One reporter had the scoop on the day after the 2012 election, when the lawyer for Bradley Manning, the young Army private accused of leaking more than 500,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks, stood up in the courtroom and announced that Manning would be taking responsibility for providing some of the documents.
“This was an incredible development in the court-martial,” recalls Kevin Gosztola, an independent journalist covering the hearings for the websiteFiredoglake. With no mainstream reporter in attendance, suddenly, Gosztola was being called upon and linked to by news organizations all over the world, including FRONTLINE.
“That’s when I realized that I, as a more independent journalist, had a critical role to play,” he says.
Weeks later, on the two days Manning himself took the stand to testify about his treatment in military prison, more news organizations were represented, but most left shortly afterwards. Critics turned up the heat on news organizations for not paying closer attention to the hearings. The New York Times own ombudsman took the paper to account.
Gosztola is reluctant to beat up on the established news organizations — he says he recognizes many are strapped for resources these days — but still thinks the lack of coverage overall has been “shameful.”
He doesn’t let other independent journalists off the hook though. “We’re missing established journalists, but we’re missing independent journalists” Gosztola says. “We’re missing other journalists from organizations based in the DC area who could be covering this story. I don’t understand why there aren’t more journalists covering these proceedings.”
The military justice system is not always easy to report on. There’s no rule that requires the military to make it easy for court reporters, and the amount of access can vary wildly. In the Manning proceedings, the government does not provide access to court filings, motions, or transcripts. In this regard, the military commissions at Guantanamo are a model of transparency in comparison.