Military Court Records Still Opaque After New Pentagon Rules

The Department of Defense issued guidance for military branch compliance with a 2016 law aimed at making the military justice system more transparent in January, but those standards fall short of the transparency lawmakers were aiming for, Megan Rose reports for ProPublica. The law requires consistent standards across the military, with real-time electronic access to records for courts-martial. 

Instead, the DoD’s newly released guidance allows the military to keep many court records secret from the public until after a trial ends and then produce only a limited part of the trial record. A ProPublica lawsuit and a letter from media organizations to the DoD’s general counsel may have led to the new guidance expanding compliance across the military. Still, Frank Rosenblatt, vice president of the National Institute of Military Justice, condemned the arbitrary delay of trial records and described the discretion left to military officials as “a default towards secrecy.”

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