Second Wolf mediation attempt fails
All are mum
Journalist Josh Wolf remains in federal prison following U.S.
District Judge William Alsup's order that Wolf be detained. Wolf
was ordered jailed August 1, 2006 by Alsup for refusing to turn
over videotape of a San Francisco G-8 demonstration turned melee
in 2005 to a federal grand jury.
April 2, 2007
Freelance blogger/videographer Josh Wolf remains in federal
prison after a second, three hour mediation session failed today
to resolve differences with the U.S. Department of Justice over
the latter's insistence that he let the federal grand jury in
San Francisco have raw video footage of a July 2005 anarchists'
demonstration, and that he testify before the grand jury about
what he observed at the event.
All parties in the dispute remain under a gag order, so there
is no telling what, if any, progress occurred during today's talks,
or when or if further negotiations will take place.
Wolf has been kept in near isolation for all but three weeks
since last Aug. 1 at the federal prison in Dublin, Calif., for
upholding the principle of an independent Fourth Estate. No other
journalist has ever been imprisoned longer in this country.
Only his immediate family and his attorneys are allowed to visit
him, and he sits in a single-occupancy cell, permitted into the
prison exercise yard for just one hour every other day. He has
not been charged with a crime, yet his treatment is harsher than
that meted out to violent felons.
The conduct in this case by the San Francisco Police Department,
the Joint Terrorism Task Force, prosecutor Jeffrey Finigan of
the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco, the grand jury and
U.S. District Judge William Alsup is outrageous. There is ample
evidence that Wolf does not have on tape, or in his own memory,
the information that they claim to seek.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup
Moreover, it is difficult to believe that undercover police and/or
intelligence agents captured plenty of video footage and still
photographs of the demonstration, and that the information purportedly
sought from Wolf is not readily available from police and/or intelligence
Then there is the overriding issue of whether journalists should
be forced to become police or prosecutorial agents. First Amendment
advocates continue to respond to that question with a resounding
The persecution of Wolf is an egregious misuse of taxpayer dollars,
and it is for no other purpose than to make people afraid to talk
to reporters, and to exercise their First Amendment rights of
public dissent and peaceable assembly. It is also part of an effort
by governments at all levels to control the volume, flow and content
of information that reaches the public.
This poses a grave danger to our democracy, and it underscores
the need for a federal shield law upholding the rights of journalists
and news outlets to protect source identities and to keep possession
of unpublished/unaired materials, and stipulating to a minimal
role by government entities, officials and employees in determining
who is or is not a journalist.
Unless the impasse is broken, Wolf will remain imprisoned until
the grand jury's term expires -- in July, unless the panel's term
is extended for six months.