Sunday, May 20, 2012

Okay, it's not all doom and gloom

Updated A few posts down, in my rant about the attack on the idea of "the Commons," I mentioned briefly "moves being undertaken to restrict participation in the political life to the nation." One of the ways that has manifested itself over the past few years is cops harassing or even arresting people trying to take pictures or videos of them, taking their cameras and cellphones and deleting files. People even have been charged with felonies for recording what cops are doing on a public street.

Happily, this is an area in which there is some significant (in both senses of the word, strength and source) pushback:
In a win for technology, citizen journalism, and our Constitutional rights, the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a letter to the Baltimore City Police Department reconfirming that photographing, video- and audio-recording on-duty police officers is a Constitutional right protected by the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
The DOJ pointedly informed the Baltimore police that "recording police officers in the public discharge of their duties is protected by the First Amendment" and that "interference with recording of police activities except in narrowly circumscribed situations" should be prohibited.

What's more, "officers must not search or seize a camera or recording device without a warrant" and should not "threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices."

The DOJ took interest in the case, arising from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of someone whose cellphone was seized, earlier this year. In response, Baltimore issued an order saying that citizens have an “absolute right” to record police, provided it doesn't violate any other laws, like obstruction of justice. I doubt you'll be surprised to hear that the response of the police department was to, um, broaden its understanding (let's call it) of what constitutes obstruction of justice and keep right on doing what it had been doing. The DOJ has now made it clear that this just won't cut it.

I have had a fair amount to say about the Obama DOJ. Some of it was good, as when it declined to appeal an Appeals Court ruling that part of the TRAITOR Act is unconstitutional and when it refused to continue to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Most of it was bad, as when AttGen Eric Holder endorsed the bogus "state secrets" privilege, signed off on a subpoena demanding reporter James Risen reveal his sources, urged a "carveout" in the Miranda warning, said he was personally overseeing attempts to find ways to charge Julian Assange with espionage, and, most notoriously, defended the claim that the president has the authority to have an American citizen killed based on evidence no one outside the president's inner circle gets to see.

But credit where it's due and this latest action definitely goes on the "good" side of the ledger.

Updated because a partially-finished draft was mistakenly posted instead of the completed version.

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');