The U.S. Justice Department has filed a motion in opposition to Mark Boal’s lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent the Oscar-winning screenwriter from having to turn over to a military court taped interviews he conducted with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who faces an Army court martial for desertion.
The Army has notified Boal that it intends to subpoena the tapes, but the screenwriter filed suit in federal court last month saying that such a subpoena violates his right “to gather and publish newsworthy material under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the common law and state constitutional and statutory provisions.”
The Justice Department, however, says that Boal’s objections should be heard by a military court and not by a federal judge. The relief that Boal seeks, the DOJ said in a motion filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, “is not just extraordinary…it is also unprecedented. (Boal)asks this court to intercede in the process of an independent, coordinate court – a military court-martial – and to enjoin that court from issuing or enforcing a subpoena even before that court has had the opportunity to consider (his) objections to such process in the first instance.”
The DOJ said that it is “not aware of a court that has so intruded into court-martial proceedings before, and [Boal] identifies no reason why this court should be the first to do so now.” It also said that there are numerous precedents that “require the court to stay its hand” so that Boal can present his objections to the court-martial. “That court is obligated – just like federal and state courts – to protect individuals’ constitutional rights, and it was designed by Congress to do so.”
Boal conducted 25 hours of taped interviews with Bergdahl after he was freed by the Taliban after five years of captivity. Boal, who won the screenwriting Oscar – and shared the Best Picture Oscar – for The Hurt Locker, says he would suffer “irreparable injury” to his career and reputation if he’s forced to turn over confidential information he obtained during the interviews, parts of which aired on the Serial podcast, which is sponsored by WBEZ, the National Public Radio station in Chicago.
Dozens of media organizations, including the Washington Post and all the major news networks, recently filed a motion with the court supporting Boal’s position.