The United States Department of Justice has grown fat and lazy. Way back when, G-men had to go out and make their cases, find evidence of crimes and get their criminal. It was hard work, Then, they figured out a really cool trick: use their ever-increasing clout to beat people into submission with threats of life plus cancer sentences, and turn them into snitches.
Snitches are a panacea for the government. They made everything easy, gave them access to “evidence” that served any purpose they wanted and facilitated the arrest and conviction of any target of their choosing. And they never had to leave the office.
So there they sat, munching donuts and making threats, as they scared the daylights out some poor schmuck, who then flipped to serve their new master, the Department of Justice. Ah, the good life. For federal agents and prosecutors, at least.
But when the government wanted a few American Muslim men to become their
bitches snitches, something very wrong happened. They refused. Refused?!? Nobody refuses the demands of the government, so they had to be taught a lesson. From Firedog Lake:
In April, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Creative Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR) Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of four American Muslim men, which claimed that they were “among the many innocent people who find themselves swept up in the United States government’s secretive watch list dragnet.” When they “declined to act as informants” for the FBI and to “spy on their own American Muslim communities and other innocent people,” they faced retaliation from the FBI and subsequently discovered they were on the No Fly List.
The complaint further alleged that FBI agents “exploited the significant burdens imposed by the No Fly List, its opaque nature and ill-defined standards and its lack of procedural safeguards.” This exploitation was intended to coerce them into entering “places of worship” to conduct surveillance for the FBI.
The CCR argued that their placement on the No Fly List in retaliation for their refusal to go out into their community and rat out innocent people violated their First Amendment rights, based upon religious freedom. The government’s response was astounding:
The Justice Department’s motion to dismiss [PDF] plainly argues “there is no constitutional right not to become an informant.” The department cited United States v. Paguio, a case from 1997 in which prosecutors “argued that prosecutors indicted her in order to pressure her co-defendant fiancé to cooperate.” The court ruled “there is no constitutional right not to ‘snitch.’”
No denial that the government engaged in impropriety by placing them on the No Fly List to coerce them into becoming rats. No claim that they were properly placed on the No Fly List. Nope. In an outrageously bold response, the government asserted its authority to be fat and lazy: “there is no constitutional right not to ‘snitch.'”
Therefore, the Justice Department maintains that submitting the names of these four American Muslims to the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) for “consideration for the No Fly List,” even if based on their refusal to become informants, would not violate their constitutional rights.
The government’s fallback, of course, is that use of the No Fly List to coerce innocent people to become the government’s unwilling snitches is fair game since no one has a “right” to fly. The same argument could be made if the government revoked their driver’s license and cut off public water to their homes. After all, these are mere privileges the government allows us in its overwhelming generosity. And the least we could do to show our appreciation is to serve as their snitches.
Courts have long recognized that “cooperation,” as its called (because it sounds far better than being a rat), is a vital law enforcement tool. Its vitality comes largely from the fact that it works; rats have become ubiquitous in federal prosecutions, and it’s a very rare case where there isn’t a rat up front or, at the very least, a defendant who flips midstream in exchange for some government love in the form of a Rule 35(b) motion for their “substantial assistance.”
But the brazenness of the government’s assertion that citizens have no right to refuse to bend to the government’s will and turn on their friends and neighbors is absolutely astounding. To exacerbate this outrage, the government argues that not only do citizens have no right, but the government has the authority to use whatever means is at its disposal to coerce recalcitrant citizens to do its bidding.
Based upon the existing caselaw, the government’s argument may well have legs. This is what comes of judicial acquiescence in facilitating the government’s “job” by approving of easy shortcuts like the elevation of snitches from the gutter to the witness stand. Coupled with the routine pronouncements of how the normal accoutrements of everyday life are gifts the government gives us, and therefore gifts they can deny us at will, the authority to use this toxic combination puts utterly mind-blowing power in the hands of prosecutors.
Enough power that they feel no compulsion to hide it or even sugar-coat it. They own us, and they will use us at will or make our lives a misery. And even as we suffer the indignity of their compulsion, they still get to sit there, fat and lazy, as their other snitches report in upon command.