January 27, 2007


Sarah_olson_poster Last month, military prosecutors subpoenaed Sarah Olson, a 31-year-old writer and radio journalist, asking her to appear at the court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. Lt. Watada said that he could not participate in the Iraq War because it was “manifestly illegal” and that his participation would make him a party to war crimes. He had spoken candidly to Olson, who had written about the case, and prosecutors have tried to conscript her into their effort to convict Lt. Watada, whose trial begins February 5.

Now, the Pentagon prosecutors are also trying to force testimony against Lt. Watada from Honolulu Star Bulletin reporter Gregg Kakesako, who also wrote about the case; and freelance journalist Dahr Jamail and videographer Sari Gelzer, who had simply videotaped Lt. Watada's speech at a Veterans for Peace convention 

Olson has refused to testify against Lt. Watada (right), for reasons she persuasivelyEhren_watada  explained in an Editor & Publisher op-ed Olson wrote, in which she said, among other things:

"Doesn’t it fly in the face of the First Amendment to compel a journalist to participate in a government prosecution against a source, particularly in matters related to personal political speech? It is my job as a professional journalist to report the news, not to act as the eyes and ears of the government. I am repelled by this approach that jeopardizes my credibility and seeks to compel my participation in muting public speech and dissenting personal opinion. Further, it is stunningly ironic that the Army seeks my testimony – the testimony of a journalist – in a case against free speech itself. What could be more hostile to the idea of a free press than a journalist participating in the suppression of newsworthy speech?"

A Los Angeles Times editorial got it right when it said of the Sarah Olson case:

"It's egregious enough when U.S. attorneys subpoena journalists, which is happening Los_angeles_times at an alarmingly increasing rate (illustrating the need for a national shield law). But there is something especially chilling about the U.S. military reaching beyond its traditional authority to compel a non-military U.S. citizen engaged in news-gathering to testify in a military court, simply to bolster a court-martial case. There is no security interest at stake, and no matter of national urgency...It's time for the Army to back off."

A Defend the Press campaign against military intimidation and harassment of journalists that highlights the Sarah Olson case has just been launched by the admirable John Stauber of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Stauber reports on this campaign today on the website of CMD's excellent P.R. Watch:

" In the past 72 hours Defend the Press has been endorsed by a diversity of news media and public interest organizations from Free Press to the Organic Consumers Association, from Mother Jones to Mothering magazines. Some of these organizations have sent emails to their thousands of supporters urging support for the campaign. Others have posted banners at the top of their websites. The National Press Club issued a news release on behalf of Sarah Olson and other subpoenaed journalists, and endorsed Defend The Press. Scores of notables in the journalism, academic, and public interest communities have added their names, posting comments, writing letters and articles...." Read all of Stauber's report (and find out what you can do to help) by clicking here.

Larry_merchant_1 I was more than happy to lend my name in support of Sarah Olson's courageous and principled refusal to join in the prosecution effort to send Lt. Watada to jail, so I asked a number of my journalist and writer friends toTony_kushner join me in signing a statement against the military's attempt to subpoena Olson and other journalists, and most of them -- like noted sportswriter and HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant (above John_berendt_2 left); Pulitizer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner , author of the magnificent "Angels in America" (right); John Berendt, former editor-in-chief of New York magazine and author of the best-sellers "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and "City of Falling Angels" (left); and Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Sydney Schanberg, (hero of the movie "The Killing Fields," based on Syd's book about Cambodia under the Khmer Rouges) -- said yes. (You can see a list of endorsers so far by clicking here.) Syd Schanberg (below right) wrote me:

"Yes, Doug, please add my name to the appeal. Sarah Olson's principled stand is a crucial one at a time when the mainstream pressSydney_schanberg_1  is bargaining away, in bigger and bigger chunks, the privacy of reporters' notebooks, confidential conversations, e-mails, etc.ad infinitum. Her professional product has been published and is available to the government. As she says, reporters betray their role as fact-seekers for the public if they are forced -- through threat of imprisonment -- to become agents of a particular government's agenda."

If you agree, find out what you can do by visiting the Defend the Press website. A good way to start: sign the petition demanding the military dismiss the subpoena against Sarah Olson, which you can do by clicking here. And Sarah, a penurious young independent journalist, needs money to help pay her legal defense against the military's attempt to force her to testify -- you can donate to the legal defense fund to keep Sarah out of prison by clicking here. Remember, the trial begins on February 5 -- and Sarah can use all the help she can get to fight the Pentagon's First Amendment-shredding subpoena.

Posted by Direland at 05:55 PM | Permalink


Saturday 17 February 2007

Give me a break! Private citizens can complain all they want about the stupid, unnecessary, morally wrong, ethically obnovious, indefensible decision to go into Iraq (I voted for Gore and Kerry) but once we were in there, getting out is not so easy. For jerkheads in the Left to run around and use this indefensible disaster of the Right as an excuse to make political points helps NO ONE except journalists, lawyers, and unemployable Left wingers! The Lt VOLUNTARILY ENTERED THE MILITARY AND DESERVES TO GET SHOT! The so-called reporters refusing to testify should go to jail and have the key thrown out! It's one thing to oppose something, it's another to GO ALONG FOR FUN AND PROFIT than decide it's wrong! Here is the scumbag Robert McNamara Defense!

Posted by: L F Graf Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz | Feb 17, 2007 9:31:51 AM

Freedom of the Press does not mean that you are immune to the consequences...just that you are free make a choice and to take your chances. That the "press" are a protected-class is totally at-odds with the concept that all are equal in the eyes of the law.

Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Jan 29, 2007 1:59:36 PM

The Department of Defense, headquartered in the Pentagon, is one of the most massive organizations on the planet, with net annual operating costs of $635 billion, assets worth $1.3 trillion, liabilities of $1.9 trillion and more that 2.9 million military and civilian personnel as of fiscal year 2005.

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

It is difficult to convey the complexity of the way DOD works to someone who has not experienced it. This is a massive machine with so many departments and so much beaurocracy that no president, including Bush totally understands it.

Presidents, Congressmen, Cabinet Members and Appointees project a knowledgeable demeanor but they are spouting what they are told by career people who never go away and who train their replacements carefully. These are military and civil servants with enormous collective power, armed with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Defense Industrial Security Manuals, compartmentalized classification structures and "Rice Bowls" which are never mixed.

Our society has slowly given this power structure its momentum which is constant and extraordinarily tough to bend. The cost to the average American is exhorbitant in terms of real dollars and bad decisions. Every major power structure member in the Pentagon's many Washington Offices and Field locations in the US and Overseas has a counterpart in Defense Industry Corporate America. That collective body has undergone major consolidation in the last 10 years.

What used to be a broad base of competitive firms is now a few huge monoliths, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing.

Government oversight committees are carefully stroked. Sam Nunn and others who were around for years in military and policy oversight roles have been cajoled, given into on occasion but kept in the dark about the real status of things until it is too late to do anything but what the establishment wants. This still continues - with increasing high technology and potential for abuse.

Please examine the following link to testimony given by Franklin C. Spinney before Congress in 2002. It provides very specific information from a whistle blower who is still blowing his whistle (Look him up in your browser and you get lots of feedback) Frank spent the same amount of time as I did in the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) but in government quarters. His job in government was a similar role to mine in defense companies. Frank's emphasis in this testimony is on the money the machine costs us. It is compelling and it is noteworthy that he was still a staff analyst at the Pentagon when he gave this speech. I still can't figure out how he got his superior's permission to say such blunt things. He was extremely highly respected and is now retired.


The brick wall I often refer to is the Pentagon's own arrogance. It will implode by it's own volition, go broke, or so drastically let down the American people that it will fall in shambles. Rest assured the day of the implosion is coming. The machine is out of control.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting on this blog entitled, "Odyssey of Armaments"


On the same subject, you may also be interested in the following sites from the "Project On Government Oversight", observing it's 25th Anniversary and "Defense In the National Interest", insired by Franklin Spinney and contributed to by active/reserve, former, or retired military personnel.



Posted by: Ken Larson | Jan 27, 2007 8:11:09 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.