If you illegally record Newt Gingrich talking about his deal with the House ethics committee, you get charged with a crime. Alice and John Martin found this out in 1997.
But what happens when you illegally record ACORN workers? We'll have to wait and see.
See all ACORN posts.
At the New Frontier of Eavesdropping
The New York Times
January 19, 1997
By John Markoff
If only Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio had
prevailed upon his wife to buy a digital cellular phone
instead of a conventional analog model. Then, while
cruising past the waffle shop in Lake City, Fla., John and
Alice Martin would have merely heard static on their Radio
Shack scanner instead of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The Florida janitor and his wife, whose recording of the
Speaker's conversation with Mr. Boehner and some other
Republican colleagues set off a fight in the House ethics
committee last week, inadvertently drew national attention
to the ease with which it is possible to eavesdrop in the
information age. They also wrote a new chapter in the
high-tech spy-vs.-spy war that is as old as American
communications technology itself...
Alice and John Martin were charged with illegal recording of a conversation they overheard of Newt Gingrich discussing a deal he made with the House ethics committee. McDermott was on the ethics committee that investigated Newt Gingrich.
Jim Lehrer News Hour
January 14, 1997
...ALICE MARTINE: ...Mr. McDermott... we told him we had something to turn--we told him we had something to turn over to the Ethics Committee, and he asked us who we were. He took the envelope in his hand and he felt where the tape was, and he said he would listen to it. And then he asked if there was any way to get in touch with us. And so my husband gave him one of his STPNEA cards, and he said, thank you, and we said, thank you, and we left.
KWAME HOLMAN: Two days later the contents of the tape were on the front page of the "New York Times." The tape potentially could cause problems for Newt Gingrich, who had made a deal with the Ethics Committee not to orchestrate a response to its charges. But the tape might cause problems for McDermott as well because federal law prohibits intentionally intercepting telephone calls or intentionally disclosing their contents. Late this afternoon McDermott announced he will recuse himself from any further work on the Gingrich ethics matter. As for the Martins, they too could be prosecuted for their actions...
NEWS REPORT ABOUT THE TAPE
...DAVID BANISAR: It's not only illegal to intercept the conversation but it's also illegal under a different provision of it to disclose that conversation once you listen to it.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You mean to turn it over to somebody else?
DAVID BANISAR: Right. To make a recording and to give it to somebody, or to even repeat what was said on that conversation is a violation.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And to record it--
DAVID BANISAR: Yes.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: --also?
DAVID BANISAR: That's also a violation.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And what about the people who receive the contents of it, are they covered under this law as well?
DAVID BANISAR: There's not a specific provision that prohibits you from receiving an illegally recorded phone call, but if you disclose it again, you're then also covered under the law.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In effect, the person who receives it, if he then or she then discloses it, that's also illegal?
DAVID BANISAR: Right. If you throw it in the garbage, it's probably not a violation, but if you were to say give a transcript of it to the "New York Times," it would probably be a violation...