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.
This changed Thursday, and for the first time, journalists were made to undergo an extensive search.
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.
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.
A reporter for the New York Times referenced the new "creepy" security measures:
As did a correspondent for the Washington Post...
The Huffington Post...
And German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Journalists in the media center soon reported that the military police officers were forcing them to close browser windows on their screens.
The military officials at Fort Meade soon disabled the hall's WiFi, the only permitted means of internet access, during court sessions.
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 email@example.com.
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