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06/03/2013

Bradley Manning trial: Not much sound, plenty of fury

Manning
Ken Howland, of Hollywood, Florida, removes posters off his car after he took part in a protest calling for the release of U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, outside the main gate at the U.S. Army's Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

It was always going to be the Trial of the Summer. But as the curtain rises on the Bradley Manning court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, the jury is still out on how much daylight will flow.

More than 20 news organizations joined forces today calling for two additional media passes be issued in order for crowd-funded stenographers be allowed to capture the non-classified parts of the trial for the public.

Fox News, the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio are among the signatories arguing for public transcripts, warning that otherwise "the public, which is closely watching this case, will be less able to understand the process and decisions made by the court."

Some 280 news organizations were left out in the cold last week, denied press credentials to cover the expected 12-week trial. And among those 70 journalists allowed in this morning to watch the trial on a live-video feed to a media holding area, frustrations were immediately evident.

Complaints on Twitter from those inside ranged from deriding the "low-resolution" courtroom stream to the military's own spotty Internet service, which, with reporters banned from activating their own data hotspots, was crucial to the news flow.

Famous/infamous depending on your point of view, Manning's role as the principal data-dumper to WikiLeaks was always going to end in a courtroom barnburner.

But after 1,100 days in detention the curtain is rising on much larger stakes amid the Obama administration’s intensifying war on whistleblowers. In the words of the Atlantic Wire today, the trial could prove to be "The Quintessential Obama Moment." 

Manning has confessed to disclosing classified material, crimes that could end in a 20-year prison sentence. But today's opening statements made clear the U.S. government is making the case for treason and a lifetime behind bars, arguing that Manning “knew the enemy (Al Qaeda) would benefit from the information.”

Mitch Potter is the Star's Washington Bureau Chief, his third foreign posting after previous assignments to London and Jerusalem. Potter led the Toronto Star’s coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won a 2006 National Newspaper Award for his reportage. His dispatches include datelines from 33 countries since 2000. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites

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