The XX Factor

California Raids the Home of the Guy Behind Those Undercover Planned Parenthood Videos

The ever smug David Daleiden, right, at a Houston, Texas courthouse as Daleiden turned himself in on February 4, 2016.

Eric Kayne/Getty Images

The legal troubles of David Daleiden and his anti-abortion cell of alleged identity thieves just got gnarlier. Investigators from California’s Department of Justice raided Daleiden’s Orange County home on Tuesday, reportedly seizing his laptop and multiple hard drives. In a statement on Facebook, Daleiden said the hard drives contained all the undercover footage he’d used to make last year’s series of Center for Medical Progress videos, which purported to show Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers engaging in illegal fetal tissue donation practices.

This raid indicates that California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat Barbara Boxer will vacate at the end of the year, is making good on her promise to investigate the possibly illegal methods Daleiden used to make his sting videos. Daleiden filmed parts of his videos in California using tiny cameras hidden on his person; California law bans the recording of conversations unless both parties consent or the camera or recorder is in plain sight.

In addition to Harris’ criminal investigation of Daleiden, there are multiple civil suits pending against him. Planned Parenthood filed a civil suit with the U.S. District Court of Northern California in January, alleging that Daleiden, CMP, and other parties violated the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization act, registered a fake company, used fake I.D.s and credit cards, and stole the identity of one of Daleiden’s pro-choice high school classmates.

But the best dose of schadenfreude reproductive justice advocates have gotten up until now came in January, when a Houston, Texas grand jury that was supposed to be investigating Planned Parenthood indicted Daleiden and one of his CMP co-conspirators instead. The jury charged Daleiden with a felony charge of tampering with a government record, as well as breaking a law against the purchase and sale of human organs—the exact ban he claimed Planned Parenthood violated.

Through it all, Daleiden has maintained his innocence and justified his tactics under the guise of preventing murder and engaging in “investigative journalism.” He titled Tuesday’s statement on the raid of his home “PLANNED PARENTHOOD AG KAMALA HARRIS ATTACK ON CITIZEN JOURNALISM.” He continued: “This is no surprise—Planned Parenthood’s bought-and-paid-for AG has steadfastly refused to enforce the law against the baby body parts traffickers in our state, or even investigate them—while at the same time doing their bidding to harass and intimidate citizen journalists. We will pursue all remedies to vindicate our First Amendment rights.”

Ethical investigative journalists, of course, don’t perpetrate fraud, make illegal recordings, and steal identities in the course of their work. A recent Los Angeles Times investigation shed further light on the careful orchestration behind Daleiden’s videos, revealing a kind of manipulation and heavy-handed editing no respectable journalist would ever accept. There’s no way to hold Daleiden responsible for the alarming spike in violence and harassment abortion clinics saw after he released his videos last year, nor for the time and money wasted on the nationwide witch hunt against Planned Parenthood he sparked, which uncovered exactly zero instances of wrongdoing. Prosecuting the small fraction of his atrocities that constitute actual criminal behavior is the least, and best, California can do.