Attorneys for screenwriter-producer Mark Boal have accused the U.S. government and military of “attempting to subvert justice” by forcing Boal into a military court to defend his First Amendment rights.
Boal sued the government on July 21 in response to its threat to subpoena his 25 hours of taped interviews with accused Army deserter and prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl, who is facing a general court martial. In response on Aug. 8, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to reject Boal’s effort to shield the tapes.
Boal’s attorney Jean-Paul Jassy of Jassy Vick Carolan LLP contended in a filing on Monday that the federal government is over-reaching.
“Boal never joined the Armed Forces,” Jassy said. “He did not submit to the narrowed rights attendant to military life. Although there is no dispute that Boal is a civilian and not a defendant in any court-martial, Defendants’ opposition brief relies heavily on cases where members of the Armed Forces asked federal courts to enjoin court-martial proceedings in which they were criminally accused.”
“Boal is not asking this Court to stop the court-martial of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl,” Jassy went on. “And, contrary to the Government’s repeated and incorrect assertions, Boal is not asking this Court to enjoin another court or another judge from issuing or enforcing a subpoena.”
Boal, the screenwriter of “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Hurt Locker,” was planning to make a movie about the U.S. Army sergeant with director Kathryn Bigelow. Bergdahl spent five years as a prisoner of war of the Taliban until his release in May 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“There is presently no such clearly established right in the U.S. Army courts, which are more focused on maintaining norms of military order and discipline than safeguarding civilians’ First Amendment rights,” Jassy wrote in the filing. “Although Boal could try to convince an Army court-martial to recognize the reporter’s privilege, it is manifestly unfair that he should have to do so.”
Boal’s effort to shield the tapes has been supported by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press along with 35 journalism groups, non-profits and major media companies via an amicus brief filing.
“We firmly stand with Mr. Boal in his effort to protect these tapes,” says the organization’s executive director Bruce Brown. “Well-established law recognizes that journalists cannot do their jobs to keep the public informed if they cannot work free from government interference.”