The trial of Bradley Manning begins today. I am not hopeful that he will be acquitted or even receive a fair trial. The Obama administration is determined to punish him harshly and has gone to extreme lengths. After not only keeping him for extended periods under abusive conditions, they have now put him on trial before a military tribunal and rigged the system in such a way as to favor the prosecution. There have been large protests outside the military base where the trial is being held.
The administration that promised to be the most transparent ever seems determined to keep the trial proceedings as opaque as possible.
The judge in the Manning case has ruled that some witnesses will testify behind closed doors. The case already has a rap for excessive secrecy, since many court filings have been impossible to view for reporters and Manning’s vocal supporters.
One of them is Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who spoke about his frustration at that rally last year.
“It’s hard to hear sometimes. You get no access to any of the court documents, none of the court orders, none of the motions filed — nothing,” he said. “And I’m a lawyer, and I sit in that courtroom and it seems like a completely secret proceeding to me.”
Reporters were not given the official government transcripts of the daily proceedings during the pre-trial motions and so the Freedom of the Press Foundation raised money to hire stenographers to prepare their own transcripts. But the government has denied press passes to them.
Let us remember what started this and that was the release of the infamous Collateral Murder video that showed Iraqis being gunned down from above by the US military as they walked openly in the streets, people who happened to be passing by in a van who stopped to take care of the wounded also being gunned down, children in the van being injured, all the while the gunners are laughing and congratulating each other. It is an ugly and sickening video.
The lesson being sent by the Obama administration in the Manning trial: People who harm the image of the US military or who put US government actions in a bad light must be punished severely.