Why Are the Feds After Josh Wolf?
By Nicholas von Hoffman
If he cares to, Josh Wolf can claim his place in the Guinness Book of Records. A few days ago, he passed Vanessa Leggett as the longest incarcerated American journalist.
Ms. Leggett was made to sit in a jail cell for 168 days five years ago. Josh Wolf, who is 24, has been locked up in a federal facility in Dublin, Calif., since last August. (His lawyers got him out for a few days in September, but he’s been back now for months.)
Young Josh’s case is both weaker and stronger than Ms. Leggett’s was. The young man is a videographer. Mr. Wolf’s troubles began in July 2005, with his recording a demonstration in San Francisco protesting a meeting of officials from the world’s richest countries meeting in Scotland. The demonstrators were a wild, hair-up-the-ass anarchist bunch. In the course of their carrying on, violence flared. Off camera, a policeman suffered a broken skull, some newspaper vending machines were tossed, some windows broken and, apparently, an attempt (which failed) was made to set a police car on fire.
Spraying paint, knocking over newspaper boxes and whacking a cop are local offenses under California or municipal law, not federal offences. Here’s the rub: The state and the city have disposed of their law-enforcement concerns. Nothing local is pending. What’s happening to Josh Wolf is purely federal, so what is going on?
“It’s my belief,” he says, “that what they want to do is … have me identify the people in the video. Then any people that I’m able to identify would in turn be called in. Those people would then be forced to either go to jail for contempt or name the people in the video that they saw. Then those people would follow the same procedure, like so forth and like so forth, until they had a database of everyone that was there that night.”
Mr. Wolf has chosen to go to jail rather than cooperate, but he’s in a difficult position: Not only is there no federal shield law for journalists, but he has no grounds for resisting the government. He has no confidential informants here.
Let’s hope that when more people find out about what is being done to Josh Wolf, they see that his case is not another example of “the media” asking for special favors. Yes, he probably should enjoy some protection as a journalist, but he is also in jail because he is resisting a government operation which is entirely too close to police-state tactics.
Josh Wolf is getting publicity, but not enough of it. As the weeks go by and nothing new happens, he drops out of sight. If you want to keep track of him, go to joshwolf.net. Any little thing and every little thing will help.
Much more can be quickly found through Josh's blog.
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