As the case against Bradley Manning moves forward, the government is doing what it always seems to do: trying to keep everything secret. However, over 30 news organizations have now asked the armed forces appeals court to open up
, allowing public access to motions, briefs and written rulings associated with the case. The military's response has been that the only way the press should be able to access such documents (which are regularly available via things like PACER in the civilian court system) is through filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which can take a long time, and are all too often ignored. Of course, it's the over aggressive attempts to keep information secret that may have resulted in this case even existing in the first place, as Manning allegedly believed that the over-classification of documents was harming US interests.
This Court should find that such an arrangement is uncon-stitutional. More than thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a presumptive right of access to criminal proceed-ings. See Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 573 (1980) (plurality opinion). As discussed below, the Court has reiterated its holding repeatedly, and the nation’s military courts have applied the same reasoning to extend this right of public access to courts-martial.
Amici recognize that various interests, including the need to protect national security information, may justify sealed records in certain circumstances. They do not, however, general-ly justify complete secrecy. In fact, previous disputes about claims of national security have been litigated in the open: “Briefs in the Pentagon Papers case and the hydrogen bomb plans case were available to the press, although sealed appendices discussed in detail the documents for which protection was sought.”
Hopefully the court recognizes the significant public interest here and makes such documents public by default.