“I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don’t trust anything.”

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’ve long had a theory that most people don’t find libertarianism so much as it happens to them. They find themselves on the receiving end of some sort of government incompetence or abuse, or they know someone who is, and it starts them on the road to a generally more skeptical view of state power.

Steven Hatfill, the government scientist whose life was turned upside down when he became a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, is now talking about what happened to him. Hatfill was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and given a settlement, but only after years of harassment and abuse at the hands of the federal government.

Jim White at FireDogLake has relevant excerpts from Hatfill’s recent interview on the Today Show, and from a David Freed feature on Hatfill in the April issue of the Atlantic.

From Today:

“I love my country,” Hatfill, 56, told Lauer. But, he added, “I learned a couple things. The government can do to you whatever they want. They can break the laws, federal laws, as they see fit … You can’t turn laws on and off as you deem fit. And the Privacy Act laws were put in place specifically to stop what happened to me. Whether we’re at war or have been attacked, the foundation of society is that you hold to the laws in place. I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don’t trust anything.”

And from the Atlantic:

Boo was driving Hatfill to a paint store a week later when FBI agents in a Dodge Durango, trying to keep up with them, blew through a red light in a school zone with children present. Hatfill says he got out of his car to snap a photo of the offending agents and give them a piece of his mind. The Durango sped away—running over his right foot. Hatfill declined an ambulance ride to the hospital; unemployed, he had no medical insurance. When Washington police arrived, they issued him a ticket for “walking to create a hazard.” The infraction carried a $5 fine. Hatfill would contest the ticket in court and lose. The agent who ran over his foot was never charged.

“People think they’re free in this country,” Hatfill says. “Don’t kid yourself. This is a police state. The government can pretty much do whatever it wants.”

But remember folks, all the government does is protect your rights. The people who criticize the government are the real threat to your liberty.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

32 Responses to ““I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don’t trust anything.””

  1. #1 |  Kristen | 

    So the U.S. government is now good at TWO things – creating terrorists and creating libertarians. Yay for the U.S. government!

  2. #2 |  Let's Be Free | 

    The disbarred former President lectures us on assumption of responsibility, virtue and not crossing lines? Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing.

  3. #3 |  Mattocracy | 

    I was in Atlanta during the 96 olympics when the bombing occured there. Richard Jewel was their prime suspect and LE made his life misereable. Of course, everyone knows it was the unabomber now. Hardly anyone remembers that they got the right guy after wrecking someone else’s life for several months.

  4. #4 |  Kristen | 

    Mattocracy – it was actually Eric Rudolph, abortion clinic murderer, not the unabomber.

  5. #5 |  Pinandpuller | 

    That walking to create a hazard sounds like what happened to Jim Treacher.

  6. #6 |  InMd | 

    I read the story from the Atlantic the other day after seeing it mentioned on some other sights I read. It probably tops my list of recent stories that everyone should read but no one probably will.

  7. #7 |  InMd | 

    Sites, not sights. I hate when I typo.

  8. #8 |  random guy | 

    When someone is suspected of a crime, they put the photo and personal information on the news and in the papers. The authorities make every effort to convince the public before the suspect is even formerly charged.

    Charges never filled? No follow-up.
    Someone else confesses? No follow-up.
    Acquitted? No follow-up.
    Not Guilty? No follow-up.
    Guilty of a lesser or unrelated crime? No follow-up.

    In TV land accusation is guilt. That doesn’t even get into to procedural BS that crops up during trials. Judges can’t inform the jury of minimum sentencing laws. Judges are able to throw out evidence, which doesn’t even make sense, the jury should make judgments of evidence based on the arguments of prosecution and defense. A dozen cops who were not at the scene of the crime can testify against you, but if your friend tries to testify that you were somewhere else it can get dismissed as hearsay.

    We are not exactly a police state yet. All the procedural formalities of fairness are still there, its a hard fight but you can still fight it. However, every day that a cop kills an unarmed citizen, or federal agents harass innocent people, or a prosecutor manufactures evidence, we get a little bit closer. Eventually all the corruption and collusion will build to a point where people are convicted and imprisoned and the people doing it won’t even know why. Just because they can maybe.

  9. #9 |  Reggie Hubbard | 

    I smoke pot. I don’t sell it, I don’t do other drugs, I rarely drink. I’m attending a good school and doing well in a difficult subject.

    I should have no reason to disagree with the government… except that they want me in prison. I did some digging and found out there are many, many more things going on far more important than my joint smoking. If the government had only allowed me to puff, I would probably have never made my way here (among other places) to see all the other bullshit, greed, and hypocrisy they pull.

  10. #10 |  JS | 

    “I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don’t trust anything.’

    Well the founding fathers set it up so you wouldn’t have to trust the government. Government wasn’t meant to be trusted it was meant to be held accountable to the people in the assumption that it couldn’t be trusted.

  11. #11 |  Kevin | 

    It is interesting when a guy who was making good money working for the government suddenly becomes a target of government abuse.
    Result: epiphany!

    Too bad it is that way before trust is destroyed. As JS points out, we were given a system that was to be ever distrustful of government because of its inherent power.

    Yet, we have slowly been lulled into accepting the notion that government is good and benevolent, and works for our benefit, to keep us safe and make our standard of living great. We are systematically lied to and the lie is now becoming more and more apparent to an ever growing broad spectrum of the populace.

    Perhaps it is a good thing but I suspect it is too little too late. The distrust foments and grows to cynicism and cynicism eats away at the fabric of the culture and results in the decay manifest as us -v- them. We are divided into groups that have contempt for the system or hold the system up to be what keeps us from total chaos. Iit doesn’t look to be good outcome over the long run.

  12. #12 |  Mattocracy | 

    It was ERR. Oops.

  13. #13 |  Steve Verdon | 

    The disbarred former President lectures us on assumption of responsibility, virtue and not crossing lines? Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing.

    How about we just refer to him as President Blowjob.

  14. #14 |  Arthur | 

    #8
    Well said random guy. Just want to add some contrast for clarity here.

    When gov’t. agents suspect non-gov’t. individuals, information is usually given to the media as quickly and carelessly as they can legally get away with. The media is used as an ‘investigative’ and punishment tool. This case is probably the best example I have ever seen.

    When gov’t. agents suspect other gov’t. agents, information is held so close to the chest that it is actually underneath the kevlar. I probably don’t need to give an example of this on Radley’s blog, but this news article from my neck of the woods just yesterday is one:

    http://www.adn.com/2010/04/21/1244243/soldotna-officer-under-investigation.html

  15. #15 |  Sky | 

    “The people who criticize the government are the real threat to your liberty.”

    Well, I guess I’m going to hell in a hand basket or at the very least prison, cause I think the government SUCKS!

  16. #16 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Anyone willing to give anarchy a serious try yet?

    How could it possibly be any worse?

  17. #17 |  qwints | 

    “Judges are able to throw out evidence, which doesn’t even make sense, the jury should make judgments of evidence based on the arguments of prosecution and defense.”

    In most instances judges are suppressing/excluding evidence that harms the defendant because of a legal evaluation. The exclusionary rule from Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) gives real meaning to the 4th amendment by keeping illegally obtained evidence out of courtrooms. Judges make the decision because the admissibility of evidence is a question of law which is the judge’s realm. Questions of fact are for the jury. If evidence is admissible, juries can and do evaluate the credibility and impact of witnesses and physical evidence.

    “A dozen cops who were not at the scene of the crime can testify against you, but if your friend tries to testify that you were somewhere else it can get dismissed as hearsay.”

    Unlikely. While it is problematic that police reports are often treated like gospel in courtrooms, police officers do have to have personal knowledge of the events to testify. Cops may perjure themselves on the stand, but besides prosecuting them for it, there’s not much the law can do to prevent it.

    A friend giving you an alibi is not hearsay if he had personal knowledge that you were there. He just couldn’t testify that you or anyone else told him that you were somewhere else to prove you were somewhere else.

    Hearsay = An out of court statement admitted for the truth of the matter asserted.

  18. #18 |  tb | 

    However, every day that a cop kills an unarmed citizen, or federal agents harass innocent people, or a prosecutor manufactures evidence, we get a little bit closer.

    NO.

    These are hallmarks of a current police state, not a potential one.

  19. #19 |  Andrew | 

    I hope he got enough out of the settlement to never have to work again (although it sucks that it was us that paid for it). He should just pick up and move to someplace sunny and beachy.

  20. #20 |  Dave W. | 

    1. More important new development in the anthrax attack investigation:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/23/us/23anthrax.html

    2. US military did the anthrax attacks, I think. It is unlikely they will be brought to justice. Hatfill is a sideshow. Probably Ivins, too.

    3. I have long been disappointed in libertarian news organs, eg, Cato, Reason’s Hit’n’Run blog, the Adge for not making this more of a libertarian cause. In general, libertarians have waaaaay too much love for the US military and this blindspot is most likely attributable to that.

  21. #21 |  fwb | 

    And who is to blame for the run amok government. We the People. We vote for demagogues. We vote with greed to get what we can from others using government force. We sit back and watch as long as the government does gore our ox. We live in our box and never, ever learn the true limits the Framers placed on the government.

    Yes, it is OUR fault. We have what we have because we asked for it.

  22. #22 |  Elliot | 

    Mattocracy: (#3)“I was in Atlanta during the 96 olympics when the bombing occured there. Richard Jewel was their prime suspect and LE made his life misereable. Of course, everyone knows it was the unabomber now. Hardly anyone remembers that they got the right guy after wrecking someone else’s life for several months.”

    It wasn’t Theodore Kaczynski, but Eric Rudolph.

    Billy Beck recounts a visit to the control rooms of the stage tower, where his friends had sat above the center of the blast the previous day. Had Richard Jewell not evacuated them, they would have been perforated. A sign in the control room said: “Never leave the boat…UNLESS RICHARD SAYS SO!!”.

  23. #23 |  Elliot | 

    Well, I hosed that URL. Beck’s article is here.

  24. #24 |  John C | 

    Like I told my wife (a la John McLane) after waiting 20 minutes for TSA to find, then proudly confiscate the sub-mini-leatherman (with 3/4 inch blade) that had slipped through a hole in the lining of her backpack…

    Welcome to the party, pal…

  25. #25 |  Bill Starr | 

    qwints writes, “A question of law is the judge’s realm. Questions of fact are for the jury.”

    Not quite accurate — at least in Indiana.

    State constitution, Article 1, Section 19.

    “In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts.”

    http://www.law.indiana.edu/uslawdocs/inconst/art-1.html

    See also:

    http://fija.org/

    Fri, 23 Apr 2010, 1:42 pm EDT

  26. #26 |  albatross | 

    Given the crap that happened to Hatfil and Jewell, and the apparently very weak and questionable case against Ivins (which was only really made in public after he was dead, and so they didn’t have to worry about actually making the case in court), it’s very hard for me to see the decision not to try KSM for his alleged role in the 9/11 attacks as being really suspicious. I wonder if he had any actual connection to the attackers at all, or was just some mentally ill loser hanging around the wrong people at the wrong time. (You’d think it would be embarrassing if we had to admit that we’d spent months breaking the wrong guy under torture in order to get confessions to stuff he didn’t do, but I haven’t yet seen any sign of shame in that kind of situation from anyone in power.)

  27. #27 |  qwints | 

    Bill Starr,

    I stand corrected.

  28. #28 |  Anton Sherwood | 

    RB, I’m an exception. I became a libertarian mostly not because “it happened to me” but because I was persuaded, to my great relief, that coercion – distasteful to me even when applied to others, particularly if I’m a party to it – is not necessary.

  29. #29 |  Anton Sherwood | 

    Slick Willie wrote: “But we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way.” That’s all we are saying!

  30. #30 |  awp | 

    #10 | JS | April 22nd, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    “Well the founding fathers set it up so you wouldn’t have to trust the government. Government wasn’t meant to be trusted it was meant to be held accountable to the people in the assumption that it couldn’t be trusted.”

    Really good point and I have never really thought about it that way before.

    It’s not that we shouldn’t trust the govt. because it it incompetent. It is that we shouldn’t trust the govt. because it isn’t meant to be trusted. It is meant to serve the Citizen’s of U.S.A., and the only way to make sure it is doing its job is to distrust it and hold it accountable.

  31. #31 |  Bugs | 

    I don’t use “police state” rhetoric. I do, however, pray that I never get “involved” in anything the government is doing. It’s like once you get tangled up in an investigation or a legal process started by the government, you lose your normal life forever. Fortunately, I’m not inclined to do things that attract the attention of the gov – like tinkering with anthrax, hoarding guns in an isolated compound, or starting my own religion and refusing to pay taxes. Then again, Richard Jewell as harmless and look what happened to him.

  32. #32 |  Free Speech and the Authoritarian State | 

    [...] "I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don’t trust anything." I’ve long had a theory that most people don’t find libertarianism so much as it happens to them. They find themselves on the receiving end of some sort of government incompetence or abuse, or they know someone who is, and it starts them on the road to a generally more skeptical view of state power. [...]

Leave a Reply