The military has been going to great lengths to keep the lid on this trial. The lawsuit that they filed last month before the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces was struck down in a 3-2 vote, asserting that “media organizations and the public media have no right to access court documents.”
Of the two dissenting judges that voted in favor of public access to Manning’s trial, Senior Judge Walter T. Cox came forward and blazoned that “the military accused and the public enjoy the same rights to a fair and public hearing as is envisioned in the Bill of Rights.”
Could it be that the court is afraid that the media’s overwhelming support of Manning could sway the verdict? The court’s skittishness strongly points to that.
Surely, if the prosecution and judicial powers felt like this was an airtight indictment against Manning, there would be no issue in letting the public and the media have full access to documents and transcripts.
This indictment is a powerplay in attempt to scare the journalist watchdogs and whistleblowers from performing their inherited duties of keeping the powers that be in check.
The military court is robbing Manning and the public the right to fair publicity and they are stifling journalists from performing their watchdog duties. The courts are surely aware of the media’s support of Manning. And keeping the details of this trial on the hush-hush is only going to rouse the activists and journos even more. Restraint only strengthens curiosity.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.