More on Red's Trading Post
Here's Glenn Reynold's take on the issue.
"Personally, I can't see any legitimate reason for ATF personnel conducting a routine inspection not to be photographed. What possible problem is there with photographing public employees performing a public duty in a public place? Certainly if ATF agents were photographing ordinary citizens in such a setting, we'd hear that there was "no legitimate expectation of privacy," right?"
Go to Insty's linked piece, which is Codrea's War on Guns, and in the comments there is one by "KC Steve" which suggests setting up live webcams in Red's.
If that was done, what are the First Amendment questions on those webcams? Have they been recognized as free speech as has videotaping in a public place?
I fail to see how the webcams would be harrassment, since any case of harrassment must have a victim, who, if he doesn't feel harassed or know he's being harrassed, isn't a harassment victim. I think that point was made in the Pennsylvania case cited by Codrea.
The BATFE has a very minor point, which is that their auditors "feel" harrassed. Those auditors then have to convince the court that the conduct (people with cameras recording their actions) which they felt victimized by was actually improper, or, the court will decide that they were overly sensitive.
If there were no persons behind those cameras, the human interaction element of "harrassment" would be removed. Were a court to find that a robot camera is a harrassment factor, the government would have to stop using them too, or equal protection would be violated.
So, I think that the case would hinge on the actual way the cameras were being operated. If it was a "stick-the-lens-in-your-face" type of thing, the court might very well agree with the auditors that they were being harassed. On the otherhand, if the camera operators were recording from across the room, I doubt that any court would find that offensive.
In 2002, I was sued by an infamous local anti-abortion protestor known as the "Portland Porcupine". This guy had joined with the Constitution Party which was protesting the contempt jailing of another anti-abortion guy for failing to satisfy a court judgment obtained by a pro-abortion protestor who was roughed up at the anti-guy's office.
Some recorded threats were made to the judge in the case, and I was assigned both to investigate and provide additional protection for the judge.
As part of my investigation, I noted a group of protesters confabbing in the courthouse hallway just before an appearance (in custody) by the contemptor. I took their pictures, while in uniform, from about 20 feet away.
The lawsuit accused me of maintaining an illegal police file on participants in a political cause (actually a real statute in Oregon), and said that my supposed violation of this statute was a Federal Civil Rights violation.
The case against me was tossed because the judge quickly decided that my conduct was professional and followed standards, and no actual harassment of the plaintiff had occurred (under Oregon law, therefore there was no case under Federal Law).
If my case was cited (Federal District of Oregon, but within the Ninth Circuit just like the Red's case would be), the roles are reversed, but the principles remain the same, so Red's would prevail, IMHO.
Posted by: Rivrdog at July 25, 2007 06:34 PM
I was commenting to a friend last night about Red's Trading post and the ATF. He said something that made a whole lotta sense, especially when I read this article today.
It seems that Canada wants us to stop the illegal flow of guns in the their country. Could the ATF be using these operations as a way to say we are doing are part?
Anybody else have a take on this?
Posted by: Jeremy at July 26, 2007 01:28 PM