Monday, December 18, 2006

Check six! DOD’s “PRESS Offensive” is begun!

William Langewiesche (Vanity Fair), and more immediately Sarah Olson (Truthout.org) need not be concerned should that day of their courts-martial arrive.

Bob Milstead’s written promise to Mr. Langewiesche that “constitutional principles of due process and the presumption of innocence…are guaranteed in the Uniform Code of Military Justice—apart from Milstead’s bombastic, propagandistic dissembling—is not relevant.

Ms. Olson and Mr. Langewiesche can simply choose not to attend should military authorities assemble courts-martial in their honor. Maybe one or some of their colleagues might want to report on the events should they come to pass, if for no other purpose than their entertainment value.

I’m hopeful both reporters, supported by employers, will aggressively fight “subpoenas” threatening martial discipline should either journalist fail to obey their “orders.” Ms. Olson was served last Thursday morning. Mr. Langewiesche’s service is predicted in the next few weeks, soon after charges are filed against any of the Haditha Marines.

A foreseeable exercise of newly developed muscle under an amended UCMJ, by military royalty in a test of their days-old authority comes about by bringing court-martial charges for something, anything, against another reporter—any reporter—at any moment. For those dismissively waving away this clear warning, please consider the commander-in-chief signed off on expanded UCMJ authority over embedded media on 13 October this year. Ms. Olson was served last week on 13 December.

Students of trend analysis take note.

The Defense Department’s “PRESS Offensive” is in its earliest stages. Opening shots were fired against a front that so far as I can tell is weakly defended, if defended at all.

Luckily for Olson and Langewiesche a defensive perimeter is easily and quickly constructed. Olson and Langewiesche are immune from martial command and punishment. UCMJ “punitive articles” are harmless for people not working for the armed forces. Ms. Olson, a civilian, is not obliged to carry out orders issued by military governors. The civilian legal term subpoena is as meaningless in the world of martial discipline as it’s unenforceable.

Embedded journalists, on the other hand, have reason to be terribly worried.

Watch out for 13 January 2007.

No question remains regarding DOD’s attack on the press now underway. Gone begging is the grander question, whether the enemy is to be engaged at all? Will media professionals—no matter what stripe—mount a coordinated counteroffensive against “situational constitutionalists” on two fronts? The first thrust to arrest the expansive spread of military attainder; the other to efface the practice altogether.

(Note: Bob Milstead’s letter to William Langewiesche, by way of the editor, appears in the January 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, page 30. Reporter Nicholas Gage writes separately in the same issue regarding the dismemberment of “November 17,” the terrorist group that murdered Navy Captain William Nordeen, see page 68).

Here endth the lesson.

The JAG Hunter: Copyright©2006

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