The secrecy, redactions and delays in release of information mean that the public does not have contemporaneous access to the proceedings, a fundamental component of a public trial. And given that Private Manning is confronting a life sentence, news media coverage and the public interest are one of the core protections provided to him by the First and Sixth Amendments.
I’m glad the New York Times has finally realized what journalists and advocates like Michael Ratner, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, and myself have been saying since Manning’s indictment. I’m glad the Times woke up to the fact that if Manning were to be convicted of “aiding the enemy” simply because he provided information to Wikileaks, and, ultimately, the public, it would erode the First Amendment protections for all media outlets as well as whistleblowers like Manning.
The Manning case has always been about the First Amendment. It is high time the country’s “paper of record” wised up.
The Carr piece has a decent message if you can get past the self-righteous indignation and sanctimonious excuses. NYT complains that it is “rugged going” for reporters to make it to Fort Meade, but makes sure to note that complaint is
not an effort to complain about tough working conditions for reporters.
It would be an ironic complaint for the Times considering its reporters only showed up to the Manning proceedings after being twice publicly shamed by the paper’s public editor. If it’s a “rugged haul” for reporters with the resources of the New York Times, imagine the difficulty for the independent and alternative media reporters who have been present at the Manning proceedings day in and day out. Journalists like Alexa O’Brien, Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake, Courthouse News’ Adam Klasfeld, and Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network have covered the court proceedings despite the secrecy and security theater that make the reporting from Ft. Meade “rugged going.”
The NYT also makes the excuse that limited resources prevent the paper from covering the proceedings:
Yet coverage has been limited, partly by the court’s restrictions and partly because an increasingly stretched news media business often does not have the time, or the resources, to cover lengthy trials. After all, Private Manning’s case is still in pretrial phase and the full court-martial will not begin until June 3.
Such an excuse defies credulity, especially considering Ed Pilkington of The Guardian has also showed up, and the Washington Post found the “resources” to send researcher Julie Tate with regularity. With the First Amendment on the line, one would think the New York Times – with the biggest budget of any newspaper on the planet – would find the resources.
While it is true Manning’s trial has yet to begin, pre-trial proceedings have including riveting testimony and constitutionally-significant, precedent-setting hearings about “unlawful pre-trial confinement” (aka torture), the right to a speedy trial, the Espionage Act, and how the government plans to prove “aiding the enemy:” through a really frightening theory that if Osama Bin Laden had the ability to obtain publicly-available documents, then Manning “aided the enemy.” Not to mention Manning himself testifying under oath about his mistreatment – perhaps the only time he will take the stand. You can bet if defendants like O.J. Simpson or Casey Anthony had taken the stand pre-trial, the New York Times would have showed up to listen, despite the time and resources constraints and any “rugged going” required.
Carr’s piece seems to finally send the right message that the Manning trial is of critical importance to the free press. The message is great, but the proof will be in the pudding: in whether the NYT decides to finally send its reporters to give the the First Amendment the press coverage it deserves when the court proceedings resume.