This morning’s Boston
Globe reports on the criminal prosecution and college disciplinary
proceeding simultaneously pending against two Wentworth Institute of Technology
male students who had the bad sense (and bad grace) to videotape two female
Massachusetts College of Art and Design students having an intimate moment in
bed in a dormitory within all-too-easy sight range.
There is a common misconception that society pays a heavy
price for allowing free speech – emotional harm to members of target groups,
leakage of national security secrets, stuff like that. In truth, the substantial
positives deriving from vigorous free speech are pretty clear, while the negatives
are highly speculative and usually ideologically driven.
Harvey and I have an article on Simon Glik in today's Phoenix, following up on some of the post-trial coverage we've featured on this blog. In the piece we argue that the legislature needs to change the state wiretapping law in order to better guarantee robust citizen oversight of police and other public officials.
If you doubt that Alice in Wonderland is the best primer available for understanding the legal system, you might read Tony Mauro's latest piece in the Legal Times. The Supreme Court just denied certiorari in the case challenging the government's warrantless wiretapping program, meaning that though it didn't make a decision as to the merits of the case, it couldn't muster four judges who wanted to consider the legal questions.
Over at the law blog Concurring Opinions, Daniel Solove points to an AP article reporting that “Amtrak will start randomly screening passengers' carry-on bags this week in a new security push that includes officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains.” Solove sees a parallel between this and the New York subway’s security push, which he says was “largely symbolic.
Don’t be fooled by all of the
partisan bickering. Congress’ recent debate over enacting a new federal wiretapping
statute boiled down to one very simple question: should Congress transfer the
authority to approve wiretaps from judges, whom the constitution specifically entrusts
with this power, to the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice,
who conduct the surveillance?
Predictably, the massacre at Virginia Tech has unleashed an enormous volume of pseudo-psychiatric babble about developing pre-emptive steps to avoid such tragedies in the future. The harsh truth is that the science of the human mind – to the extent it can be called a science at all – is insufficiently developed to have much predictive value.
While I welcome Judge Haight's decision barring the NYPD from photographing and videotaping political demonstrations, it seems almost quaint, considering the ubiquity of surveillance cameras (private and public) that record so many of our public moves, routinely and without notice. In addition, we’re apt to be captured on tape by fellow citizens armed with video cameras, on the look-out for whatever behavior they consider worth exposing on the Net.
I recall walking into the Cambridge Police Department headquarters in Central Square one day during the peak of the Vietnam era anti-war protests. Looking for a particular officer, I accidentally wandered into an office maintained by the “intelligence” unit of the department. There I came across a wall of photographs spanned of college students and Cambridge residents at local anti-war demonstrations.?xml:namespace>