Oscar-winning screenwriter says threatened subpoena would violate his First Amendment rights

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Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal is suing the federal government to block a military prosecutor’s threat to subpoena interviews Boal conducted with accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, which formed the basis for the second season of the investigative podcast Serial.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in a Los Angeles federal court, Boal’s attorneys argue that the recordings are protected by reporter’s privilege and the First Amendment.

“Mark Boal fully supports the military justice system and believes that Bergdahl has to face the music in a fair judicial process,” attorney Jean-Paul Jassy said in a statement. “But Boal is a civilian and a journalist, and under the First Amendment, he should not be hauled into a military court to divulge his unpublished and confidential materials. We are asking the federal court in Los Angeles to protect Mark Boal’s constitutional rights.”

Bergdahl is facing a general court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after he disappeared from his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and ended up in Taliban captivity for five years. Bergdahl has maintained that he left his base in order to raise awareness about the poor leadership he witnessed.

Bergdahl’s trial is scheduled to begin in February.

Boal, whose credits include The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, began interviewing Bergdahl as research for a potential film project and recorded 25 hours of material, much of which appeared in Serial. According to his complaint, prosecutors intend to subpoena the tapes Friday.

In a statement to EW about Boal’s legal filing, U.S. Army Forces Command spokesperson Paul Boyce said, “We continue to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused, and ensuring the case’s fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case.”


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