F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
November 19, 2000
War on Crime is Getting Out of Hand

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

"The United States now has so many criminal offenses that do not require criminal intent that every one of us is at risk."

"The war against crime is getting out of hand and needs to be reassessed before the Constitution is torn to shreds," declares Paul Craig Roberts of the Institute for Political Economy. "Both lawmakers and law enforcers have forgotten that the ends don't justify the means," he charges. "In the determination to pursue crime -- especially drug-related crime -- ever more discretionary power is being concentrated in the law enforcement personnel."

In a recent commentary in the Washington Times, Roberts examines "a money-laundering bill (HR 3886) that, among other abominations, would give the Treasury Department the discretionary power to violate everyone's financial privacy and to prohibit financial transactions with suspect institutions at home and abroad. The blackmail potential of this discretionary power is enormous," he warns. "Financial institutions would feel pressured to spy for the federal government in order to avoid being blacklisted." Although this particular bill is "dead for now," others just as bad are sure to follow, Roberts predicts. He cites another (HR 3125) that would "permit the Customs Department to open anyone's mail without a warrant in an effort to combat money laundering."

Roberts emphasizes that offenses such as money laundering are "technical in nature and do not require intent to commit a crime. People who remit money to family abroad and doctors who . . . maintain assets in 'tax havens' could find themselves charged with money laundering." He notes that "law enforcement agents seldom differentiate between inadvertent violations and the activities of criminals."

Roberts recalls that asset forfeiture laws were "targeted at drug lords. But, alas, 80 percent of the victims of asset forfeiture are innocents who are never charged with a crime. This," he explains, "is because the law allows assets to be seized 'on probable cause,' which does not require the owner to have committed a crime. People have lost their homes and rental properties," he points out, "because grandchildren or visitors allegedly carried drugs into the house or a renter used drugs on the premises. Police have set up roadblocks and confiscated people's cash on the grounds that drug activity could be inferred from sums in excess of $100." Roberts urges Congress not to create "any more Gestapo powers for law enforcement officers."

If, as Roberts suggests, "lawmakers and law enforcers have forgotten that the ends don't justify the means," who are we to blame for their amnesia? Didn't the American people (with the help of Ross Perot) twice elect as President and Vice President two men who personify the amoral, anything-goes-if-it-works approach to public policy? What can we conclude about the millions of voters who sought to extend the eight-year moral blight by casting their ballots for a conscience-benumbed mantra-chanter ("no controlling legal authority, no controlling legal authority, no controlling legal authority")? Our public offices are filled with ethical freaks because our polling booths are filled with ethical freaks. Moral principles are anathema to them. Relativism reigns. Unconstrained by Church or Constitution, the American people subside into a mob.

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