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Does The FBI Hate Our Freedom (Of The Press)?

Twenty-four-year-old Josh Wolf has served more prison time for refusing a court order than any other journalist in U.S. history. Exclusive Interview by CAROLINE CASPER

Does The FBI Hate Our Freedom (Of The Press)?

Blogger protecting his sources still in federal prison after eight months
By Caroline Casper
See Also… Conscious Choice April 2007 Issue - Features

“This subpoena is not for the videotape. The subpeona is for my testimony. The government has been pretty clear in communicating that basically they want me to out the anarchists.”
— Josh Wolf

Twenty-four-year-old Josh Wolf has served more prison time for refusing a court order than any other journalist in US history. A video blogger and freelance journalist in San Francisco, Wolf was jailed by a federal district court on Aug. 1, 2006 for refusing to reveal the identities of those he recorded on videotape during an anti-G8 protest in San Francisco in 2005. In the course of the protest, masked demonstrators burned a San Francisco police car and gravely wounded an SFPD officer. Although our attempts to meet with Wolf in person at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California were denied, we got to speak with him on the phone for 15 minutes.

Do you consider yourself a political prisoner?

I do. We have a constitution that guarantees a free and independent press, and I’m being forced to act as an investigative agent for the government. I refused, and they sent me to jail. This is, in a sense, low-grade torture so I’ll give the government what it wants.

Your lawyer, Martin Garbus, says that the Joint Terrorism Task Force was the body that issued your grand jury subpoena. He says that he thinks your imprisonment is really an attempt by the federal government to get at people who are critical of the Bush administration.

That’s been my belief for a long time. It shouldn’t be a federal incident and, at this point, they’ve held me in custody for close to eight months now. It really indicates that this is much more politically motivated. They are trying to force me to identify some of my [journalistic] contacts who are anarchists, who attend protests and who are opposed to the current status of the government.

At this point is it possible to get yourself out of jail? Could you just turn in the tape and set yourself free?

Yes, but the important thing to realize is that this subpoena is not for the videotape. The subpeona is for my testimony. The government has been pretty clear in communicating that basically they want me to out the anarchists. These are contacts that I’ve made over several years and they want me to identify them so they can be called into the grand jury and face the same decision that I was forced to make — identify personal associates or face incarceration. It’s a McCarthy-like system happening behind closed doors.

How angry are you?

I have believed for a long time that the government is engaging in a non-humanistic manner and that we have a system that is really bordering on fascism. The freedoms that are promised to us by the Bill of Rights are no longer true. This is a wake-up call. Our rights are being taken away and we have to stand up and do something about it.

What gives you hope?

There’s been mass progress in terms of a unanimous resolution passed urging the federal government and the state of California for a federal shield law [a shield law protects journalists from being forced to disclose confidential information in legal proceedings] and lawmakers have opened that possibility up to people, such as myself, who do not work for major news media. We should all be protected under a federal shield law.

How are you being treated?

Everything is fine. We only get 300 minutes of phone time, so I’ve been working on trying to get in-person media access, writing appeals. I get along with the guys here and I see myself as an embedded reporter inside the prison industrial complex.

What do you plan to do when you get out?

First, I’m going to get some food that I can order from a menu, drink a beer, go to concerts and finish some interviews that aren’t limited to 15 minutes. Then I plan to get back to work on building some projects surrounding corporate and government media control.

What do you want to say to the people?

Anytime there’s an injustice it’s an opportunity to stand up. Everytime we voice that something needs to change, despite the risk involved, it makes it harder for those in charge to continue the injustices. One person standing up becomes 16 people standing up and eventually you create a critical mass where the entire population has become contentious of the situation and stops it before it becomes a catastrophe.

For more information, visit


Caroline Casper is a San Francisco-based writer.

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