ARMY 1ST LT. EHREN WATADA may or may not have a good claim for conscientious objector status. It makes sense for the Army to prosecute him for refusing orders to deploy to Iraq last June, and Watada has at best an uphill battle in defending his actions, given that he joined the military of his own free will. But Army lawyers are overreaching when they try to prosecute their case by drafting reporters.
Watada faces a court-martial next month for missing his troop movement and for his published explanations of his refusal to go. The Army has his statements, but it subpoenaed reporters to authenticate that he, in fact, said what is in print and on tape.
Portions of independent journalist Sarah Olson's interviews with Watada appeared on the website Truthout.org and were broadcast on radio stations in New York and the Bay Area. Freelance journalist Dahr Jamail had simply videotaped Watada's speech at a Veterans for Peace convention. Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter Gregg K. Kakesako also reported Watada's story.
A military judge ruled that Olson and Jamail did not have to appear at Thursday's pretrial hearing. But the Army is pressing forward with its demand that the two reporters testify at the trial.