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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Army Targets Journalists to Testify Against Solider Who Refused To Go To Iraq

In a case that cuts right at 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, according to Truthout.

Truthout reported the story Wednesday on its website,

Captain Dan Kuecker, the Fort Lewis, Washington- based Army prosecutor, is actively seeking the journalists' testimony so he can prove that Watada engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer, directly related to disparaging statements Watada made about the legality of the Iraq War during interviews with Truthout and his hometown newspaper, the Honolulu Star- Bulletin, in June, Truthout says.

At a hearing earlier this year, a military court determined there was sufficient evidence to charge Watada with intentionally missing his deployment and proceed with a general court-martial. The trial is expected to begin in February.

"We view this action as retaliatory, both toward Lieutenant Watada and toward our organization that reported his courageous stand," Ash says. "Since the day the US invaded Iraq, Truthout has tried to educate the American people about the true reasons for the military action and, more importantly, not only the suffering of the Iraqi people, but the painful and often unnecessary sacrifices of America's servicemen and women. Opposing the United States Army, even in a courtroom, is a daunting prospect. However, we will not shrink from the task."

In an aggressive attempt to haul members of Truthout's editorial staff into court, Kuecker bypassed corresponding with the organization's attorney and sent Ash a series of emails -- one of which was sent late Sunday evening, December 10 -- insisting that Ash provide him with information about the reporters so Kuecker can prepare his case against Watada, Truthout says.

"This information is required as a part of an ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution," Kuecker wrote in that December 10 email to Ash. "Please respond as soon as possible."

Ash says he repeatedly referred Kuecker to Truthout attorney Bill Simpich. Ash stated that he is determined to resist any attempt by the US Army to compel him to testify against Watada or to provide the Army with any physical evidence it may seek.

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