A Virginia woman has been arrested for blogging about the members of a local drug task force. The charge is harassment of a police officer. She apparently posted on the blog one officer’s home address, as well as photos of all members of the task force, and a photo of one officer getting into his unmarked car in front of his home.
Most readers of this site oppose the drug war. Set that aside for a moment. Assume instead that these officers were investigating organized crime, or a terror cell. What do you think of this woman’s arrest? Photographing, writing about, and criticizing police officers, even by name, should of course be legal. But it’s a tougher call when the officers in question work undercover. Naming them, posting their photos, posting their addresses, are all pretty clearly efforts to intimidate them, and it isn’t difficult to see how doing so not only makes it more difficult for them to do their jobs, but may well endanger their lives.
The woman says all of the information on her blog was publicly available. If that’s the case, and all she did was aggregate already available information, I’m inclined to think she shouldn’t have been arrested.
It doesn’t look like the woman was accusing these officers of any misconduct. She appears to have been merely goading them. That of course makes her less sympathetic, though I don’t think it would or should have much effect on whether or not her arrest was constitutional. The charge for which she was arrested seems like it could just as easily be applied to someone who publicly criticizes or alleges misconduct against an undercover officer by name. That can’t be illegal. And I don’t know that you can really make a distinction under the law.