The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association joined with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 30 national and regional news organizations in a friend-of-the-court brief seeking access to documents filed in the court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the man accused of leaking classified documents to the website Wikileaks.
The brief follows from a request by the Center for Constitutional Rights and a number of other organizations to intervene in the Manning court martial in order to obtain access to documents filed in the proceeding. The trial court denied the request, a decision that was affirmed by the military’s intermediate appellate court. CCR appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the military’s highest appellate court.
The RCFP friend-of-the-court brief support CCR’s position, arguing that the well-recognized right of public access to judicial proceedings mandates access to courts-martial documents. In cases like these, where profound issues are at stake, pervasive secrecy fuels a perception that the U.S. government keeps too many secrets, the brief argued. If the public is to have any faith in its government generally and the justice administered by military tribunals specifically, it needs to have confidence that the system is operating in the open, where potential misconduct may be exposed, it added.
Another New England organization, the New England First Amendment Center, also joined in the brief.