Mark Boal Settles With U.S. Government in Bergdahl Tapes Dispute

Mark Boal - Getty - H - 2016
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Screenwriter Mark Boal and the U.S. government have settled their legal fight over interview tapes of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is facing trial for desertion. 

Boal sued in July, after military prosecutors threatened to subpoena 25 hours of recorded interviews with Bergdahl, some of which were used in the podcast Serial.

The government will drop its subpoena and allow Boal to protect all confidential material on the tapes, according to a Tuesday press release issued by Boal's attorney Jean-Paul Jassy.

In return, Boal will withdraw a demand for attorney's fees, verify the authenticity of his tapes before a court martial, if necessary, and release to the public portions of the tapes that have previously been heard on Serial or summarized by Boal or the podcast's host Sarah Koenig.

"This is a terrific resolution," said Jassy in the release. "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."

In a September hearing, U.S. District Court Judge George H. King urged the parties to resolve their dispute informally — and it appears they took his advice.

At the heart of the issue was the not only the First Amendment but also the reporter's privilege to protect his or her sources, which is untested in military courts.

Said Boal in the release, “I’m happy that the Army ultimately agreed to uphold the traditions of a free civilian press.”