March 28, 2007

NYPD, Ask Yourself: What Would the Watch Do?

by PG

Most of what's being criticized among the NYPD's tactics against RNC protestors is genuinely questionable behavior, such as entering protestors' meetings by lying to the organizers. I only would caution civil libertarians to be careful of what they label as "spying," and not include monitoring of publicly visible behavior in that category.

There was a tradition of soap-box public speaking in Sator Square. "Speaking" was stretching a point to cover the ranters, haranguers and occasional self-absorbed mumblers that spaced themselves at intervals amongst the crowds. And, traditionally, people said whatever was on their minds and at the top of their voices. The Patrician, it was said, looked kindly on the custom. He did. And very closely, too. He probably had someone make notes.

So did the Watch.

It wasn't spying, Commander Vimes told himself. Spying was when you crept around peeking in windows. It wasn't spying when you had to stand back a bit so that you weren't deafened.

-- Jingo*

Also, in nominations for "dumbest thing read today," I would point guest blogger Dave to this New York Sun piece, which teases with the headline "Obama's View of the Constitution Hinted in Article," and begins with "Is Barack Obama a space cadet?" Yet the big revelation is that Obama "was credited for editorial or research assistance in a page-one footnote of what may be the zaniest-titled article ever published by the Harvard Law Review: 'The Curvature of Constitutional Space: What Lawyers Can Learn From Modern Physics,' authored by noted legal scholar Laurence Tribe." If editors of law journals are to be dogged by every article published during their tenure, that will make those publications even duller than they are. And why the specification of a "page-one footnote"? Does reporter Gary Shapiro know of a law review that puts the author's note on some other page?

* Though if you're more of a stickler, even going undercover without lying can be tough.

Angua brushed out her hair in front of the mirror.

"I don't like this," said Carrot. "It's not a proper way to behave."

She patted him on the shoulder. "Don't worry," she said. "Vimes explained it all. You're acting as though we're doing something wrong."

"I like being a watchman," said Carrot, still in the mournful depths. "And you've got to wear a uniform. If you don't wear a uniform it's like spying on people. He knows I think that."

Angua looked at his short red hair and honest ears. [...]

"And I've never worn plainclothes."

"On you they'll never be very plain," said Angua, pulling on her coat. It was a relief to be out of that armor. As for Carrot, there was no disguising him. The size, the ears, the red hair, the expression of muscular good-naturedness...

March 28, 2007 02:24 AM | TrackBack

Yeah.... that's pretty bad. Although the bulk of the article about Tribe's work is interesting, what it has to do with Obama is beyond me. Hrmmph.

Posted by: Dave at March 28, 2007 01:57 PM

I don't know whether it would relate to the specific case in NYC, but while the monitoring of publicly visible behavior may not qualify as "spying," there can be circumstances where such monitoring could be considered intimidation. Think of voting-interference cases where the complaint was that a police officer was positioned so as to monitor a polling place.

Posted by: Tom T. at March 28, 2007 11:34 PM
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