press subpoenas in Watada case

In an interesting twist on press subpoenas, Army prosecutors have subpoenaed journalists to get them to vouch for published quotes — not source information or unpublished information. [SFgate 12/18.] The prosecutors hope to use the quotes to prosecute First Lt. Ehren Watada, who denounced the war on Iraq as illegal and refused to deploy.

Sarah Olson, an Oakland journalist who wrote about Watada, said she had no legal grounds to refuse but she noted that “If conscientious objectors know that they can be prosecuted for speaking to the press and that the press will participate in their prosecution, it stands to reason that they would think twice before being public about their positions.”

The subpoena requires not just an attestation but participation in a January 2007 hearing and the court-martial of Lt. Watada, under penalty of contempt of the military tribunal. Olson and the other journalists subpoenaed can be put in jail for refusing to comply.

One of the statements that Lt. Watada is being charged for is:

As I 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?’

You can look at each little skid on a slippery slope individually and note that it’s not that big a deal.