Friday, October 02, 2009

Government, the Bell tolls for thee

My latest piece at the Center for a Stateless Society is about government employees' fear and loathing of emerging technologies that make it harder for them to get away with stuff like this. Excerpt:

Bell’s essay took emerging technological developments to their theoretical extreme, but government prosecutors couldn’t try him for “felony production of essays.” Instead, they patched together a crazy quilt of allegations, ranging from tax evasion to “stalking a federal employee” — some possibly true, some probably false, most unworthy of being called “crimes” even if true.

It would be easy to write off the Bell case as an outlier — a rare case of government overreaction — if not for the fact that in the decade following his initial prosecution, lots of other people have found themselves confronted by police, and some have even gone to jail, for implementing a non-extreme, but central, element of the package he put together. That element? Outing and identifying bad actors in government.

With the advent of small, portable digital cameras, “gotcha” moments have embarrassed “law enforcement” with public documentation of abuses on a regular basis. The response has been a general crackdown — not on bad cops, but on those who expose them.

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