Statement on closed hearing decisions
By the Bradley Manning Support Network. December 19, 2011
FORT MEADE, MARYLAND — Shortly before 6:00 PM on the third day of Bradley Manning’s Article 32 pre-trial hearing, Lt. Colonel Paul Almanza, the investigating officer presiding over the hearing, permitted the government’s request to remove journalists and the public from portions of hearings set for today. An objection by PFC Manning’s lead attorney, David Coombs, was noted in the record without any further action.
The Bradley Manning Support Network is deeply troubled by the imposition of an unexplained media blackout without any avenue for redress. The investigating officer has already prevented Manning’s defense from considering internal administration assessments that found these materials didn’t pose a threat to national security. Now he is seeking to prevent journalists and the public from reporting on testimony related to materials that are already in the public domain. Notably, even members of the public who hold relevant security clearances are expected to be removed from viewing the proceedings. Amy Jacobsen of the Center for Constitutional Rights and cooperating counsel for WikiLeaks — who holds the highest level of Top Secret security clearance — is also expected to be denied entrance. We are concerned that representatives of unnamed “relevant government agencies” will be permitted to remain in the room. Lt. Col. Almanza should at a minimum be transparent about which government agencies he has deemed relevant to this matter. In particular, he needs to disclose whether he will permit representatives of the Department of Justice to remain in the room during the blackout. The Department of Justice is the investigating officer’s permanent employer and is also conducting an ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks.