The Federalist posted an article today about the State of California’s legal case against David Daleiden. David Daleiden is director of the Center for Medical Progress, the group that exposed the sale of aborted baby body parts by Planned Parenthood.
The article reports:
An undercover reporter has been arraigned in California and charged with ten felonies for secretly recording conversations, and it’s time to revisit how the judiciary and the law can stifle the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press.
The accused, David Daleiden, used standard media undercover techniques to investigate and expose Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted fetus body parts. While the use of undercover techniques like Daleiden’s is a controversial practice even within journalism circles, Daleiden’s upcoming jury trial has far wider implications for journalists.
Namely, can and should government criminalize undercover reporting, which historically has revealed otherwise hidden wrongdoing of all kinds?
The article cites the history of investigative journalism:
Let’s first put aside that Daleiden, as director of the Center for Medical Progress, is a pro-life activist—which is not a crime. He should have the same right to penetrate the practices of America’s abortion providers and report his findings just as other reporters and publications investigate other matters.
Consider the multitude of covertly conducted investigations exposing threats to public health and safety, racism, and various other injustices, dating back to the dawn of our republic. To mention a few: In a classic case of disguised reporters using hidden cameras, ABC “Prime Time Live” outed Food Lion’s alleged unsanitary food handling practices. “Dateline” NBC deployed decoys and hidden cameras to expose men who solicited sex with minors on the Internet. Vanity Fair had a clandestine reporter join a tour group to the Holy Land to probe then-President George W. Bush’s alleged ties to religious right leaders.
Undercover Chicago Tribune reporters, working from the inside as employees, exposed life-threatening conditions in nursing homes. Another Tribune reporter worked undercover in the city’s election board to reveal widespread election fraud. Chicago Sun-Times reporters, working inside, turned up dangerous practices at abortion clinics. The paper also opened a bar, the Mirage, in a sting using hidden cameras to bare shakedowns by city inspectors.
Unfortunately, David Daleiden exposed something that the media did not want exposed.
The article concludes:
Even if the government’s action were bias-free, Daleiden’s pursuit still jeopardizes quality journalism. The California accusations are based on the claim his targets had an expectation of privacy even when the conversations were conducted in a public place, like a restaurant or hotel convention hall, where bystanders could hear them. It’s a ludicrous assertion, a gross misinterpretation, and an undue and overbroad extension of the law.
…The Los Angeles Times deemed the prosecution “disturbingly aggressive” and an “overreach.”
Possible prison sentences and burdensome fines attached to criminal conduct cannot be ignored in this debate. They are more than a disincentive to expose wrongdoing; they give the upper hand to criminal enterprises, powerful corporations, avenging politicians, ideologues, and special interests to protect themselves from public condemnation and costly penalties for misconduct. This is not a loophole that the Founding Fathers had in mind when they crafted the constitutional protection of freedom of the press.
Even those who disagree with Daleiden and his techniques but care about how the precedent-setting legal actions against him that could define press freedom in the future need to follow this case as it winds through the legal system, possibly all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the problem with Planned Parenthood continues. Millions of aborted baby body parts continue to be sold. No one in Congress has the backbone to make this totally illegal–the Democrats are being paid off by Planned Parenthood PAC’s and the Republicans have no spine.