Friday, August 25, 2023

Transparency (if a tree falls in the dark . . .)

ProPublica is on the U.S. Navy's case when it comes to transparency of court-martial records. Megan Rose has the story here. Excerpt:

[T]he Navy’s policy is to withhold court records from the public throughout most, if not all, of those proceedings, preventing independent scrutiny into how sexual assault cases are prosecuted. What happens in the crucial period before a court-martial is never made public by the Navy. The public doesn’t even know if a sailor or Marine has been charged with a crime unless the case goes to trial. The Navy provides no notice of when the service is holding an Article 32 hearing, which determines if there’s enough evidence for trial. And the related pretrial records are concealed permanently.

Meanwhile, the Brennan Center for Justice has this report on the Defense Department's larger lack of military transparency. Excerpt:

The Department of Defense has a transparency problem, and Congress knows it. The department has long not complied or undercomplied with its legal obligations to provide lawmakers with reports and notifications about military activity. Recently, Congress has begun to push back — gently — on these shortfalls. In 2019, Congress required the department to prepare a plan for standardizing its submission of reports. And in 2021, Congress required the department to publish biannual lists of the reports it submitted. Unfortunately, these modest efforts have not led to improved military transparency. More robust action from Congress may be necessary to overcome the Department of Defense’s persistent failure to give information to lawmakers.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Brennan Center obtained a copy of the Department of Defense’s plan for standardizing its submission of reports — a document titled A Report on Reports. Instead of proposing concrete steps for the department to take, the plan is rife with blame shifting, legal misinterpretation, and an implicit unwillingness to follow the law.

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