A freelance journalist said she has been subpoenaed by U.S. Army prosecutors to testify about one of her sources, a 28-year-old officer facing a court-martial for refusing to go to Iraq.
In May, Sarah Olson conducted an interview with 1st Lt. Ehren Watada in which he criticized the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Parts of it were quoted on the Web site www.truthout.org on June 7 when Watada refused to deploy with his Fort Lewis, Wash.-based armored vehicle unit.
Olson said she did not know if she would comply with the subpoena she received on Thursday or risk being held in contempt of the military tribunal that wants her testimony.
“It’s not a reporter’s job to participate in the prosecution of her own sources,” she said. “When you force a journalist to participate, you run the risk of turning the journalist into an investigative tool of the state.”
Last week, the Army also subpoenaed a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Gregg Kakesako, about his dealings with Watada, who has been charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and missing a troop movement. His trial is scheduled for February.
Kakesako was on vacation Monday and could not be reached for comment. The Star-Bulletin’s editor, Frank Bridgewater, said he had no comment on the case.
In one of the statements attributed to Watada that the Army considered appropriate, Olson quoted the officer as saying that he grew disillusioned with the Bush administration’s “deception” in building a case for the war in Iraq.
“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?” Watada said.
Watada’s lawyer, Eric Seitz, said his client does not dispute making the statements attributed to him and would not mind if the reporters testified.
The main issue, Seitz said, is “whether he had First Amendment rights to say what he did.”