06/05/2013 04:12 pm ET

Bradley Manning Judge Sidesteps Media Access Request


FORT MEADE, Md. -- The judge overseeing Bradley Manning's court martial briefly inquired about the status of two stenographers creating a public court transcript on Wednesday, but sidestepped the question of whether they would be allowed to cover the entire trial.

The court martial of Manning, an Army private first class who is accused of leaking thousands of sensitive files to WikiLeaks, has been surrounded by secrecy and security. The two stenographers are crowd-funded through the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation. Because Judge Denise Lind and the military have declined to release official transcripts of the proceedings, the group is sending two stenographers a day to the trial to create daily unofficial transcripts.

But the stenographers have been forced to rely on loaned press passes from other media organizations, because the Military District of Washington's media desk has declined to grant them credentials of their own.

"We're glad the passes are transferable, but this is not a solution at all," said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. "We are grateful to the multiple media organizations who have generously offered their passes to our stenographers when they do not attend, but this is only a temporary solution."

The number of reporters attending the trial dwindled from 70 to around 20 just two days after it began, meaning there is ample room for the stenographers. Timm said his group has asked once again for permanent passes.

Lind did not address the credentials issue during her brief questions, nor did she acknowledge the 20 major media organizations including Fox News, The Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times that signed a letter requesting that they be granted.

In an unattributed statement, the Military District of Washington said, "the organizations that have been granted credentials are able to designate their credential to any member of their organization, to include stenographers. The organization is responsible for determining what staff member will cover the legal proceedings."

The military did recently release a cache of pretrial documents to the public.

Separately, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and a coalition of media groups are suing for greater access to court records in the Manning trial. The government is expected to respond to their lawsuit in a filing on Thursday.