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New Crime in California: Performing Undercover Video Journalism While Not a Democrat

New Crime in California: Performing Undercover Video Journalism While Not a Democrat

A message to non-Democrats who dare target a cherished liberal group like Planned Parenthood.

The Democrat Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California has invented a new crime: Performing Undercover Video Journalism While Not a Democrat.

Of course, he didn’t call it that. Nor did his predecessor, now U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, when she launched an investigation of the undercover video operation to expose alleged fetal body part sales by Planned Parenthood.

That investigation resulted in 15 felony charges that were just announced, as we covered the other day, California’s AG Charges Undercover Reporters Who Exposed Planned Parenthood Baby Part Selling.

For the most part, the mainstream media that uses similar undercover video tactics — which is how 60 Minutes made its name — has remained silent about this abuse of the criminal laws to target undercover investigations against a cherished liberal group like Planned Parenthood.

The L.A. Times, to its credit, calls out the blatant politics behind the move, Felony charges are a disturbing overreach for the duo behind the Planned Parenthood sting videos:

There’s no question that anti-abortion activist David Daleiden surreptitiously recorded healthcare and biomedical services employees across the state of California with the intent of discrediting the healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood — something his heavily edited videos failed to do. There’s also no question that it’s against state law to record confidential conversations without the consent of all the parties involved.

But that doesn’t mean that California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra should have charged Daleiden and his co-conspirator, Susan Merritt, with 15 felony counts — one for each of the 14 people recorded, and a 15th for conspiracy. It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be. Planned Parenthood and biomedical company StemExpress, which was also featured in the videos, have another remedy for the harm that was done to them: They can sue Daleiden and Merritt for damages. The state doesn’t need to threaten the pair with prison time….

In similar cases, we have denounced moves to criminalize such behavior, especially in the case of animal welfare investigators who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses and other agricultural businesses to secretly record horrific and illegal abuses of animals. That work, too, is aimed at revealing wrongdoing and changing public policy.

That’s why the state law forbidding recording of conversations should be applied narrowly, and to clear and egregious violations of privacy where the motive is personal gain.

The Wall Street Journal was more blunt:

If the videographers at the Center for Medical Progress had wanted to avoid prosecution, they should have secretly recorded conversations with Michael Flynn. But instead they chose to conduct guerrilla journalism against Planned Parenthood and its associates in the abortion industry. The result was the Tuesday announcement of 15 felony charges against activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Much of the left is taking in stride the news that two people could go to prison for creating undercover videos that embarrassed a large national organization. But it turns out that at least some of our media brethren really meant it when they said they believe in a robust First Amendment.

Kevin Drum from left-wing Mother Jones recognizes the implications, California Should Leave Undercover Video Activists Alone:

I continue to have zero sympathy for these two. They edited their videos deceptively and basically lied about everything they did. Nevertheless, I don’t like the idea of prosecuting them. This was a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it. The First Amendment doesn’t say anything one way or the other about how honest one’s speech has to be.

This also strikes me as political grandstanding. I imagine that if this were a couple of liberal activists secretly recording meetings with anti-immigration groups, Attorney General Xavier Becerra wouldn’t so eager to go after them.

I think you will see more such opinions emerge in the coming days, from left, right and center.

The political move draped in the criminal law by the California Attorney General is a threat to investigative journalism everywhere, and by everyone.


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The “heavily edited” canard surfaces again. Deladien posted the *full* unedited videos at the same time they published the edited (for time, not content) versions. They weren’t hiding anything.

    Walker Evans in reply to jeffweimer. | March 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Absolutely. Comparing the “heavily edited” and unedited videos shows conclusively that there was nothing of substance left out and there was no manipulation of content to paint the Planned Parenthood butchers any worse than they candidly admitted they really are.

    I hope David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt have the resources to fight this as far as necessary to get a victory. Perhaps AG Sessions’ DoJ can look into this as an instance of malicious prosecution.

The left doesn’t have any principles and they don’t give a hoot for this.

They are simply smart enough to recognize that this is a threat to their fundamental modus operandi.

Perhaps in the Age of Trump they are a bit wiser about overreach as it’s easier to imagine Republicans behind the levers of power.

I do not want the Trump administration top make up crimes and abuse power like the Democrats.The Democrats have endlessly abused the power of prosecutors to attack their opponents.

But, hopefully, as time goes by, the Trump justice department will go after real people who did real crimes over the last eight years, and, apparently, is continuing.

If nothing is done, there will be no checks or balances on people who have no conscience and no caring for the rule of law.

Gee, if only it was a federal crime to conspire to deny people their first amendment rights.

Oh… wait…

< Hmmm &bt; Tapping forefinger on chin < /Hmmm &bt;

    RodFC in reply to RodFC. | March 30, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Sorry meant to hit preview.
    < Hmmm > Tapping forefinger on chin < /Hmmm >

    Time for the lawyers to start discussing…
    If other journalists were consistently not prosecuted for such behavior could this be a violation of the equal protection clause rendering enforcement against journalists unconstitutional.

    Could make a whole lot of new case law.

    Also could the failure to consistently prosecute such violations be viewed as a form of collateral estoppal?
    Though that is probably a stretch.

    I wonder if the reporters could file civil rights charges Harris and present AG?

    Also, if they had simply destroyed the recordings, there would never have been charges. Could it be argued that they were effectively charged for speech?

Does this mean a plant wearing a wire to record incriminating evidence for law enforcement is a potential felon? Sound like it.

Subotai Bahadur | March 31, 2017 at 1:32 am

In California it is a major felony to expose any crimes committed by Democrats or their allies. It is not like California is part of America.

You know this is wrong when the L.A. Times and Mother Jones admit that the Ca D.A. went over the line.

Blaise MacLean | March 31, 2017 at 9:43 am

It is imossible to square the L.A. Times’ reporting on this with any remote concept of intellectual honesty. They can only publish a piece such as this if they are being intentionally deceitful.

They complain that the CMP videos were “heavily” or “deceitfully” edited. “BOLLOCKS!” doesn’t begin to cover it. Apart from the fact that all published videos, from all news sources, are edited, the Times conveniently forgets (…actually not “forgets”…deceitfully omits)the Ted Koppel interview just a week ago in which he apparently interviewed conservative talk show host Sean Hannity for close to an hour, but only included less than a minute of the interview in his special. And there have been many complaints that the fragment extracted was highly out of context…i.e. “highly” and “deceitfully” edited. But no L.A. Times complaint about that.

There is one big difference, however, between the Koppel treatment of the raw video and the CMP’s…ALL the CMP’s video footage is available online for everyone to watch, and check against the parts published. Koppel, on the contrary, has kept his raw footage hidden (much like the L.A. Times itself has done, as has been reported, with the al Khalidi recording with Barack Obama).

By definition, newspapers “keep up on current events”. That’s their function. So the L.A. times knows about the Hannity/Koppel issue as well as the existence of the CMP raw video. Though their defence of the CMP is welcome, their framing of the facts is deceitful and dishonourable, and I wish someone would confront them on it.

This all makes sense if you view the aborted fetus as an undocumented organ donor and you are a democrat.

David Breznick | March 31, 2017 at 12:10 pm

A presidential pardon of these two innocent heroes would go down in history as Mr. Trump’s greatest legacy.

And the subsequent riots along coastal cities, Austin and Madison, would expose the leftist agenda for generations to study.

BTW, there are now states with ‘food libel laws’ that make it a felony to misrepresent yourself and take unauthorized pictures in factory farms and slaughter houses.

Do get back to me when you are outraged at that.

Since that is highly unlikely, I say “Lock them up! Lock them up!”