High Court strikes down state law to prevent videotaping police

Although Illinois has some of the toughest laws against monitoring the police, TSA and other authority figures, the Supreme Court this week struck down an eavesdropping law that allowed for the imprisonment of up to 15 years for the “crime” of videotaping police while on duty.   The Supreme Court ruled the law violates the right to free speech.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the law in 2010 in response to legal trouble regarding the group’s video recording of officers while on duty.  The high court left in place a lower court’s decision that the anti-eavesdropping law in Illinois violates the Constitution.  The law had been in place in the state for 50 years.

Outrageously, Illinois prosecutors pleaded with the Supremes that the lower court’s decision provides “a novel and unprecedented First Amendment protection to ubiquitous recording devices”.  First amendment protection is unprecedented?  Who knew.  Apparently, state prosecutors believe that the protection of first amendment rights of the American people is somehow strange.

Civil libertarians and lovers of freedom and liberty, of course, believe the monitoring of enforcement officers in this country is not only a protected constitutional right (apparently, the court agrees), but also a critical monitoring tactic to ensure against the abuse of powers given to police and government.  Americans should, and do, have every right and obligation to “watch the watchers”.

After victory, the ACLU said of the incident, “Empowering individuals and organizations in this fashion will ensure additional transparency and oversight of public officials across the state.”

The case now goes to an Illinois district court in Chicago where the ACLU will ask a judge to make the temporary injunction of the enforcement of the law permanent.

This comes just months after a similar case in the District of Columbia, where a bystander to a traffic stop on a public street in our nation’s capital was detained and questioned for 30-minutes after snapping pictures of the incident.  The ACLU filed suit on behalf of the man, and the court ruled “a bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and record members in the public discharge of their duties.”  Videotaping officers while on duty is perfectly legal and constitutional provided the photographer is not interfering with enforcement officers.

Leahy would give government unrestricted access to emails

In yet another rampant example of federal hatred of the Constitution and the basic right to privacy, a re-written bill by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy would give a slew of government agencies (22 to be exact) virtually unrestricted access to emails, Facebook posts and Twitter messages of the American people.

According to a report by CNET, Leahy’s original version of the bill actually protected Americans from warrantless searches of personal information.  After complaints from law enforcement and government entities arguing that obtaining warrants would have an “adverse impact” on investigations, the senator re-wrote the bill and added provisions that destroy personal privacy and allows government agencies access to information without warrants or oversight.

The bill would give the Federal Bureau of Investigation complete access to American’s personal information through their Internet Service Provider without notification of the account holder – or even a judge.  The bill essentially eliminates privacy and personal security and recklessly gives unrestrained access to federal agencies – a power that is ripe for abuse.

Under the bill, agencies like the Federal Reserve, OSHA, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Labor Relations Board would gain easy access to American’s information.  It is puzzling why any of these organizations need access to personal information of the American people, especially without basic due process of obtaining a warrant.

A vote on the bill is scheduled for next week.  However, after public outcry over the blatant and transparent destruction of the privacy of all Americans, Leahy backed off of his support of his own bill, a damage control move by the senator in an attempt to save any shred of credibility he may still have with the American people.

Leahy’s attempt at damage control is meaningless, however.  The bill remains scheduled for a vote next week.  American’s privacy remains at stake, and the career Vermont politician is doing his best to skirt the line between getting the bill passed in the Senate and dodging responsibility for the continued destruction of privacy in the United States.

After such a public outcry, it is unclear how many in the Senate are in support of this bill, although one would hope a bill this transparently destructive to the privacy of all Americans would garner very little support – with or without negative publicity.