The Perfect Citizen Commits the Perfect Crime- Or, A Response To Ross Wolf

Yesterday I wrote a piece called “Creating A Perfect Citizen”. I got a comment back from a Ross Wolf, entitled: ‘NSA Illegally Wiretapped Your Phone, Fax and Private Email Communications? Now Your Internet?’ Go back and read it, it’s pretty cool. I think I have an inkling as to who Mr. Ross is; if I’m correct, then I shouldn’t be using the appellation, ‘Mr.’. And if so, I’m also pretty impressed with myself for attracting his attention. Then again maybe it’s just a guy named Ross Wolf…either way:

The reply has a ‘fired-off’ quality, as if Mr. Wolf felt my words deserved some comment, but since the writer (me) was kind of a dope (spot on!), not a very nuanced one…the kind you’d give a likeable, low ‘C’ student (spot on again!) to get him to shut up and think a little harder. It also brings up the illegal wire-tapping issue of this last decade under the Cheney/Bush Administration.

First, he mentions that (and here he’s supposing I did- he’s right too- and he doesn’t exactly phrase it this way, but…) although idiots like me celebrated the fact that the taps were disclosed and apparently stopped, no one ever assured us that information gleaned from them over eight years was destroyed. And since they may still be there, he asks rhetorically, could they come back and bite us in the future? My first thought was, uh, I don’t know.

My next thought would’ve been (if the first one hadn’t died of loneliness): since I believe the NSA is not mandated with investigating ‘regular’ domestic civil or criminal cases, that any evidence gathered by them would be inadmissible, especially since in domestic trials a warrant is needed to gather evidence. The fact that ‘In 2008 Telecoms were granted government immunity’ would seem to assume an illegal act was unwittingly committed by them, much in the way that if you helped a uniformed cop subdue someone and it turns out later the cop was just beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new lover, you thought that you were assisting the law, not breaking it and were innocent of assault.

But Mr. Wolf says there was a court decision (that I can’t seem to find using the link he provided) that “lowered a barrier” that had stopped prosecutors from using ‘illegal-wire tap evidence in Justice Dept. “Intelligence Files” to prosecute ordinary crimes.’ I wish I could find this decision…what court, what case, what context and exactly how low the barrier was placed.

But Mr. Wolf then goes off topic a bit and cites Rep. Henry Hyde’s bill HR 1658, which is about the government’s right to seize your shit, and it’s incorporation, along with a raft of other laws, into the Patriot Act. Even so, it’s an interesting point. He tells us that ‘There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations mentioned in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 and the Patriot Act that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture’. I’ll admit right here and now I didn’t read them all (hell, I haven’t read any of them), but I did read some lawmakers comments on HR 1658 and I can tell you not everyone was wildly supportive of it.

Liberal Barney Frank said, “the notion that there is some division between losing one’s property in a civil forfeiture and losing it in a criminal proceeding exists in very few minds and in no reality.” Democrat William Delahunt-” …make no mistake, we are not talking about a few marginal cases. Some 80 percent of the people whose property is seized are never even charged with a crime.” And of course, the godfather of the Tea Party, Ron Paul, weighed in, “Is that too much to ask in America, that we do not take people’s property if they are not even convicted of a crime? That seems to be a rather modest request. That is the way it used to be.”

Liberal, Communist scum, all of them. But the thing is, isn’t this what Conservatives should be advocating for too? You know, the whole ‘smaller government’ thing?

But the law’s there in place. It’s original intent was to grab the proceeds of suspected criminal activities- if a guy robbed a million bucks, he couldn’t use it to pay for a lawyer to defend him for stealing it. That’s okay, as long as if the thief already had three million legally earned dollars, you could figure out how to separate what was legal cash and what wasn’t, or ‘property already tainted by crime’ as Mr. Wolf puts it.

It’s Mr. Wolf’s apparent worry that the two things- the potential use of illegal taps as legal evidence combined with the government’s ability to seize assets before conviction- is a fucking legal nightmare. And he’s absolutely right: combined with “Perfect Citizen” snooping around, it would be the perfect crime, the legal theft of assets based on normally inadmissible evidence illegally obtained by an entity who was breaking it’s mandate in the first place by even looking for it. Pretty fucking cool. Except now of course “Perfect Citizen” would remove a layer of illegality, but not in a good way. It’s just making the crime legal. Isn’t this a great country, or what?