Mark Boal settles lawsuit over Bowe Bergdahl interviews
Screenwriter and journalist Mark Boal has reached a legal settlement with the U.S. government that will scrap a military prosecutor’s threat to subpoena unpublished interviews Boal conducted with accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl.
Boal, whose screen credits include the war dramas The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, had recorded 25 hours of interviews with Bergdahl as research for a potential film project, and the material became the basis of the second season of the investigative podcast Serial.
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. He has maintained that he left his base in order to raise awareness about the poor leadership he witnessed.
Bergdahl’s trial scheduled to begin in April, and earlier this year the lead prosecutor, Army Maj. Justin Oshana, asserted in a court filing that Boal’s interviews were “relevant and necessary to the case.” Boal responded by suing the government to block the Army’s subpoena, arguing the tapes were protected by the First Amendment and reporter’s privilege.
The settlement of Boal v United States, reached Dec. 6, calls for the government to drop the subpoena of Boal’s tapes and allow him to protect all confidential material on them. In return, Boal agreed to verify, if necessary before a court-martial, that his interview tapes contain Bergdahl’s authentic voice; to release small portions of the interviews that were previously heard or summarized on Serial; and to withdraw his demand for attorney fees.
In a news release Tuesday, Boal and his attorney, Jean-Paul Jassy, hailed the settlement as a First Amendment victory. “I’m happy that the Army ultimately agreed to uphold the traditions of a free civilian press,” Boal said.
Jassy added, “This is a terrific resolution. The Army originally demanded 25 hours of Mark Boal’s unedited interviews with Bergdahl that included confidential discussions and all sorts of personal material that wasn’t ever meant to be public. Mark Boal faced down the demand. He is a First Amendment hero.”
Reached for comment on the settlement, U.S. Army Forces Command spokesperson Paul Boyce said in a statement, “We continue to maintain careful respect for the ongoing military-judicial process, the rights of the accused, and ensuring the case’s fairness and impartiality during this pending legal case.”