Posts Tagged 'wiretapping'

Double Standard Much? James O’Keefe Kicks Out Videographer

Conservative activist/wiretapper James O’Keefe has made his name in surreptitious recordings of high-level executives making supposed impolitic and embarrassing statements, including most recently, the top fundraiser at NPR who was caught on camera deriding the Tea Party and saying that public radio would be better off without federal funding. That dustup cost the fundraiser, Ron Schiller, and NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, their jobs — and lead to a House vote to defund NPR.

But this past Thursday night, O’Keefe had an Asbury Park Press videographer kicked out of a Tea Party event in Keyport, New Jersey because he didn’t want it filmed. (See the video here.) Isn’t it strange, if you brand yourself as a morally charged force for openness and good, that you wouldn’t allow recording of your own activities? Crusaders for any cause should believe in transparency, or else they just look foolish.

Source: Asbury Park Press

Judge Rules for Watchmen: Graber Cleared of Wiretapping Charges

It’s been the case that has served as the flash point of the photographers’ rights issue lately–and now justice, and common sense, has prevailed. Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr., the Harford County Circuit Court judge presiding over Maryland motorcyclist Anthony Graber’s felony wiretapping case, ruled today that police do not have an expectation of privacy when in public while performing their duties.

“Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. ‘Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes’ (“Who watches the watchmen?”).”

Judge Pitt also ruled against Hartford County State’s Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly’s (the prosecutor behind this entire fiasco) claim that Graber should be charged with possessing a “device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications” because of the camera he used to record the encounter between himself and Joseph Uhler—the Maryland State Trooper who pulled his gun and ordered Graber to “get off the motorcycle” before identifying himself.

The judge disagreed with the prosecutor that the helmet cam was illegal, and concluded the state’s argument would render illegal “almost every cell phone, Blackberry, and every similar device, not to mention dictation equipment and other types of recording devices.”

And as was reported by The Washington Examiner:

“This ruling upholds the fundamental right to hold police accountable to the public and constitutional principles they serve,” said attorney David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, who represented Graber along with a team of private attorneys who took the case pro bono.

Now who wants to see Cassilly and Uhler held financially liable for pursuing these frivolous charges against Graber, and then thrown in jail for 16 years (which is the amount time Graber was facing) for wasting taxpayers’ money?  And let’s not forget about the anonymous judge who signed the search warrant that allowed the cops to illegally enter Graber’s home and steal his private property.

Joseph I. Cassilly
Circuit Court, 1st Floor
20 W. Courtland Street
Bel Air, Maryland 21014

Article from The Washington Post and The Washington Examiner

It’s Our Right to Videotape Police, Says ‘Time’

Screen grab: YouTube

Time magazine gets in on the photographers’ rights debate with an essay by lawyer Adam Cohen in this week’s issue that asks, ” Should Videotaping the Police Really Be a Crime?” (I believe the answer is “Hells no,” but I think this is a rhetorical question.)

…the police can do a lot of damage just by threatening to arrest and prosecute people. “We see a fair amount of intimidation — police saying, ‘You can’t do that. It’s illegal,'” says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU’s Washington office. It discourages people from filming, he says, even when they have the right to film.

And the money shot, the irrefutable argument, as Cohen writes, is: “If the police are doing their jobs properly, they should have nothing to worry about.”

Read the whole article on

Photographing Police – on KPCC/NPR

Today, Patt Morrison of Southern California’s NPR station (89.3 KPCC) talked about the right of citizens to videotape and record police activity – a hot-button issue lately with the Johannes Mehserle and Anthony Graber cases, among others. Guests Peter Bibring of the ACLU and Byron Warnken, law professor at the University of Baltimore, take on the topic, and Morrison even brings up the people who have been harassed taking photos of buildings in downtown LA.

Listen to the whole segment here.

MSM Backs Photographers’ Rights

Photographer Jerome Vorus’ July 3rd encounter with DC police on a Georgetown street has gotten a lot of traction in the media, with reports on, NBC Washington, Reason magazine’s blogWe Love DC and DCist, among others. It surprised me because, if you follow these things, it was a pretty run of the mill event. Maddening, ridiculous,probably  illegal, yes — but pretty standard.

But for some reason the media really jumped on it. And the more mainstream outlets that highlight the absurdity of this harassment, the more likely police departments will review their policies and educate their officers.

On a related note, in an editorial yesterday, USA Today came out in support of the rights of citizens to film police activity. (Be sure to also read the counter point from the police union. Overall, I just don’t buy the “these videos must be viewed in context in order to be understood” argument. I think the Oscar Grant killing, the Times Square cyclist attacks and the UMD beatings, to name a few recent ones, all stand on their own.)

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