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.
“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.”
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.