Military officials hold “Off the Record” press briefing on Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning Support Network. December 9, 2011

An anonymous source has revealed to representatives of the Bradley Manning Support Network that military officials conducted a non-publicized press briefing this morning for selected journalists, to outline restrictions that will be placed on members of the media at the upcoming hearings for the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower.

“The military is attempting to apply an embedded journalist framework to these proceedings,” said Jeff Paterson, an organizer with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “As in combat zones, these reporters receive special access to information in return for favorable coverage. Meanwhile, independently minded journalists are left out. It’s indefensible for the Army to apply this to a court martial process that by law is open to both the media and public.”

The source, who was familiar with the details of today’s private briefing, noted that fewer than ten seats are expected to be made available to journalists and members of the public in the courtroom. Although a closed-circuit viewing area may be made available to additional reporters, the television feed will most likely be cut for large segments of the trial, he said. The source added that military officials intend to invoke unspecified threats to national security in order to control the flow of information to the public.

“We already know that the administration’s internal assessments found that these materials never posed a threat to national security,”  said Kevin Zeese, a legal adviser with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “The Obama administration is clinging to clearly fabricated threats in an absurd attempt to control journalists and keep the American people in the dark.”

The Bradley Manning Support Network intends to issue a Freedom of Information Act request for a transcript of today’s secret press call if it is not immediately made available to the public.

Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed the results of its FOIA request for several cables that were allegedly released by PFC Manning. The ACLU posted the redacted versions of the widely available materials to demonstrate “the government’s selective and self-serving decisions to withhold information” from the public. (link)

A document released yesterday by David Coombs, the lead counsel for PFC Manning’s legal defense, expressed similar frustrations with the government’s repeated obfuscation over even the most routine requests for information. Coombs explained that the administration has been arguing that high ranking officials such as President Obama and Secretary Clinton are essentially “too important” to testify even though they have already commented publicly on the case. Coombs concluded:

“Anything but the personal appearances of all witnesses requested by the defense and government would deny PFC Manning his right to a thorough and impartial investigation and turn this into a hollow exercise.”

The full text of the defense team’s response to the government’s denial of witnesses was released by David Coombs yesterday on his blog.

Hundreds of supporters are expected to rally for Bradley Manning near the main gate of Fort Meade outside of Washington DC as the pre-trial proceedings begin next Friday, December 16.


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