Thursday, December 14, 2006

Truthout blog Subpoenaed by an Army Tribunal

One of my daily blog checks, Truthout, has a story about itself that disturbs me. As a reader I feel indignant. As a blogger I feel threatened. And as a citizen I feel insulted by an inappropriate gesture on the part of the military showing a blatant disregard for good public relations. I am reminded of those haunting lines from WWII by Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Social Democrats,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Social Democrat.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew,
Then they came for me, and by that time there was
no one
left to speak up for me.

No, we're not there yet. Our country is not anything like pre-war Germany. But the reason it is not is that there are people and organizations like Truthout that guard against that kind of tyranny. Expressions like the nose of the camel come to mind. Go read their report, see the video clip and make your own judgement. I think they are on to something and it stinks.

In a case that cuts right to the heart of the First Amendment, a US Army prosecutor has indicated he intends to subpoena Truthout Executive Director Marc Ash, a Truthout reporter, and two of the nonprofit news organization's regular contributors, to authenticate news reports they produced and edited earlier this year that quoted an Army officer criticizing President Bush and the White House's rationale for the Iraq War.

Captain Dan Kuecker, the Fort Lewis, Washington-based Army prosecutor, has stated his intent to compel Ash, Truthout reporter Sari Gelzer, and contributors Dahr Jamail and Sarah Olson to testify at the court-martial of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Kuecker is actively seeking the journalists' testimony so he can prove that Watada engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer, directly related to disparaging statements the Army claims Watada made about the legality of the Iraq War during interviews with Truthout and his hometown newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, in June.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, who for years has been arguing in favor of a shield law to protect journalists from testifying against their sources, said what's distressing about the Watada case is that the government is trying to use a reporter to build its case.

"The last thing a reporter wants to be identified as is an investigative arm of the government." Dalglish said.

The writer is Jason Leopold, a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.

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