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."

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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.

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.

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

We re now being searched to get into press pool. #manning (first time)

Alexa O'Brien

@carwinb

We re now being searched to get into press pool. #manning (first time)

Spent close to an hour standing in a TSA-style checkpoint military public affairs now has media going through #Manning

Kevin Gosztola

@kgosztola

Spent close to an hour standing in a TSA-style checkpoint military public affairs now has media going through #Manning

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

Alexa O'Brien

@carwinb

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

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

Nathan Fuller

@nathanLfuller

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

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.

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

Nathan Fuller

@nathanLfuller

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

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

Kevin Gosztola

@kgosztola

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

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

Nathan Fuller

@nathanLfuller

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

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

Alexa O'Brien

@carwinb

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

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

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

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.

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The Huffington Post...

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

Matt Sledge

@mgsledge

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

RT America...

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

Liz Wahl

@lizwahl

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

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.

Dominik Wurnig

@DominikWurnig

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

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

Nathan Fuller

@nathanLfuller

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

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

Kevin Gosztola

@kgosztola

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

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

Kevin Gosztola

@kgosztola

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

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.

Alexa O'Brien

@carwinb

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

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."

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.

Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.

Contact Ellie Hall at ellie.hall@buzzfeed.com.

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