City Hall officials have acknowledged that staff for Mayor Rahm Emanuel have been illegally recording phone conversations with Chicago Tribune reporters. The Illinois Eavesdropping Act prohibits the recording of a conversation without consent of “all parties” involved.
The Chicago Tribune reports:
The issue reached a public forum last week when a court filing in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city raised questions about whether a city spokeswoman had recorded Tribune reporters without their consent as they conducted a phone interview with Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in October 2011.
And in separate incidents this past September, city spokespeople twice recorded a Tribune reporter as he conducted phone interviews with a top city official involved in Emanuel’s controversial speed camera program. The spokespeople acknowledged that they independently recorded the interviews without asking the reporter for consent.
Emanuel responded to questions about the issue during a press conference on Monday, telling reporters, “My view is, like all, we have a press conference here, I expect my staff to have a record of it… And if I have a phone conversation, an interview, I expect to have a record of it as well.” A city attorney insisted this is not a “widespread practice” and “steps have been taking to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Sounds pretty reasonable right? Only, this presents just one more example of the ruling class’s failure to adhere to the same laws the rest of do, and brush it off. But, there have been several cases in the past few years in which citizens were subject to arrest, detention, confiscation of their properties, and charged with Class 1 Felonies, for violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Act.
The Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which was written originally to protect citizens against illegal wire tapping in places like their own home, is now terribly antiquated, in an age of smart phones and other everyday devices capable of recording audio and video communications. In fact, Illinois is one of only 12 states in the union, which is still considered to be an “all-party-consent” state. Thanks to the way the law is written, if you accidentally record someone else’s voice, who happens to be speaking near you, while you are filming something as innocent as your children riding their bikes, you are committing a felony in Illinois.
Recently the law has come under scrutiny, and has even been declared unconstitutional by multiple county judges. Currently, legislation, which attempts to amend the law, is sitting in the state General Assembly. However, the proposed amendments also fail to address completely the issue, only giving citizens more permissions to record police officers on duty, with many qualifiers, too difficult for most average people to understand.
Perhaps, if the Mayor of Chicago believes his staff doesn’t need to abide by this law, the Illinois General Assembly will take a serious look at repealing this ridiculous law and replacing it with one that makes a little more sense. Then again, it is Illinois.