June 3, 2013, New York and Ft. Meade – Today, the first day of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement:
Given that he has already pled guilty to 10 counts that carry a half-a-lifetime sentence, it is difficult to view the court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning as anything but political theater meant to intimidate potential whistleblowers. The pre-trial secrecy and lack of access for the public was a farce, with the judge going so far as to read orders aloud for two hours at top speed rather than providing written rulings to the press. For the trial itself, which began today, the court allocated only 80 seats to the press despite receiving 350 requests and is once again not providing transcripts. Unsurprisingly, the court has refused to set aside two dedicated seats for the crowd-sourced stenographers the public and press have raised the funds to pay.All the opinions that had been released via FOIA a few weeks ago have now inexplicably been taken down from the site.From the moment Manning was arrested and held in a cage-like cell in Iraq three years ago, the entire slow-moving process has been fundamentally flawed and illegitimate.The government is trying to disproportionately punish someone who acted out of the highest political motivations: because he wanted the American people to see the horrible crimes committed in their names and to learn just how badly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were going – the same goals Daniel Ellsberg had when he released the Pentagon papers to the New York Times during the Vietnam War.The Obama administration is trying to crush Bradley Manning in order to intimidate others who would dare tell the American public a story the government doesn’t want it to hear. And by making it nearly impossible for journalists to cover the proceedings intelligently, they are trying to drive meaningful debate about the morality of Manning’s actions out of the news media. A free press and informed public can serve as a check on the judge and the proceedings, but to date the government has kept the process as opaque and inaccessible as possible.The Reporters’ Committee on Freedom of the Press will be filing an amicus brief this week in the new Center for Constitutional Rights federal case challenging the public’s lack of meaningful access to the trial and trial documents. Oral argument in that case will be in two weeks, on June 17.
The Center for Constitutional Rights represents WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and a number of other members of the media in the fight to make the Manning trial transparent. For more information visit CCR’s case page.