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By Paul Meekin
Two anti-abortion activists / journalists were charged with over a dozen felonies in California following their undercover recording of Planned Parenthood officials, and other reproductive rights activists at 2014’s National Abortion Federation conference.
The videos stirred up controversy and showed officials talking cavalierly regarding the sale of fetal tissue to medical research firms – putting price tags on specifics like brains and livers. According to some were ‘deceptively edited’,
The pair, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, set up a fake medical research company, and used fabricated driver’s licenses to pull off the scheme.
California is a two-party consent state when it comes to recording, which means the recorder needs to make the recordee aware of the fact they are on camera, or a phone call is being recorded or else the recording is illegal.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he “will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.” However, other illegal recording incidents in California have not resulted in litigation, including the recording of LA Clippers Owner Donald Silver by his mistress, and a Taco Bell executive, famous for beating on an Uber driver, sued his driver for illegally recording him in California, but no criminal charges were filed.
There are obviously a number of nuances and differences amongst those cases – including whether charges were filed, and what actions were undertaken by lawyers and courts.
This will be a case to watch, though, as regardless of how you feel about Planned Parenthood or technically illegal acts to serve the common good, there is one clear point to be made: This is a mess. We have here a convoluted situation where political ideology, murky law, activism, privacy, and truth run into each other like a mosh-pit at a death metal show.
It seems we’re approaching a situation where someone’s right to privacy is based on something other than the law, and instead political opinion – and what’s to be gained from that violation.
Hacked DNC e-mails? Bad. Nebulously obtained 2005 Tax return? Good. Shocking conversations of reproductive rights activists regarding monetary gain for fetal tissue? Bad. Racist recording of an NBA Owner? Good.
Public opinion on Wikileaks changes hourly, it seems.
There must be a standard for these things. Be it at work, home, on the phone, or even in a private Facebook group, folks should have the expectation of being able to speak candidly about topics without fear of being recorded or reported upon, or else no one will be honest and the first amendment as we know it will seize to be.
Something must be done, and it must be done fairly and absent political ideology. “Maybe they picked this case because it was really good and knew that they could establish good law with this.” reported a law student familiar with the situation.
Was the information uncovered by Merritt and Daleiden worthwhile? Yes. Was it obtained illegally? Yes.
Is that illegal act worth 14 felony charges? We’re gonna find out.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The views expressed are those of the author, they are not representative of The Libertarian Republic or its sponsors.
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