A man in Illinois faces a possible 75-year sentence for video- and audio recording his interaction with police officials. The man had brought a lawsuit against the local police department for selectively and illegally targeting him for various minor citations.

In many states, wiretapping laws have been expanded to include any video- or audio recording of public officials, including police, without their express consent. These laws make it illegal to record police on duty, even on your own property or within your own home, even if they are concurrently recording you.

I often withhold my opinions in blogs, but not this time. This is absolutely insane, for two reasons.

First, this is clearly, obviously a free-speech issue. If the courts cannot limit how much money a corporations donates to a political campaign because money is a form of speech and corporations are people, then there is no way courts should be able to prevent real human people from recording and publishing videos of public officials doing a public (i.e. tax funded) job, in public.

Second, this is a freedom-from-tyranny issue. The same logic that underwrites the Second Amendment (we need guns to protect us should the state turn tyrannous) underwrites this issue: we need cameras to protect us should the state turn tyrannous. There is a number of cases of police officers abusing their authority, only to be documented by rogue kids with cell phones.

Often, the officers in these cases are merely put on paid leave, and in the case of an officer who was caught on tape shooting an unarmed man in the back, the officer was sentenced to two years in jail. Hardly seems proportional that the man who recorded the video could have been charged of a felony crime himself, and sentenced to more than ten years.

So amidst all the political nonsense and rhetoric during campaign season, I think there's one really important question to ask politicians campaigning for (re)election: can you record police officers without going to jail for it?

What do you think? Do citizens have the right to record public officials working in a public capacity? Is this an important issue in a free society?