The Freedom of the Press foundation hopes to crowd-fund a court reporter after authorities refuse to release their own transcripts.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation launched a crowd-funded campaign on its website yesterday to raise money to pay for a court stenographer to transcribe whistleblower U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial.
This announcement follows the Bradley Manning Support Network, an international coalition of Manning’s supporters, calling out previous court proceedings in Manning’s case for a lack of transparency.
According to the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s website, the U.S. government has refused to make transcripts of the trial available to the public and journalists, so the organization is looking to raise enough money to hire its own credentialed stenographer.
Currently, most of the information regarding the trial has come from independent journalists, namely Kevin Gosztola and blogger Alexa O’Brien, who has been writing her own unofficial transcripts, to continue their coverage of the trial.
“The government has tried to shut the public out of the Manning hearings,” said Glenn Greenwald, journalist and Freedom of the Press Foundation board member.
Manning, now 25, allegedly released hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. files to WikiLeaks in 2010. He was arrested after a 40-minute video showing a U.S. aerial weapons team kill two journalists appeared on the WikiLeaks website. During much of his imprisonment, Manning has been kept in solitary confinement. Human rights organizations have called his living conditions illegal and inhumane.
In February, Manning admitted to leaking more than 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and activity reports pertaining to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said the documents were of “enormous value to the American public” and contained “two of the most significant documents of our time” — namely the Iraq and Afghanistan War Diaries, written field reports that Manning said would lift the “fog of war” and start a discussion.
“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Manning said in his statement before the court on Feb. 28.
After pleading guilty to providing documents to WikiLeaks, Manning faces up to twenty years in prison for that charge. The upcoming trial dates will determine his fate on the remaining counts, which include charges under the Espionage Act for “aiding the enemy.” If found guilty, Manning could face life in prison, without parole.
Manning trial will set a precedent for future whistleblowers
“When it comes to freedom of information, leaks and whistleblowers, this is one of the most important trials in 40 years,” said Trevor Timm, the group’s executive director. “As even detractors of Manning will say, this really could affect future whistleblowers, and it’s vital to the public to be able to see exactly what arguments the government is making.”
“As has been documented by many media organizations, the pre-trial hearings of Bradley Manning have been hampered by heavy-handed government secrecy. Government briefs are not released to the public, written rulings are rarely given to journalists, and most importantly, there is no official transcript of the proceedings. This has denied the public of opportunities for a range of accurate, timely, and in-depth reporting on the trial,” the organization wrote in a press release.
The group hopes to raise between $40,000 and $50,000 in order to pay a stenographer to transcribe each day’s proceedings. The trial, which may last several months, is scheduled to begin on June 3.
“Journalists covering Manning’s case face many Kafkaesque obstacles, but nothing is more punitive than the government’s refusal to provide a timely and accurate transcript. By funding a court stenographer, we hope to help journalists in their effort to report on the trial,” said Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who serves on the board of directors of Freedom of the Press Foundation and attended Manning’s Article 32 hearing.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation was launched in December 2012 to help promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism that exposes mismanagement, corruption and law-breaking in government. The organization’s board of directors is staffed with household names including actor John Cusack, and John Perry Barlow who was a lyricist for the Grateful Dead.