Court deals another blow to transparency at the military commissions at Guantanamo. Josh Gerstein of Politico reports:
The appeals court overseeing the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay has rejected, at least for now, an effort by media organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge an order governing secrecy in one of the terrorism courts.The result of the ruling is that the press and the public remain in the dark about the military commission proceedings at Gitmo. Excessive secrecy has similarly plagued the proceedings in the case against Army Private Bradley Manning. The New York Times reported earlier this week:
Reporters covering the government’s prosecution of Pfc. Bradley Manning . . . have spent a year trying to pierce the veil of secrecy in what is supposed to be a public proceeding.While the Manning proceedings are held before a Court Martial and the Gitmo proceedings are before Military Commissions, they have the same problems: arbitrary rules that limit press (and public) access.
The media organizations argued that the judge's protective order limiting press access to the military commissions violated their First Amendment rights:
...the protective order entered in this case unlawfully abridges the First Amendment right of access by automatically excluding the press and public from all evidence and argument concerning “classified” information, without any judicial determination that disclosure of specific information would harm national security or threaten personal safety, and without any assessment of whether the information is already public.When media organizations and the Center for Constitutional rights requested more access to Manning trial, the government responded by releasing a mere 84 for some 400 documents filed in the case:
Finally, at the end of last month, in response to numerous Freedom of Information requests from news media organizations, the court agreed to release 84 of the roughly 400 documents filed in the case, suggesting it was finally unbuttoning the uniform a bit to make room for some public scrutiny.But, as the Times reported, the released documents were hardly a model for transparency:
Then again, the released documents contained redactions that are mystifying at best and at times almost comic. One of the redacted details was the name of the judge, who sat in open court for months.The pervasive secrecy in these military proceedings is antithetical to the democratic concept of an open and public trial. While all experts in and out of government agree that far too much information is deemed "classified," that does not stop the Executive branch from using the broken classification system to shield its practices from the public. The courts should serve to check the Executive branch, not sanction its use of classification to promote excessive secrecy in proceedings that should be public.