Feds jailing Josh Wolf to get Indymedia?

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(Josh Wolf is a freelance journalist and anarchist. He has been jailed for refusing to turn over videotapes of a protest being investigated by a federal grand jury. Online Journalism Review has written about his case; here is a bit more from Wikipedia; and from his own site. On Friday, December 1, 2006, I ran a reminder of his incarceration. I will write about his case every Friday until he is freed. What will you do? Tom Abate, San Leandro, California; aka MiniMediaGuy).

Last Friday I speculated that the federal government must have better things to do than investigate a street protest in San Francisco, and that their true goal must be to pressure Josh Wolf, an activist who is overtly sympathetic to the protestors he covers, to reveal what he knows about the anti-global, vaguely anarchist protest network that has arisen since the 1999 World Trade Center protests.

A March 27, 2006 article in the Los Angeles Times lends credence to that surmise. LA Times reporter Nicholas Riccardi revealed how the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating domestic protest groups associated with minor acts of political violence — including anarchists and the grassroots media collective Indymedia.

Riccardi’s article is reposted by the progressive group Common Dreams. It describes a Justice Department presentation to a college law class at the Univerisity of Texas, Austin, at which an FBI counterterrorism official showed: 

“slides listing militia, neo-Nazi and Islamist groups . . .  one slide, labeled ‘Anarchism,’ was a federal analyst’s list of groups that people intent on terrorism might associate with. The list included Food Not Bombs, which mainly serves vegetarian food to homeless people, and — with a question mark next to it — Indymedia, a collective that publishes what it calls radical journalism online.” 

Josh Wolf’s troubles began on July 8, 2006 when he covered an anti-globalism protest in San Francisco as a freelance videographer. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article written at the time, one police officer got a serious head injury at the event, which the paper described as “a demonstration by anarchists who broke windows in the Mission District.” (I am a business reporter for the Chronicle but I’ve had no role in the paper’s coverage of this case.)  An Indymedia report on the protest said “the FBI is investigating the incidents.” 

There is no mention in either report of a burning police car — which is the reason offered in later news articles to explain why federal officials want to see Wolf’s un-aired video.

Wolf insists that he never videotaped whatever happened to that police car and that he must have been elsewhere taping other parts of the protest. He has asked the judge to watch his video. The judge has declined to screen his tapes and has ordered Wolf to jailed until he turn them over. Wolf has refused and so he sits in a federal facility in Dublin, California.

It is, of course, possible that Wolf erased his tapes and that an FBI analysis would reveal this.  But I think it more likely that the San Francisco  have used this incident as an excuse to pressure Wolf to testify about the the anti-global protest movement.

So while Osama Bin Laden remains unfound and unpunished federal prosecutors in San Francisco are investigating the connection between the unpaid freelancers of Indymedia and the window-smashing protestors who tend to show up at otherwise peaceful protests. 

Where’s the clear and present danger?

And yet the United States government has imprisoned a young man for several months in a effort to pressure him to testify.   

This is not law enforcement. This is bullying. The shortest path to justice is to free Josh Wolf.