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WikiLeaks case file fight moves to federal court

WikiLeaks case file fight moves to federal court

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HAGERSTOWN — The WikiLeaks organization and a handful of journalists asked a federal judge Wednesday to order greater transparency in the court-martial of an Army private who has acknowledged sending reams of classified document to the WikiLeaks website.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, representing WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, filed the petition in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. It seeks an order requiring public access to all documents in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning.

It also seeks to have the lawyers and military judge “reconstitute” in open court certain conferences they have held out of public view.

Shaunteh Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Military District of Washington, where Manning is being court-martialed, said the Army has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

Manning’s 3-year-old espionage case is headed for trial next month at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. Many records of the pretrial proceedings remain secret because the military contends the First Amendment doesn’t require it to provide prompt public access to court-martial documents.

Unlike civilian courts, where case files are readily available for public inspection in a clerk’s office, there is no central repository for court-martial records. The military initially required reporters covering the Manning case to file federal Freedom of Information Act requests for documents, including the military judge’s rulings. In February, it began releasing redacted versions of some court-martial records on a public website. In April, the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, started releasing some of her written rulings to reporters the same day.

Still, the petition says, the public is being denied its First Amendment right to scrutinize the Manning case as it proceeds.

The other plaintiffs are columnist Glenn Greenwald, The Nation columnist Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! broadcaster Amy Goodman, The American Conservative contributing editor Chase Madar, and writer Kevin Gosztola.

The same plaintiffs raised virtually identical issues in the military court system last year. The military’s highest court rejected the transparency case in April and suggested it belonged in civilian court.

In the military courts, the transparency case was supported by a coalition of 30 news-gathering organizations, including The Associated Press, under the auspices of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The Center for Constitutional Rights attached the Reporters Committee letter to one of its filings Wednesday in the federal case.

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