September 4, 2008
The Case for Public Access to Military Dockets
A new Tully Center for Free Speech research report shows that the public often can’t find out what’s happening in the military justice system. The Tully Center found that schedules for courts-martials was not available at 37% of the military bases surveyed. An additional 21% of the installations would only provide partial information, without the name of the accused or the charge. For Article 32 hearings, the results were worse. Forty-five percent of the bases reported they could not give out any information and another 23% gave only partial information.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press commissioned the Tully Center study and has produced a legal analysis of the military court docketing issue with sensible recommendations on how to make the military court docketing system more accessible to the public and the press. See Military Dockets: Examining the public’s right of access to the workings of military justice.
No Sunshine for FISC Review of Surveillance Requests. Meanwhile, one legal forum that will remain inaccessible to the public is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In Proceedings Required by Sec. 702(i) of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (MISC 08-01, August 27, 2008), the court rejected the ACLU's petition to be part of the court's review of the federal government's use of the expanded surveillance powers provided by the FISA Amendments Act. In dismissing the ACLU petition, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge Marya McLaughin wrote:
The FISC has no tradition of openness, either with respect to its proceedings, its orders or to Government briefings filed with the FISC.
Although it is possible to identify some benefits which might flow from public access to Government briefs and FISC orders ... any such benefits would be outweighed by the risks to national security created by the potential exposure of the Government's targeting and minimization procedures.
For the FISA Amendments Act, see LLB's earlier post: The New Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Presidential Politics. [JH]
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