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Privacy rights…murky at best?

March 29, 2017

California reportedly  just filed formal charges against the people that clandestinely filmed the so-called exposé of Planned Parenthood, charging that the self-styled anti-abortion activists had violated the privacy rights of that organization.

Since their footage was front page and lead story material for weeks, most of us are at least somewhat aware of both the content and the mission of these two people.

And yes, there is little doubt that the legal privacy rights of PP were violated, particularly when the footage was shot inside PP’s own facilities, where they would have had a legitimate expectation of privacy.

But here’s the thing. Our government could have done it, hopefully with a warrant, and it would have been perfectly legal and probably would have been admissible in any court.

So how is that different from the so-called incidental surveillance incidents that are apparently at the center of the current liberal vs.Trump Russiagate conspiracy theories?

Technically there would seem to be a reasonable expectation of privacy inherent in a phone or even face-to-face meeting that was not conducted in a public setting.

That’s even more true when you factor in that some of this is purported to have happened after Donald Trump won the election.

Even if the initial surveillance was legally sanctioned, there has been no proof offered to date that clarifies whether or not there were any warrants issued for the members of the Trump campaign and transition teams, much less after he took office.

The media hype notwithstanding, most people are OK with government surveillance of bad guys.

They are not OK with making political hay out of what at least up to now appears to be a case of what commercial fisherman call bycatch, i.e. catching a flounder when you are fishing for cod.

Think of it this way.

Two men are suspected of being drug dealers, and the government gets a warrant to conduct surveillance on them.

There is a picture taken of them taken going into a store, and you happen to be leaving as they are entering. You are now in the same picture. You did not give permission to anyone to film you.

Should the government then be able to haul you in, perp-walk you in front of the media  and charge you anyway?

That’s seems to be what is happening now. Granted, that may be an oversimplification but the underlying right to privacy issue is still germane to the discussion.

Until and unless some agency can prove that they had a legal reason to both record and then release the names of anyone caught up in the “normal” business of spying, it would seem that this whole business is on shaky legal grounds.

Up until the election, all of the people around then candidate Trump were private citizens, with the same so-called right to privacy that is supposed to apply to all of us. It becomes even more problematic after the election.

The waters do seem to get downright murky when you inject politics into the current, and that’s actually more concerning than whatever happened during the original surveillance.

From → op-ed

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