Laws Against Audio and Video Recording Protect Liars, Abusers, and Government Criminals

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In recent months, there have been an increasing number of news stories that reflect the growingly abusive application of anti-recording and anti-photography laws in the United States as the nation slides towards totalitarianism. These laws are frequently being used to protect liars, abusers, and criminals and are seldom applied to protect actual victims. While the recordings are sometimes of civilians like Mel Gibson verbally abusing his ex-girlfriend, other times they are government officials carrying badges and guns who are abusing their power, violating civil rights, or simply showing their true colors they don’t want the world to see.

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Lying and Abuse In Family Conflicts

While it is clear Mel Gibson (or somebody who sounds much like him) was verbally abusive and vulgar in the recording, we don’t know what Oksana Grigorieva was up to for sure. Some suggest that as she knew the recording was being made, she may have controlled her own language better than usual and put in comments she knew would upset Gibson to make him furious. Clearly in the recording above, she changes from being relatively quiet at the beginning towards being far more loud and aggressive towards the end. Of course given Gibson’s words and tone, that doesn’t seem surprising. The point is that recordings can be manipulated, but if you know the whole thing is a recording then those listening to or viewing it can consider that in the overall context of other information. As the public knows, Gibson has had angry outbursts at other times and there is plenty of other information to consider.

Many who have gone through divorces and child custody battles have experienced the false accusations, fabrications, and distortions common to bitter ex-spouses. If you dare risk a phone call to your kids, you can end up being accused of harassment or making death threats by a lying ex-spouse. Without a recording to prove what you said, too often the police will arrest the falsely accused on nothing more than allegations without evidence. Some prosecutor out to make a name as a “protector of women and children” may believe the liar and proceed to prosecute. If you could make recordings of phone calls in which you are a participant, you could protect yourself from such false accusations. But if you make such a recording today, you are risking being prosecuted under wiretap laws. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Others who truly are being abused may try to prove the abuse by making recordings only to find they are inadmissible. They may even be prosecuted for trying to protect themselves against a real abuser or criminal merely because they were collecting evidence which is exactly what making a recording is.

Police Abuse Recordings

If you are some poor bloke who happens to be walking down the street and doing nothing wrong and is beaten, tasered, or shot by an abusive cop, the videos that bystanders may have taken of the police abuse can be seized. The parties making the recordings can be arrested for having photographed, recorded, or videotaped the cops. Welcome to the new fascist nation of the United States of America.

There are estimates of 20% of the population suffering from personality disorders and many of these people are pathological liars. False accusations of serious crimes are the norm in many divorces. Cops in this day and age continue to abuse both innocent people and those not so innocent. Recordings are essential resources to help protect the innocent while aiding in prosecution of criminals for the crimes they truly did commit. For all of these reasons and more, recordings should be encouraged, not prosecuted.

Anthony Graber's Motorcycle Helmet Camera
Graber’s Helmet Camera

For example, motorcyclist Anthony Graber wore a helmet camera and recorded himself going 127 mph and doing wheelies in Harper County, Maryland. This dangerous driving got the attention of a Maryland plainclothes cop in an unmarked car who pulled in front of Graber and drew a gun on him without showing any ID but claiming verbally, with no evident proof, that he was a cop. The video shows how it appears this cop, claimed to be Joseph David Uhler, failed to identify himself in a reasonable fashion and threatened to use deadly force despite the motorcycle having already slowed to a stop.

Graber got a traffic ticket. He deserved it and admits that. The video shows exactly what he was doing, making it clear he was speeding and driving dangerously. Perhaps Uhler’s actions can be understood given the high speed and how a marked police cruiser pulled up behind Graber around the time Uhler pulled in front and got out with his gun.

Graber later posted the helmet camera video to YouTube, thinking it was no big deal. The helmet camera had been clearly visible and nothing was mentioned about it. Then police proceeded to obtain a search warrant, raid his home and take his computers and camera, and charge him with felony anti-recording crimes that could land him in prison for between 5 and 16 years. How is this reasonable? It’s not by any means.

Anthony Graber’s helmet camera video

A news video from the local ABC affiliate shows excerpts from the video with the cop’s face blurred to “protect” him and an interview with Graber.

Maryland cops are getting quite a reputation for being abusive with the growing number of recordings of their misconduct. The video below shows cops beating a college student without provocation. Without recordings like this one, cops get away with beating and even killing people without provocation. Recordings are a necessary defense against government abuse which is exactly why the criminals who run American governments are so intent on punishing people who make such recordings.

University of Maryland Police Beating Video

Especially surprising is that even home security cameras located in one’s own home are triggering abusive arrests and prosecution. Cops become upset by the misconduct such cameras have recorded and want to punish and silence those who made the recordings.

(from Six Legal Ways for Cops to Abuse You)

Even if you have installed home security cameras and are robbed, you are not safe from these anti-recording laws. In Nashua, New Hampshire, cops showed up to respond to robbery call and treated the victims poorly, something their home security camera caught. When they complained to police about the misconduct and showed them the videos as proof, the cops decided to press wiretapping charges for illegally recording them. They seized the recordings to suppress public awareness of their abusive nature.

(from No police scrutiny: Drop the camera and back away)

In Nashua in 2006, police charged Michael Gannon with wiretapping after he brought surveillance video from his home security cameras to the police station to show police brass how poorly he said officers treated his son while they investigated a robbery charge. The wiretapping charge was later dropped, but police kept the evidence — the security video recordings.

Laws Should Focus on Misuse of Recordings, Not Making Recordings

Citizens are not safe in the United States without being able to prove what was said and what happened. These recordings should be legal and communicating them should be protected by free speech laws. The potential for abuse, such as breaking into an electronic communications session to record it or using recordings for extortion and blackmail, can be dealt with via other laws that already exist.

Yet American governments are against this and wish to punish people who make recordings that embarrass them. Dishonest US President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was embarrassed by Linda Tripp‘s audio recordings of phone calls with Monica Lewinsky, the intern who engaged in sexual relations with Clinton. Tripp was charged with a crime for political reasons due to demands by Democrats who wanted to punish her for revealing Clinton’s immoral conduct.

(from Wikipedia: Linda Tripp)

Tripp was a resident of Columbia, Maryland at the time she made her surreptitious recordings of the conversations with Lewinsky, and 49 Democrats in the Maryland Legislature signed a letter to the state prosecutor demanding that Tripp be prosecuted under Maryland’s wiretap law.

But government wants to suppress recordings for more than just avoiding embarrasment for immoral and illegal activities. They also want to “protect” the government from being held liable for violating people’s rights. That’s the reason for the recent spike in the police abuse of anti-recording laws being used to cover up police misconduct. No abusive cop wants to actually pay for his or her crimes. With today’s laws, they can make the victim into a criminal. That’s not just wrong, it makes our entire society a less safe place.

When criminals in government make the laws, America becomes a nation by the criminals, for the criminals. These criminals have no use for citizens then can’t control, subjugate, tax, and otherwise victimize. Recordings can help the citizens rid the government of criminals and that’s exactly why government thinks these recordings are so threatening.

Some raise the question of recordings being tampered with to create false impressions. That’s quite valid. But the answer is not to make recording illegal but rather to encourage all parties in a conflict to make recordings. Further, technology could be used to make tampering with recordings more difficult by embedding running encryption codes that could be used to help authenticate that digital recordings were probably not altered. Those who claimed recordings were authentic who are caught having altered them could be prosecuted for perjury, falsification of evidence, or wrongful police reports or sued for civil defamation.

Finally, if you truly don’t want somebody to record what you are saying, then don’t say it or make an explicit anti-recording agreement that can be litigated in civil court if there is a violation. It’s little different than the many types of nondisclosure agreements routinely used in industry. You don’t see corporations demanding that there be criminal penalties for violating nondisclosure agreements, do you? No, they know this can be easily handled by no longer trusting a party who violated such an agreement and in civil courts when necessary. The same could be done with agreements to not record a conversation.

It is time that laws in the United States be updated to reflect the new reality. It should be legal to record anything that you can see or hear in your home, workplace, in or from a public location, or via a telecommunications device in a conversation in which you are a participant without requiring all parties agree to the recording. This should apply to both audio and video recordings, combinations thereof, of for photography as well. In short, if you can see it or hear it because you’re there or are a participant, you should have a right to make a record of it unless you have made a voluntary agreement otherwise.

Further Reading

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Abusive Conduct and Failure To Follow Law by Judge William Watkins Requires His Removal From Bench

Taxi Cab Driver Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault As Ploy to Avert $13 Cab Fare

US Courthouses Are Venues for Sociopathic Harassment Against Targets Without Audio and Video Recording Devices

Six Legal Ways for Cops to Abuse You

Governments and Rent-A-Cops Harass Photographers

Are Cameras the New Guns?

No police scrutiny: Drop the camera and back away

Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police

USA Today: “When citizens film police, it shouldn’t be a crime”

Mainstream media bring attention to wiretapping law abuse

Traffic stop video on YouTube sparks debate on police use of Md. wiretap laws

Mel Gibson Phone Recording Illegal, With Exceptions

Oksana Had Lawsuit Ready Against Mel Gibson

  1. one of thousands
    July 23rd, 2010 at 14:14 | #1

    Laws against illicit recording are in place for several reasons. None of them have anything to do with discovering the truth.

    First, government — your government — protects the ability to lie. Prosecutors, judges, DAs, police, and state officials, get this, want to protect the ability to lie.

    Why would you want to protect the ability to lie? Because you’re…

    Second, “traditional” media that has “traditionally” (I use that term with intended sarcasm) recorded police etc. is in bed with power. They will report that they want, and often it’s what police want too. They work in the same environment, pay attention to the same events, are beholden to the same money interests, and need your money. It’s called cronyism. Limit the number of cameras and the number of outlets, and you limit the message. And the truth.

    Third, government (i.e., the thugs down the street) doesn’t like to be embarrassed. We record incompetence, they get heat. And can get embarrassed, or more appropriately, fired. They don’t like that.

    If you’re afraid that what your doing will get you fired, don’t do it. If you’re afraid that you’ll be prosecuted, don’t do it. Do what’s right, live within your rights as a free citizen in an increasingly fascist nation. Don’t take any shit from government thugs. And until then, all eyes on them.

  2. AVillred
    August 15th, 2010 at 21:07 | #2

    The incident with Maryland cop, anyone that looks at the whole situation would do exactly what the cop did. He was doing his job……

  1. September 7th, 2010 at 06:03 | #1
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  3. November 30th, 2010 at 05:50 | #3
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