Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pressure Mounts for Transparency in Manning Court-Martial

Courthouse News Service
 The pressure to honor Bradley Manning's civil rights continues as trial lawyers and reporters are left in the dark on the initial proceedings.
   "As the Manning court-martial purports to be a public trial, we cannot understand why critical aspects of the proceedings are being withheld from public view," the Center for Constitutional Rights' Michael Ratner wrote in a three-page letter released Thursday."
National Security again cited as an excuse for denying a citizen civil rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
  Last December, Manning stepped into a court in Fort Meade, Md., for the first time in an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury.
     The government has not released motions, rulings and transcripts of those and subsequent proceedings.
     In a March 12 letter to Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson, more than 40 news organizations wrote that the government showed greater transparency with the cases of Guantanamo detainees than with that of Manning.
     "As such, the coalition respectfully urges the government to implement similar reforms in its regulations governing court-martial proceedings generally and that of Manning specifically to ensure that military personnel tried stateside have the same rights to a public trial as those afforded accused terrorists," the letter states.
     Ratner, on behalf of Assange and Wikileaks, joined that effort on Thursday, in a letter to the presiding military judge, Col. Denise Lind, which he copied to the Pentagon."
government claims of the necessity of secrecy has shrouded the court proceedings in secrecy and denied the importance of the rules by which a democracy must live.

 The letter quoted 6th Circuit Judge Damon Keith's grim warning, "Democracies die behind closed doors," from an opinion in the case of Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, which forced immigration courts to open proceedings of defendants with suspected ties to the Sept. 11 attacks.
     Ratner said that it is difficult for even lawyers to follow the Manning court-martial without access to these records.
     "For example, undersigned counsel attended the motions hearing on March 15, 2012, and determined that it was not possible to understand fully or adequately the issues being litigated because the motions and response thereto were not available," he wrote.

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