March 12, 2012 | By John Donnelly | JDonnelly@cq.com
The National Press Club and 46 other journalism organizations joined in a letter Monday to the Pentagon urging greater openness in its court martial proceedings in general and particularly in the case of Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of releasing classified information to the Wikileaks organization.
In the letter to Defense Department General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson, the media groups requested that the press and public have at least as much access to court records in domestic courts martial as they now get when covering military commission proceedings at the U.S. military’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Achieving that degree of transparency would “ensure that military personnel tried stateside have the same rights to a public trial as those afforded accused terrorists,” the letter states.
The reforms called for reflect those now instituted at Guantanamo Bay and include online posting within one day of filings or decisions that do not require classification review.
“The prosecution of an American service member for the alleged leak of the largest amount of classified information in U.S. history is a matter of intense public interest, particularly where, as here, that person’s liberty is at stake,” the coalition of news organizations wrote. “Public oversight of the proceeding is of vital importance. Indeed, the interest in openness In this case is not mere curiosity but rather a concern about the very integrity of the nation’s military courts—their ability to oversee the proceedings by which military personnel have their day in court to answer to and defend against allegations of serious offenses.”
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote the letter and organized the coalition behind it.
The National Press Club, based in Washington, D.C., is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. The Club represents more than 3,200 members worldwide representing every major news organization. The Club was founded in 1908.