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Lt. Ehren Watada And The Press

I think I've made my feelings on Lt. Ehren Watada's stance known, but there are other issues surrounding the Watada court martial that have no

I think I've made my feelings on Lt. Ehren Watada's stance known, but there are other issues surrounding the Watada court martial that have not been addressed.

The Nation:

When Army Lieut. Ehren Watada's court-martial opens on February 5, more than Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq may be put on trial. Also at stake is the independence of the press, especially some of its more vulnerable members. The US Army prosecutor in the case has subpoenaed two reporters to appear: Gregg Kakesako of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Oakland freelancer Sarah Olson. The two are being asked to authenticate statements made to them by Watada in which Watada criticized Administration war policy and explained his reasons for refusing to deploy to Iraq last summer.

Watada, 28, is the highest ranking US military officer to refuse duty in Iraq; he faces charges of missing a movement and conduct unbecoming an officer, which could cost him six years in jail. Kakesako and Olson face six months in jail or a $500 fine if they refuse to testify. Kakesako isn't commenting, but Olson is adamantly opposing her compelled testimony. "When speech itself is the crime, journalists are turned into the investigative arm of the government," she told The Nation. "If I contribute to the Army's prosecution of Lieutenant Watada on speech-related charges, I will have colluded in suppression of speech. What could be more hostile to the ideas of a free press than that?"

Dahr Jamail:

Watada's case is critical for two main reasons.

If he is convicted for his speech charges, it sends a message to other war resisters that they will be penalized for their speech more harshly than even their decision not to deploy to Iraq. In addition, this sends a chilling message to journalists who wish to cover their story - that as a journalist you may be used as an arm of the prosecution to testify against your sources.

This case has the potential to set precedent which would deleteriously affect both free speech rights of service members of the U.S. military, as well as journalists' ability to cover those stories. It is important to note that the Democratically controlled Congress has chosen NOT to take a stand on either of these issues, when they could intervene on both counts.


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