Anne Sewell, Digital Journal, May 22, 2013— The upcoming trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning is to be held in secret. A group of journalists and activists, including Julian Assange, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Department of Defense and the military judge, demanding access to the trial.
Pfc. Bradley Manning is fighting to avoid a life sentence after he admitted to leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents to WikiLeaks.
While physical access to the pretrial hearings was not a problem, keeping track of, and understanding the court proceedings has been made difficult as prosecution and defense motions, court orders and transcripts are rarely released to the public. A huge number of documents have been kept totally hidden from public view.
The complaint said, “The press and public have been largely denied access to even non-classified documents filed in Manning’s court-martial.”
By filing the lawsuit on Wednesday, the plaintiffs aim to open up access to the military trial.
Assange, has previously alleged the Manning proceedings will be a “show trial.” Last month, the same group filed a similar lawsuit in military courts. However the suit was shot down in a 3-2 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The group are continuing in their legal action in a civilian federal district court in Baltimore, hoping to overrule the military.
This filing comes a day after the judge overseeing the trial had ruled that 24 prosecution witnesses could testify in secret.
Shayana Kadidal, a senior attorney at the non-profit legal group representing the coalition said, “The federal civilian courts are now our last option,”
“If this lawsuit fails, Manning’s trial will take place under conditions where journalists and the public will be unable as a practical matter to follow what is going on in the courtroom.”
The plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction to force the release of many of the files currently kept hidden.
Journalist Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation, said, “The culture of extreme secrecy that has defined both the Bush and Obama presidencies does a disservice to our democratic society. By unnecessarily cloaking these proceedings from public view or scrutiny, the government is undermining the most basic principles of transparency and freedom of the press, both of which are vital components of the democratic and judicial process.”
They expect their case to be heard by Maryland U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander, a President Barack Obama appointee, shortly after Manning’s trial begins on June 3.