Feeds

Anarchist blog boy freed

Emma Goldman 2.0

Security for virtualized datacentres

After the longest stretch ever served in the joint for refusing to disclose a source, blogger/activist Josh Wolf is a free man.

Wolf spent 226 days, nearly 7 1/2 months, in the Federal Penitentiary in Dublin, California after refusing to testify before a grand jury and withholding footage of a 2005 anarchist rally in San Francisco from federal prosecutors.

The feds supposedly wanted the video and testimony as part of an investigation into events at the rally after a San Francisco policeman suffered a head injury and there was some indeterminate fire damage to a city police car.

California has a reporter shield law that might have protected Wolf, but the feds claimed jurisdiction over the investigation on the thin premise that the car was partially funded by federal money. Federal law contains no reporter shield, so Wolf had no protection against the subpoena.

Wolf has claimed throughout the whole affair that the feds weren't interested in the squad car at all, but really just wanted him to name names about the anarchists and organizations at the rally.

He's had a point, too - the subpoena in question was served on Wolf by a Special Federal Officer of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which suggests that the feds were more interested in having Wolf do their surveillance for them than in actually getting to the bottom of the police car mystery.

Plus, footage of the rally that Wolf sold to local news stations seems to imply that federal agents were at the scene before the events that supposedly conferred jurisdiction on them had even taken place.

Wolf has long argued that the uncut video was not useful as evidence in the investigation and that he mainly wanted to avoid testifying before the grand jury so that he would not have to reveal information regarding his sources or contacts at the rally.

After the deal reached between Wolf and prosecutors on April 3 and his subsequent release, Wolf posted the entire video on his blog. He claims he would have done it sooner, since it had no damaging information in it, but he wanted to retain a bargaining chip in his negotiations with the feds.

Many in the blogosphere are proclaiming Wolf's release a victory for bloggers and journalists, but it is unclear what exactly they have won. The deal entered into the legal record states that Wolf agreed to turn over the video and also answered questions about the rally under oath, which basically gave away the farm since he originally refused to comply with the subpoena specifically to avoid testifying about the rally.

Wolf didn't have to appear before the grand jury, though. He did admit in the deal, however, that the government can still serve him with another grand jury subpoena relating to the events at the rally. If and when the government decides to do that, Wolf still has nothing to protect him from another contempt order and another stay behind bars, and the whole thing could start anew.

So a momentary victory for Josh Wolf it may be, but a Pyrrhic victory at best for bloggers and journalists in the federal legal system.

Still, Wolf did a long stretch in federal prison to protect an ideal, bargained for his freedom with federal prosecutors, and added to the political pressure to create a federal reporter shield law.

That's more than most bloggers did in the past 7 1/2 months. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Big Content outs piracy hotbeds: São Paulo, Beijing ... TORONTO?
MPAA calls Canadians a bunch of bootlegging movie thieves
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.