NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · WASHINGTON · Confidentiality/Privilege · Jan. 30, 2007
Journalist subpoenas dropped in Watada court martial
Jan. 30, 2007 · Freelance journalist Sarah Olson and Gregg Kakesako of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin will not be called to testify in the military court case of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, a soldier who publicly denounced the Bush administration and refused to deploy with his unit to Iraq in 2005.
Army prosecutors dropped the journalists’ subpoenas on Monday after Watada agreed to confirm that Olson and Kakesako had quoted him correctly in their articles.
In an article featured on TruthOut.org, Watada told Olson that the Bush administration was “violating the law to serve their purpose.” Watada said that as he “read about the level of deception the Bush administration used to initiate and process this war, I was shocked. I became ashamed of wearing the uniform. How can we wear something with such a time-honored tradition, knowing we waged war based on a misrepresentation and lies?”
According to an article by Kakesako, Watada said that he has prepared for his legal battles by remembering “all the families of the soldiers who are dying for what I feel is a betrayal of trust and deception waged by the highest level of my chain of command.”
The Army has also dropped two charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer against Watada, although he still faces two additional conduct charges. He is also charged with missing a troop movement and could be sentenced to up to four years in prison.
Watada’s trial is set to start Monday in Fort Lewis, Wash.
Olson, who maintained from the beginning that she did not want to testify, said in a statement today that the Army’s decision to drop the subpoenas constituted a “victory for the rights of journalists in the U.S. to gather and disseminate news free from government intervention, and for the rights of individuals to express personal, political opinions to journalists without fear of retribution or censure.”
However, Olson expressed concern that “Watada still faces prosecution for exercising his First Amendment rights during public presentations.” But she said, “I am glad the growing number of dissenting voices within the military will retain their rights to speak with reporters.”