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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Screenwriter Mark Boal Settles First Amendment Case With U.S. Government

The U.S. Army withdrew its subpoena threat over Boal's recorded interviews with Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

Mark Boal


Mark Boal, writer and producer of “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Hurt Locker,” has settled his case with the U.S. government over the protection of unpublished material and confidential information.

The decision is being celebrated by First Amendment experts and more than 36 major national media organizations, as it calls for the government to drop its subpoena of Boal’s tapes, allowing him to protect all confidential material on them.

Boal filed his suit in Los Angeles federal court against President Barack Obama and U.S Army Prosecutor Major Justin Oshana after Oshana threatened to subpoena all 25 hours of Boal’s taped interviews with accused Army deserter and prisoner-of-war Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Several of the tapes were used as the basis of the recent “Serial” podcast that Boal produced.

“I’m happy that the Army ultimately agreed to uphold the traditions of a free civilian press,” Boal said in a statement. Boal will withdraw his demand for attorney fees and will verify, if necessary before a court martial, that his interview tapes contain Bergdahl’s voice.

“We supported this lawsuit because it sent a very strong message about aggressively defending rights under the First Amendment,” Bruce Brown, executive director of the Washington, DC-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said in the statement. “That message was heard and received. The resulting settlement protects newsgathering and confidential communications with sources.  This is a great outcome.”

Boal’s attorney Jean-Paul Jassy added that the U.S. Army had “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.”

Boal’s case made the argument that the Department of Justice and Department of Defense had “crossed a constitutional line” by threatening to subpoena Boal’s recordings, according to the statement. Boal maintained that his recorded interviews with Bergdahl are protected under the First Amendment.

Boal is an award-winning journalist who also shared the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2010 with “The Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow and producers Nicolas Chartier Greg Shapiro. His case drew support from the editorial pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

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