Is Josh Wolf in jail because of federal laziness?

Pub date August 18, 2006
WriterSarah Phelan
SectionPolitics Blog

By Sarah Phelan

An amicus brief filed this week in support of jailed freelance reporter Josh Wolf argues that federal common law already recognizes a reporter’s privilege, that it should be applied to Wolf’s grand jury case, and that before a journalist be compelled to divulge unpublished material in response to a subpoena, the requesting party must demonstrate “a sufficiently compelling need for the journalist’s materials to overcome the privilege.”
‘At a minimum, that requires a showing that the information sought is not obstainbable form another source,” argues the brief, which points out that , “it appears that the US Attorney has not even attempted to make a showing that alternative sources have even been consulted, let alone exhausted, or that Mr. Wolf’s videotape is unique. As the district court repeatedly pointed out, the events Mr. Wolf filmed took place on a public street and the published portions of his video show numerous participants and onlookers, (some with cameras) and dozens of police officers.”
Observing that, ” the record reveals a veritable treasure trove of alternative sources, including possible eye witnesses from law enforcement,” the brief concludes that, “The government seems to want Mr. Wolf’s video not because it is the only source of information about what happened to the police car, but because it speculates that it might be the best and most convenient source of information.”
The full text of the amicus brief which was filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the national Society for Professional Journalists, the WIW Freedom to Write Fund, and the California First Amendment Coalition can be viewed at
P.S.! A fund-raiser for Josh Wolf happens this Saturday, Aug. 19, 7 to 9:30 p.m., at Dance Mission, 3316 24th st., San Francisco. Free Admission, donations appreciated. Entertainers include Diamond Dave Whitaker of Enemy
Combatant Radio and musician John Staedler. Chuck Gonzalez is the DJ.
Speakers include Josh’s mother, Elizabeth Wolf-Spada; Wolf’s uncle Harland Harrison, Libertarian candidate for Congress from San Mateo County;Krissy Keefer, Green Party candidate for Congress from San Francisco’s east side, and Rick Knee of the National Writers Union. Or consider donating online at