September 4, 2011
America, the time has since past to require government representatives--elected, appointed
or hired-- to take, and pass, a 7th grade equivalent civics examination on fundamental liberty. Leave no politician behind, should be the motto. The Constitutional freedoms and protections that our ancestors fought and shed blood for have clearly been forgotten--if ever learned.
Recently, in a strong opinion, the Court of Appeal for the First Circuit explained that, "the public's right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press." The opinion made clear that the public has First Amendment protections for news-gathering which cannot turn on professional credentials or status.
The fundamental liberties upon which our nation was founded have been taken for granted for far too long. While the public has been asleep at the switch, leaving misguided law makers to mind the constitutional chicken coop, we've been robbed!
Zero tolerance must become the new standard for politicians because it's not enough to just be ashamed of people like Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) whose staffers recently directed Cincinnati police to confiscate video cameras and cell phones at a town hall meeting. Or, for the Boston police officers that arrested bystander Simon Glik who witnessed and used his phone to record three officers using excessive force on an unknown man.
Since when do our constitutional protections turn on a police officer's desire to avoid a
Rodney King incident, or a self serving politician who wishes to avoid YouTube accountability in a public forum? In Chicago, State's Attorney Anita Alvarez is currently prosecuting an individual for violating an Illinois eavesdropping statute for publicly recording police officers. What public interest is served by enforcing laws to protect politicians or police from public scrutiny?
Elected congressional representatives, appointed state's attorney's, police officers and all public servants should be subject to a, one-strike-an- you're-out standard. There should be a presumption of incompetence and unfitness for public service unless they know, embrace and without reservation carry out their duties to protect the public exercise of our "basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment."
Recently, the media reported that Chicago police were conducting random searches of bags and backpacks of individuals who were passing by Chicago beaches on the pathways
that run adjacent to the beach and Lake Shore Drive. Use of widely available audio/video recording devices are prevented in public interest investigations by citizens and organizations like the ACLU--again, what public interest do such laws and their enforcement truly serve?
Isn't it reasonable for the public to expect that the police officer know, understand and follow the constitutional guarantee of the Fourth Amendment which protects the public from unreasonable searches and seizure by the government without a warrant? While there are exceptions to this warrant requirement, a strict scrutiny analysis mandates that the interests of the public be favored and our reasonable expectations of privacy be honored.
Apparently, republican Rep. Steve Chabot believes that there is an elected politician exception. He has been known to restrict the format of his town hall events--requiring
participants to sign in when they enter and write out their questions beforehand. His staffers choose which questions the congressman answers. Has forceful removal of personal/private cameras and cell phones to keep video footage from hitting YouTube become an exception to fundamental constitutional rights? Are you clicking your heels
together three times repeating, "there's no place like home?"
Americans, we have only ourselves to blame and vigilant transparency at all levels of
government must become the standard. Every American should reasonably expect that a police officer who is directed to seize video cameras and/or cell phones at a public town hall event, in a public venue (high school gym), hosted by a public official, would ask and establish--on what authority he's expected to carry out such a directive?
It's no surprise that far too many politicians like Steve Chabot or attorney's like Anita Alvarez believe themselves above the law of the land. Somehow, they've become confused enough to think that there is a public interest to be served by keeping video footage
from hitting YouTube and avoiding accountability.
I hope you'll take a few minutes to the watch, "Is This America" which was created to accompany this article: http://youtu.be/EWJnHV0PSGY
Your thoughts are most welcome.