Terrorism Trials: Civilian Court

Government Moves for Public Access in Nashiri

By Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, November 8, 2011, 12:09 PM

The documents themselves are not available yet, but the docket in Nashiri reflects that on Friday, the government moved "for Public Access to This Military Commission Via Transmission of Open Court Proceedings to Remote Locations for Victim and Media Viewing." It also shows that the court yesterday granted this motion. This is hardly a surprise, as the government had announced some time back its plans for these transmissions, but it does mark a real--and very important and salutary--change in the commissions process.

For readers of this blog, it is particularly important, because it means that Lawfare will be able to cover the proceedings, starting tomorrow, when Nashiri is scheduled to be arraigned. We hope to do so as comprehensively as we can. As the system heats up--assuming it does--this may become overwhelming, but for now we plan to be there as often as we can.

Our coverage of military commission proceedings will be modeled loosely on our work covering D.C. Circuit arguments. That is, unlike more conventional journalism, it will not  be designed to distill proceedings down to a "story" that can be told in a few hundred words. Unlike the advocacy groups that have monitored military commission proceedings in order to condemn or praise them, it will not be designed to express our views of the process--though we certainly reserve the right to do that along the way. Rather, the purpose is quite simply to give the reader a rich sense of the legal and factual arguments and to do so in a format that is both engaging to read and informative for the person who wants enough detail to form his or her own judgments.

While the goal is the same, the modality of our coverage will differ in important respects. For one thing, particularly as trials heat up, I will not be able to do all of the coverage myself. So expect to hear from a rotating pool of Lawfare folks. Tomorrow's coverage, for example, will come to you from the estimable Keith Gerver, who recently liveblogged the Harvard Law School-Brookings conference in September. Second, because trial coverage--unlike appellate arguments--involves the presentation of evidence, proceedings could get very long. So we may end up doing more distillation and summary than I have typically done in oral argument coverage.

In other words, this is experimental. We have never done it before, and reader feedback regarding what is useful, what is too much information, and what is not enough will be essential as we calibrate and refine our style. So please feel free to write me with thoughts or suggestions or, better yet, to leave comments on our Facebook page so that others can see and respond to them.

UPDATE: The order granting the government's motion is now available.