On Friday, the fourth in a series of pre-trial hearings concluded at Fort Meade, Maryland. These hearings have focused on the extent of the charges Bradley will face and the failure of the prosecution to hand over to the defence the information they have asked for in order to make their case. We are only about half of the way through this process with Bradley’s court martial now not due to begin until November at the very earliest.
Despite the best efforts of the US military authorities to inhibit reporting of proceedings (efforts which have now led to legal action being launched by the US Center for Constitutional Rights and others) some information about what is happening is getting out, thanks in no small part to the efforts of activists and citizen journalists who have been attending the hearings and publishing their own reports.
In most court cases, you’d expect an official transcript and court documents to be made available by both sides. In this case, the only official information we have comes from the defence – and the extent of what has been allowed to be released has frequently been argued over in the courtroom. The extent of the secrecy is, of course, revealing in itself.
What else have we learned from proceedings to date?
Key documents have been withheld from Bradley’s defence, with the prosecution playing legal and semantic games to avoid disclosing information that has been requested from them. At the last round of hearings, the defence won the right to see part of the US Government’s WikiLeaks impact assessments – but were told they had to travel hundreds of miles to collect them, even though there was a copy in the courtroom.
Writing a blog could mean you’re aiding the enemy. In refusing to dismiss the most serious charge Bradley faces, that of “aiding the enemy”, military judge Denise Lind has allowed the US government to pursue an argument that the ALCU have argued is “breathtaking”:
… if the government is right that a soldier “indirectly” aids the enemy when he posts information to which the enemy might have access, then the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over any service member who gives an interview to a reporter, writes a letter to the editor, or posts a blog to the internet.
Indeed, the US military has announced plans to step up surveillance of its personnel.
Even bearing in mind the difficulties of reporting, mainstream US coverage has not been all it might be.
The next motion hearing starts on 25 June. In London, a solidarity vigil will be held outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square – check the calendar or wiseupforbradleymanning.wordpress.com for further details.
The US Government has now responded to the CCR’s petition for greater transparency in the ongoing proceedings, arguing that reporters are free to make Freedom of Information Requests. This is a process that can take considerable time and is as such of little use to journalists who need to file reports while proceedings are actually happening. As Kevin Gosztola writes at firedoglake:
… practically speaking, the government obviously does not care if reporters are able to report on the court martial or not.