The US government hasn’t been happy at all that there is any press coverage of the Bradley Manning trial, and seems to bend over backwards to make their lives more difficult. However, it appears that they took things to an entirely new and ridiculous level this week in actively spying on and harassing journalists covering the trial.
@carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanLfuller, and @wikileakstruck have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, being “screamed at” for having “windows” open on their computers that show Twitter in a browser tab, and having to undergo extensive, repeated, invasive physical searches.
Even the NY Times has noted how extreme it was:
Two military police officers in camouflage fatigues and armed with holstered handguns paced behind each row there, looking over the journalists’ shoulders, which had not happened during the trial. No explanation was given.
Reading through the various tweets, the MPs were specifically trying to stop journalists from using Twitter. Kevin Gosztola was directly told not to use Twitter and was later admonished for having “a window” open on his computer. No joke. The reporters also noted that they had to go through an incredibly detailed TSA-style search before they could enter the courtroom — and that this had not happened previously in their coverage of the trial. Multiple journalists noted how “creepy” it was and how intimidating it is to have military police with guns looking over your shoulder and watching everything you do. Freedom of the press? Not at all.
In response to all of this attention, the judge apparently claims that she ordered the “extra security” because of “repeated rule violations” of rules that no one was told about. But, reading through the details, it sounds a hell of a lot more like intimidation of the press than than about any attempt to stop “rules violations.”