Public access fight over Manning docs in Md. court
BALTIMORE (AP) — A government lawyer said Monday the U.S. Army has released the vast majority of court records in Pfc. Bradley Manning’s case and told a civilian judge the dispute over the records had become moot.
A lawyer for a constitutional rights group said there were still problems with public access and the military should make records from the soldier’s court-martial available faster.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups, including The Associated Press, have argued for more than a year that documents related to the Manning case were being released too slowly, if at all. The center initially petitioned an Army court for better access to the documents, but the nation’s highest military court said earlier this year that it wasn’t the right place for the dispute. Some of the judges suggested the dispute could be heard by a civilian court.
On Monday, a lawyer for the U.S. government, John Tyler, said the Army has now made the majority of the disputed documents accessible online and questioned whether federal court judge Ellen L. Hollander should get involved in the dispute.
“This case started because they wanted access to pretrial records. They have access to pre-trial records,” Tyler said.
The Army made hundreds of pre-trial documents available online in early June as the court-martial began, and lawyers said just a few largely classified documents were not made public.
Tyler said the Army has promised to make trial records available online as well, normally within a one- to two-day time frame, as the court-martial continues at Fort Meade. That will allow classified information to be redacted before the documents are released, he said.
A lawyer for the center, Shayana Kadidal, objected to the turnaround time, saying in many instances that one to two days would be “inadequate.” Providing those documents sooner so the media can use them “facilitates reporting on what actually happens in the courtroom” and allows the public to serve a “fact-checking” role, he said.
But Hollander seemed skeptical the turnaround time was too long.
“What’s wrong with that?” she said.
Kadidal said neither transcripts nor audio of pre-trial proceedings have been made public and one or the other should be. Kadidal also objected to some of the redactions in currently available documents, including names of potential witnesses.
The judge and the government attorney suggested those names wouldn’t be accessible in a civilian trial.
Manning’s court-martial began its third week Monday. Manning has acknowledged giving a massive amount of sensitive information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, but said it did not harm national security. He faces numerous charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is representing itself as well as WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and several left-leaning pundits and publications that want access to the documents. More than 30 news organizations, including AP, supported the center’s request for greater access.
The judge will issue a written ruling later.
Center for Constitutional Rights: https://ccrjustice.org/about
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