NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · WASHINGTON · Confidentiality/Privilege · Dec. 21, 2006
Journalists subpoenaed in military prosecution of soldier
Dec. 21, 2006 · Reporter Gregg Kakesako of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Sarah Olson, a freelance journalist in Oakland, Calif., have been subpoenaed by a military court to testify against a solider who publicly denounced the war in Iraq and refused to deploy with his unit.
First Lt. Ehren Watada publicly refused to join his unit when it was deployed to Iraq this summer. Watada is charged with missing a troop movement, contemptuous speech toward officials and conduct unbecoming of an officer for his comments about the war.
In June, Watada spoke openly with the media about his intent to refuse deployment. In a June 7 interview with Olson that is featured in full on the Web site www.truthout.org, Watada referred to “the level of deception the Bush administration used to initiate and process this war” and said he “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?” Watada said. “It was a betrayal of the trust of the American people. And these lies were a betrayal of the trust of the military and the soldiers.”
Watada said that he believes the
On June 8, the Star-Bulletin ran an article by Kakesako that referenced a phone interview with Watada. Kakesako quoted Watada as saying that since he began talking about his intent to refuse deployment, his supervisors had “been told to report me as ‘failure to report’ even if I am a minute late and to report me immediately.”
Kakesako’s article said that Watada’s superiors “ordered Watada not talk to the media, especially while he is on duty … He did, however, hold a news conference in Tacoma after he was off duty.”
Both Olson and Kakesako have written multiple articles about Watada over the course of several months.
Jason Leopold, a reporter for truthout.org, said that there is some indication that Army prosecutors intend to ask the court to subpoena several other reporters associated with truthout.org. At this time, however, no other subpoenas have been served.
Olson and Kakesako have been asked to appear before a judge in Washington state during the first week of January.
Olson told the San Francisco Chronicle that she is unsure whether she will comply with the subpoena or risk being held in contempt, but she said she objects to participating “in the prosecution of her own sources.”
“When you force a journalist to participate, you run the risk of turning the journalist into an investigative tool of the state,” she said, according to the Chronicle.