Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spitzer's Real Crime Was . . .

. . . making the wrong enemies.

I find the guy reprehensible - just an ambitions, power-hungry politician who made a career as a prosecutor by streamrolling unpopular targets for his own personal aggrandizement. Someone who didn't think the rules applied to him. But the way he was targeted should give everyone pause. I don't like Alan Dershowitz, but he is quite correct here:

Even if Mr. Spitzer's derelictions were serendipitously discovered as a result of routine, computerized examination of bank transactions, the dangers inherent in selective use of overbroad criminal statutes remain. Money laundering, structuring and related financial crimes are designed to ferret out organized crime, drug dealing, terrorism and large-scale financial manipulation. They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.

Once federal authorities concluded that the "suspicious financial transactions" attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation. It's simply none of the federal government's business that a man may have been moving his own money around in order to keep his wife in the dark about his private sexual peccadilloes.

But the authorities didn't close the investigation. They expanded it, because they had caught a big fish in the wide net they had cast.

That is the danger of this over broad, never-ending "War on Terror" and the "War on Drugs." It gives government the ability to rifle through everybody's business like an industrial fishing trawler. Anyone - anyone - can get caught in the net, and the temptation to target 'disruptive" politicians or just unpopular citizens is just too tempting.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Came in a little late on this one. While I understand what Dersh was saying, the only reason he and others are saying it is because one of their liberal lions has been snared. Never would Dersh say such a thing with regards to, say, Rush Limbaugh.

Oh, and hiring a prostitute, and moving one across state lines, for better or worse, are not "sexual peccadilloes". They are crimes.

The solution is to attack the heart of the matter: policy and legislative creep and the erosion of civil liberties, and to do so in an earnest, ongoing and committed way. Not just when someone you like is in the dock or you don't like the current President.