Civil Liberties

Backlash Against Anthony Graber's Arrest


The arrest of Maryland motorcyclist Anthony Graber is generating some considerable backlash against the state's law enforcement officials. Graber was arrested and is being charged with felonies for posting video to YouTube of a cop who pulled his gun on Graber during a traffic stop. I've written about Graber here and here, and I discussed the case on WBAL's Ron Smith show yesterday.

Cato's David Rittgers has posted his own analysis of how officials are misinterpreting the state's wiretapping law here. Rittgers also discussed the issue on D.C. NPR affiliate WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi show.

And in a somewhat odd pairing, anarchist writer Wendy McElroy's write-up of the issue was picked up by Gizmodo. That triggered a link and discussion thread at Slashdot.

It's good to see this issue picking up steam. As I said on Smith's show yesterday, there seems to be a big disconnect here between the general public's attitude on recording cops (the feedback I've received has been almost unanimous in support of ensuring that the practice is legal) and the attitudes of law enforcement officials (on-duty cops have a right to privacy) and politicians (generally a position of deference to law enforcement).

The issue is important not just in order to keep law enforcement transparent and accountable, but in that it raises fundamental questions about the nature of individual rights in a free society. The way Maryland officials are interpreting the state's wiretapping law, government agents—in this case on-duty cops—have privacy rights in public spaces that ordinary citizens don't. But state employees acting as state employees don't have rights. Citizens have rights. Governments and their employees have powers, and only to the extent that those powers have been delegated to them by the people they're governing.