Re: law enforcement for profit

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Wed May 10 2000 - 01:06:08 MDT

>From: Ruthanna R Gordon <>
>On Mon, 8 May 2000, Zero Powers wrote:
> > >From: Ruthanna R Gordon <>
> >
> > >On Thu, 4 May 2000, Zero Powers wrote:
> >
> > > > Surveillance has *nothing* to do with freedom. You are free now to
> > > > anything that is legal. You would have that exact same freedom in a
> > > > completely transparent society. Your only loss of freedom would be
> > > > freedom to commit a crime and get away with it. If you have a
> > >with
> > > > giving that up, I think that says more about you than it says about
> > >society.
> > >
> > >Yes. It says that my ideas of morality are not identical to those of
> > >current lawmakers.
> >
> > Morality is not the issue. Legality is. They are not synonyms.
>That appears (to me) to be exactly what I said. The lack of synonymity
>*is* the issue.

Not really. There is nothing requiring you to have the same morals as our
legislators (or anybody else for that matter). However, you are required to
obey the laws of the land. Ergo, your desire to be free to "commit a crime
and get away with it" does not necessarily follow from the fact that your
"ideas of morality are not identical to those of our current lawmakers." In
other words your desire to be free to "commit a crime and get away with it"
(assuming for the moment that this is in fact your desire) does not suggest
anything about your morals, other than the fact that you want to be able to
commit crime with impunity.

>I presume, from your statements below, that you are not actually
>suggesting I avoid my partner until such time as a few ridiculous laws are
>taken off the books.

My opinion regarding the illegality of sodomy has been thoroughly stated and
I take it from your comment that you understand exactly where I'm coming
from on that. In short the answer is: no, if I were gay I would not refrain
from engaging in homosexual activity with a mutually consenting partner of
my own gender simply because it may be illegal in the state where I live.
Admittedly, that doesn't make it right, moral or legal. But it's just the
way *I* would handle that situation.

>There is nothing to cause the government to differentiate the exceptions
>(and they are different for everybody) from the 'norm.' There is no place
>on the books where laws are marked as either having or lacking 'moral

Agreed. And if I choose to violate a law that *for me* lacks sufficient
moral authority to compel my obedience, I would knowingly accept the risks
attendant that illegal behavior, including arrest, prosecution, conviction
and (possibly) incarceration. Sometimes going with your conscience carries
a steep price, even when you are "right". I'm sure Nelson Mandela could
tell you all about it.

But, again, that IMO is not reason enough to deprive the state or the public
of the means by which to detect criminal behavior.

>Since the government does not make this same
>distinction that you do, our only protection is that they cannot keep a
>constant eye on us.

Assuming that sodomy is illegal in your state, then that law infringes upon
your civil rights. I certainly can't tell you what *you* should do about
that. But if a law was on the books in my state that infringed *my* civil
rights (say if it suddenly became illegal for me to make love to my wife,
for instance) I would take the Martin Luther King approach to legislative
rectification. It may not be convenient, it may not be quick, heck it may
not even work. But that is the approach *I* would take.

Certainly that approach carries with it certain significant drawbacks
(namely potentially losing one's life, liberty or property), so I would not
fault you for choosing not to take that path. But IMO your desire for the
"easy way out" is, again, not sufficient reason for me to support curtailing
the ability of the government or the public to detect criminal behavior.

In a sense (and please correct me if I'm wrong) it sounds like your position
is "Hey I disagree with certain laws and I violate them from time to time.
I don't want to challenge those laws openly for fear of the repercussions
that may follow. So do me, and every other criminal in the nation, a favor
and stop advocating that the ability of the government to detect criminal
behavior be enhanced." And my reply is "sorry, no can do."

>When we have succeeded in repealing all the laws
>which I consider immoral, ask me again about surveilance cameras.

Well if we repeal all the laws *you* consider immoral, we would logically
have to do the same for everybody. And before long, there would not remain
a single law on the books. In that event, who needs surveillance since
every act imaginable is perfectly legal? Including my coming to your house,
raping and murdering you and your life partner. Is that the world you
really want?

>No, that's not what I meant. However, looking above, I see that I was
>semantically inaccurate. I didn't mean these conversations were actually
>illegal, I meant that they could be, in the government's view, 'probable
>cause for suspicion.'

"Probable cause for suspicion" gives the police no legal right to do
anything except continue to watch you. As long as your conduct remains this
side of illegal, that is all they can *legally* do.

>This can be awfully inconvenient even for a
>law-abiding citizen--take as an example Steve Jackson Games, who got
>raided by the FBI on suspicion of computer crime for putting out a
>cyberpunk game. Just because an action is legal doesn't mean a recording
>of it, especially out of context, can't get one into trouble.

The recording of legal activity will (most times) not get you convicted, or
even prosecuted. If I recall correctly Steve Jackson Games was eventually
cleared and I believe he sued and was compensated somewhat for his trouble.
I can't argue with you about the inconvenience that innocent citizens can
sometimes be subject to. But the right to convenience was never promised to

>I know what the law is. I know my rights under it. I also know of many
>cases in which the government has bent the definitions of this law and
>ignored these rights.
>I know what the cops can and cannot legally do to me. But I live in the
>New York City area. I do have a certain security in not being a young
>black male, but my awareness of actual police behavior makes my trust in
>them less than absolute.

No question. Cops aren't perfect. Legislators aren't perfect. Judges
aren't perfect. Juries aren't perfect. These are problems. But, again, I
don't think the solution lies in hindering the ability of law enforcement to
do their jobs. Maybe that is the solution, but I don't see it.

>current technological capacity, no one can be called lazy merely for
>having missed some bandwidth. You, for example, seem to have placed a
>great deal of emphasis on keeping up with legal policy. This is to be
>commended. However, one of the trade-offs seems to have been your missing
>information concerning times when law-abiding people have managed to get
>in trouble with the law, in spite of not actually having broken it.

I have never denied that this is an unfortunate fact of life. As long as
our law enforcement duties are carried out by imperfect humans it is a
problem we will have to live with. However, again, I don't think the
solution to the problem lies in tying the hands of those we have entrusted
to carry out the laws.

> > Living in ignorance of the law, and then cowering in fear that you might
> > accidentally run afoul of it is not excuse enough for me to favor
> > constraining the right of the public or the government to detect
> > behavior, even by the admittedly drastic means of surveillance. But I
> > recognize that, as in most things, your mileage may vary.
>I am not ignorant, but I do acknowledge that my information may not be
>complete. I am not cowering, but I do base my caution levels on the
>information that I have. The information that I have suggests that
>neither the government nor Lockheed-Martin can be trusted with the
>responsibility implicit in surveilance.

Please don't misunderstand me. I did not mean at all to imply that you were
ignorant or cowering. To the extent my wording led you to believe otherwise
I sincerely apologize (God knows I don't need another flame war on this
issue). But if, in your opinion, the government cannot be entrusted with
the responsibiliy to observe its citizens, then in effect, your position is
that the government cannot be entrusted to enforce the law. Perhaps this is
true. But if not the government, then who?

I know as much as anybody else that our government is not perfect. I know
that innocent people sometimes get arrested, even convicted, sometimes
executed. I know that some cops are incompetent and even malicious. But,
again, I don't see how forcing the police to wear blind folds constitutes a
solution to any of those problems.


"I like dreams of the future better than the history of the past"
--Thomas Jefferson
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