Reporters Protest Security Crackdown In Manning Trial

“Military police with guns are literally watching over our shoulders in Fort Meade media center during Manning closing arguments.”

1. Thursday marked the beginning of closing arguments in the Bradley Manning WikiLeaks court-martial, and 60-plus members of the media arrived at Fort Meade in Maryland to report on the proceedings.

2. Ever since Bradley Manning’s court-martial began in December 2011, journalists have been required to submit their names for a background check and agree to a list of rules before they were allowed access to the proceedings.

Steve Rhodes / Via Flickr: ari

The release all journalists must sign before they are allowed to enter the courtroom or media center.

3. This changed Thursday, and for the first time, journalists were made to undergo an extensive search.

I emptied my bag-- which is a mix between a clown car and a briefcase. Tampons, Deodorant, a Banana, and 2 comps, and 100 cables. #Manning

— carwinb (@Alexa O'Brien)

Reporters' bags were searched, preventing cell phones from media center, & we signed rules affirming we can be searched at any time #Manning

— nathanLfuller (@Nathan Fuller)

8. After the security check — which some journalists reported to take over an hour — the members of the press were allowed into Smallwood Hall, Fort Meade’s media center.

Steve Rhodes / Via Flickr: ari

Packed media center, all using Ft. Meade WiFi, which goes down frequently & will likely be a struggle today. No hotspots allowed. #Manning

— nathanLfuller (@Nathan Fuller)

Media are now being wanded by military police when they go in & out of media center. #Manning

— kgosztola (@Kevin Gosztola)

11. Soon, members of the media, who have covered the trial for over a year, reported a new change: the presence of armed military police officers in the media center.

This is new: armed soldiers roam media center quietly reprimanding journalists for even browsing Internet when #Manning trial's in session

— nathanLfuller (@Nathan Fuller)

Armed guard patrolling the aisles of the media center, peering on journalists comp, including behind me. Fucking Creepy. #Manning

— carwinb (@Alexa O'Brien)

14. A reporter for the New York Times referenced the new “creepy” security measures:

Creepy having armed MPs in camo patrolling behind each row of reporters & looking over shoulders as we take notes on Manning trial today

— charlie_savage (@Charlie Savage)

15. As did a correspondent for the Washington Post

There's something a bit eerie about having Army MPs looking over reporter's note-taking at the #Manning hearing.

— londonoe (@Ernesto Londo�f1o)

16. The Huffington Post

MPs with guns are literally watching over our shoulders in Ft. Meade media center during #Manning closing arguments

— mgsledge (@Matt Sledge)

17. RT America…

Uniformed, armed soldiers have been patrolling media room, scanning reporters' computers throughout trial #Manning

— lizwahl (@Liz Wahl)

18. And German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Armed soldiers patrol the press center at the #Manning trial & control journalists' screens. I was forced to close my inactive Twitter tab.

— DominikWurnig (@Dominik Wurnig)

19. Journalists in the media center soon reported that the military police officers were forcing them to close browser windows on their screens.

Soldiers must have seen our tweets -- much creepier now. Admonished @kgosztola for having a window *open* & staring excessively at @carwinb

— nathanLfuller (@Nathan Fuller)

Armed military police officer leans over my shoulder & informs me not to have browser windows open during court proceedings #Manning

— kgosztola (@Kevin Gosztola)

Armed military police officer leaned over me during closing argument & said don't have Twitter open at all #Manning

— kgosztola (@Kevin Gosztola)

23. The military officials at Fort Meade soon disabled the hall’s WiFi, the only permitted means of internet access, during court sessions.

@xeni @FreedomofPress @trevortimm No more internet allowed during court session.

— carwinb (@Alexa O'Brien)

25. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg plan to hold a press call Friday to comment on “The US Government’s Intimidation of and War on Whistleblowers and Journalists.”

26. In an email to BuzzFeed, a spokesman for the Military District of Washington said the new restrictions were a response to “repeated violations of the rules of the court.”

Before court recessed last Wednesday, the Military Judge went on record as saying that because of the repeated violations of the rules of the court both in the courtroom and in the media operations center, she was increasing the security measures to try to prevent further violation of the rules. Two military policemen, who have the necessary screening equipment, are present in the back of the media operations center to inspect bags and personnel for electronic equipment and ensure compliance with the rules of the court.

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Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C.
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