The Problem with Illinois Department

Radley Balko has written a nice piece for The Huffington Post summarizing the issues with the Illinois wiretap law as it applies to audio recording cops.  His best points:

An actual conviction under the eavesdropping law would likely bring a constitutional challenge, which could well lead to the law being overturned in court. It could also lead to the U.S. Supreme Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit more broadly affirming a First Amendment right to record police, which of course would have ramifications outside of Illinois.

As long as no one is convicted, the law is unlikely to be challenged. That means police can continue to rely on it to harass and intimidate citizens who try to hold them accountable, or who want an independent record of what they believe to be police harassment.


In a report released just this month, the United Nations noted the importance of Internet access and personal technology in facilitating the recent Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East. Technology has given citizens all over the world a remarkable and historic tool to bring transparency to the most brutal and oppressive governments.

But even as Americans have criticized those countries for attempting to prevent protesters from uploading photo, video, blog posts and Twitter accounts of government crackdowns, government officials in the U.S. are still arresting, threatening, intimidating and harassing Americans who attempt to document police abuse in America. (See this example over Memorial Day in Miami.)

No, America isn’t Egypt or Yemen or Iran. But while the scale of the suppression is different, the premise is the same: When a citizen and a police officer have a confrontation, the police officer’s narrative has always given deference by prosecutors, judges and juries — in the same way governments in more oppressive parts of the world have the power to project their own version of events as truth.


Over-reaction Department

I reported yesterday on the violent SWAT team entry into a house on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.  As follow-up, here’s the search warrant affidavit that supports this violent invasion of a home and use of armed force against a man and his children.  Note nothing — absolutely nothing — in the affidavit refers to any armed resistance, arms likely to be found, violent resistance expected, or anything else that one might normally be expected to justify use of a SWAT team.  (Incidentally, this is the same kind of wording one would expect to encounter when federal or state law enforcement seizes records at a company, a brokerage house, an accounting office, etc.  Has anyone noticed SWAT teams being used in those circumstances?  No.  The FBI or local cops show up with their search warrants and start carting away documents.  So what justified use of a SWAT team under these circumstances?)

And then, regarding another SWAT incident in Arizona, there is this from David Rittgers, a legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute.  All in all, I think things will sooner or later come to a head regarding this “militarization” of America’s cops.


When It Becomes Embarrassing, Change the Rules Department

For some time, TSA has posted on its website that photography of security checkpoints is permitted (asking people nevertheless not to photograph the X-ray monitors themselves).  Now, apparently, TSA is considering changing the rules.  (Of course, most TSA agents were blissfully ignorant of their own rules.)

The National Press Photographers Association has written objecting to any changes.


Tennessee Proves It Once Again Department

“It” being that its legislators are among the dumbest in the nation.

Now they’ve passed (and the governor signed) a law “makes it a crime to ‘transmit or display an image’ online that is likely to ‘frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress’ to someone who sees it. Violations can get you almost a year in jail time or up to $2500 in fines.”  Read about it.


An early amateur who returned a couple times — an unusual interpretive series.

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