Author Topic: Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows  (Read 460 times)

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Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows
« on: January 07, 2014, 10:28:58 AM »
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Offline Oceander

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Re: Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2014, 10:57:26 AM »
That is the real catch-22.  Doing the wrong thing to accomplish the right end  is very seductive, particularly to someone who is emotionally obsessed with a perceived wrong, and sometimes, the right end is accomplished.  However, probably more often than not doing the wrong thing ends up vitiating the right end and results merely in accomplishing the wrong end.

In fact, I would say that the FBI's own conduct illustrates this slippery slope.  Surveillance of the various anti-war and protest groups carries with it a certain degree of sense, because that is a logical place to look for real troublemakers, particularly troublemakers whose views are sympathetic to those of the protestor groups, because they would be likely to find cover there.  However, spying on ordinary Americans without justification - the "wrong thing to do" - in order to achieve the "right end":  protecting America and ordinary Americans by catching the troublemakers who had covertly infiltrated the protestor groups in order to further their own ends of attacking the US from within, degenerated into a regime of suppressing political dissent for the sake of suppressing dissent, which is the sort of tyranny that undermines the whole philosophical point of America and ends up endangering America and ordinary Americans rather than protecting them.

But one doesn't have to look to such grandious schemes to see the inherent problem; the use of undercover cops frequently ends up being more destructive than helpful as undercover cop-work inevitably entails the use of informants and the turning of a blind eye to the continued criminal activity of those informants.  Obviously, it is much harder to add up the cumulative additional harm done to a community by the cops' use of informants and undercover work, but the mere difficulty of doing so doesn't mean the harm doesn't exist, nor does it mean that it doesn't outweigh whatever good might be achieved.  A ridiculous case in point is the obsessive-compulsive fixation of the NYS police on fireworks and on catching people who bring illegal fireworks into NY.  Not only does this entail undercover work - and the necessary condoning of informants who are engaged in precisely the sort of "crime" the cops are trying to stop - but it also involves surveillance of individuals moving into and out of NYS and - as was published in a newspaper some years ago - involves stationing undercover NYS cops at out-of-state stores that legitimately sell fireworks, writing down the license plate numbers of every NYS-licensed car that parks at that store, and then following up on those cars - which can only mean that they were pulled over on a pretext as they re-entered NYS solely for the purpose of searching for contraband fireworks.

All of which, coming back to the original story, makes for a very queasy catch-22 because, on the one hand, in these two situations, arguably the right end was accomplished via the wrong means; however, condoning the wrong means simply because, in these two cases we were lucky enough that the right end was reached, puts us in an intolerable situation where we, as a society, would have to condone all manner of otherwise illegal conduct because, ex ante, it might lead to the right end.  Just to make things clear, that would require that we condone treasonous conduct, even if that conduct ends up reaching the wrong end because, ex ante, we would have no way of knowing if we had another Snowden on our hands, or another Pollard.  After all, Snowden could have just as easily kept all of the documents to himself and could have sold them to the highest bidder in confidence; that, however, would be nothing more than garden-variety espionage, which rarely reaches the right end.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2014, 10:59:05 AM by Oceander »

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