Bradley Manning’s Defense Supports Crowd-Funded Stenographers’ Presence at Trial
The defense for Pfc. Bradley Manning indicated in a military court that ensuring crowd-funded stenographers had access to create an unofficial transcript of the trial, which would be made available to media outlets around the world, was something they supported.
“We believe that this enforces Pfc. Manning’s right” under the Sixth Amendment during trial, defense lawyer David Coombs stated. He also added that it would have an positive impact on the press’ “First Amendment right to keep track accurately of what happens in the court martial.”
The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) submitted a letter on the first day of the trial requesting that the Military District of Washington (MDW) media desk “issue two press passes to allow professional court stenographers access to the media room” so they could “transcribe the public portions of the court martial.”
Over 350 requests for credentials had been received, according to the MDW media desk. Only 80 requests could be accommodated—ten media could be in the court room and 70 could be in the media operations center, which has a closed circuit feed from the courtroom.
The letter, signed on to by media organizations that included Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times, McClatchy Newspapers, NPR and the New York Times, suggested if the stenographers were denied “over 280 of our colleagues who applied for credentials” would not be able to report on the trial, and “the public, which is closely watching the case,” would not be able to “understand the process and decisions made by this court.”
It explained that three media organizations had applied for “an extra slot”—Forbes, The Guardian and the Verge—so they could give one of their credentials to a stenographer, who would attend with reporters. This application was denied.
The defense this morning said that the stenographers would be given “access passes” instead of credentials. There was an outstanding logistical issue involving whether the stenographers would both be required to be on base the entire day (one transcribes AM session, the other transcribes the PM session). But, the military was working on making it possible for the stenographers to be producing transcripts with their equipment in the overflow trailer if there were days where there was no space in the media operations center for them.
Aware that there has been an immense amount of interest in Manning’s case, Judge Army Col. Denise Lind stated that the rules for court-martial were not “structured to provide contemporaneous access to a transcript.” However, accommodating this stenographer to produce an “unofficial transcript” would “further Manning’s right to a Sixth Amendment trial and further the public’s First Amendment right.” So, she had instructed the government to arrive at some compromise to ensure stenographers could attend proceedings.
Trevor Timm, a co-founder of FPF, reacted, “We’re grateful to David Coombs for directly bringing it up with the judge again.”
“We hope this means the stenographers will finally be issued two permanent press passes so that they can show up and do their job every day without worry,” Timm added. Also, he said the court martial had been “marred by unnecessary secrecy,” and, “if this decision means that the stenographers will be let in every day, no matter what, then it’s a small victory for open access. Of course, this is a service the government should be providing for free, instead of us and thousands of donors having to pay what will end up being over $100,000” by the time the trial is over. [cont’d]