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Simpich writes: "Our motion for open access is pending before Judge Lind. Our next stop is federal court. We ask you to keep reading about Bradley Manning's incredible personal story."

Pfc. Bradley Manning stands before a court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland. (art: Kay Rudin/RSN)
Pfc. Bradley Manning stands before a court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland. (art: Kay Rudin/RSN)

Documents Reveal RSN Was Targeted by Army

By Bill Simpich, Reader Supported News

07 June 13


nother dispatch from the land of secrets - Fort Meade, Maryland, home of the Bradley Manning trial, the US Army, and the National Security Agency. I thought twice about using Google to research for this article. Last night, Glenn Greenwald and Guardian reporter Ewen MacAskill exposed an N.S.A. program, Prism, that has gathered information from Google, Facebook, and other Internet giants going back to 2007.

Hours after my article was published saying that it looked like 75% of journalists' applications to attend the Bradley Manning court-martial had been denied, I got an e-mail from the Military District of Washington. The e-mail was a response to my repeated requests and Freedom of Information Act submission over the last few days to know which journalists had applied for credentials, who received credentials and who was denied, and what was the criteria for their selection. They could have given me these documents right away. The funny thing is that an FOIA response usually takes far longer than the ten days mandated by law - but not this time.

The Army's documents indicate that 93 media organizations applied for access , seeking a total of about 370 applications. The wrinkle that confused me when I made the assumption that 75% of the journalists might have been denied was that I didn't know that many organizations such as ABC asked for ten or more credentials. My assumption was wrong - but until the Army stops making public information private, I and other journalists will have to continue to make assumptions when necessary. The Army press corps decided to issue these major organizations between one to three credentials, giving them the ostensible right to pass their credentials out among other members of their organization much like a backstage pass. Some organizations such as Counterpunch were denied credentials based on the claim that their application was "late" - pretty ridiculous, given the fact that a new notice went out in mid-May, arbitrarily setting forth a new procedure, inadequate notice, and providing only a couple of weeks to submit the application.

Reader Supported News applied in a timely fashion and we are on the list of requesters. Half of them are foreign requesters. My count is forty-five: Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera, ARD German, Australian Broadcasting Co., BBC, Croatian Television HRT, Danish Broadcasting Co., Demotix international news service, Der Spiegel, Deutsche Welle, DPA - German Press Agency, EFE News Services, El Pais newspaper, El Periodico, Euronews, Eurovision America, France 24, Freitag, German Public Radio, Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, La Monde, La Vanguardia, Le Figaro, Netherlands public radio/TV, Nieuwsuur NTR, NTV Russian television, ORF Austrian broadcasting, Politiken, Radio France International, Rheinische Post, Radio Television Luxembourg, RT TV America, RTR Russian television, Spanish public television, Spiegel Online, Swedish Broadcasting, Swiss Broadcasting Corp., Tageszeitung, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Times of London, TV3 of Catalonia, TV2 Denmark, and ZDF German Television.

Of the forty-eight domestic requesters, some of them were denied because they were "late." However, according to the Army's documents, only two requesters were denied even though their papers were in order: Reader Supported News and Workers Vanguard.

As stated in yesterday's article, the prosecutor told Judge Lind in open court on Monday that Reader Supported News journalists were denied because we were not in the Vocus database, and that was in the press advisory. The prosecutor got it wrong - the PR media monitoring database Vocus is not mentioned in the press advisory. All we needed was a media ID, a letter on official letterhead, and "examples of posts that demonstrate recent coverage of the military judicial system." Vocus is not mentioned in the press advisory. Reader Supported News is all over the internet and has a significant presence. I am unconvinced that Vocus did not pick up RSN in their surveillance sweep. I am unconvinced that the Vocus story is the reason that Reader Supported News and Workers Vanguard did not receive press credentials.

If you look at the press advisory, you will also see the only document that the Army claims they relied on in making their decision to determine who was entitled to credentials, because that was one of the three requests made in my FOIA request. Nonetheless, all this nonsense provides a reasonable basis to ask Vocus to provide us with their list and the procedures they use to create such a list. Their advertising makes it clear that they use it to find out who is positive or neutral on a particular issue. If they can do that, they can certainly find out who is negative.

The most comical part of all this is that Rules of Court-Martial 806 makes it very clear that the decision to exclude anyone from the courtroom is to be made by Judge Lind in a narrowly tailored manner. This decision is not to be delegated to the Army press corps, and especially not to a cherry-picking media monitoring PR surveillance system. It looks like Readers Supported News and Workers Vanguard are in the midst of a classic case of content-based discrimination.

This is part of a continuing trend that is accelerating as we near the moments of high drama. When someone with a cellphone captured Bradley Manning's voice in an incredible statement two months ago explaining why and how he obtained the Wikileaks documents, Judge Lind decided that cellphones would now be banned from the media operations center. A military spokesman said that the media operations center located half a mile away from the courtroom was "a privilege, not a right." Nor can the journalists in this room download their stories until the court is in recess, based on the ridiculous claim that the media center is an extension of the courtroom. This same nonsense is perpetrated in the 540-seat media theater, where the media and the public is free to watch on a big screen, but without their laptops or cellphones.

Judge Louis Brandeis said that "sunlight is the best disinfectant." The Supreme Court allows audio transmissions of its proceedings in important cases to be recorded by the entire world. Laptops and cellphones are the pen and pencil of the journalist's trade. Minutes matter when getting a story out. The public has the same right to court access as the media. Our motion for open access is pending before Judge Lind. Our next stop is federal court. We ask you to keep reading about Bradley Manning's incredible personal story. Keep writing. Keep acting. your social media marketing partner
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