The Problem With Confidential Informants

We all want to catch, prosecute and convict violent criminals.  So when the police use investigative tools like confidential informants to gather evidence and develop suspects it should be a good thing, right?  But does the end justify the means? (Read my post on that subject here)  What could possibly go wrong with this concept?

Is justice blind, or is justice for those who can afford it?

Is justice blind, or is justice for those who can afford it?

I recently read a story about a man who stole a car.  When the car thief was arrested he told the cops that there was meth in the car when he stole it.  Based on that information the police busted down the door of the vehicle’s owner and, when the homeowner grabbed a gun to defend himself against the apparent home-invasion the cops shot him dead.

The Innocence Project estimates that 18% of convictions that are overturned because of DNA testing there was in informant who testified against the defendant.  Often these people receive some sort of incentive to provide this testimony, whether it be release from prison, reduced sentence or monetary compensation.  Some of them are witnesses in multiple cases, perhaps “career informants.”

Aside from the obvious concept that a criminal might not be the most honest witness, there is something inherently wrong with a witness-for-hire system.  One has to speculate that such practices would encourage false testimony.

This is even more relevant since the passing of the Patriot Act (see my post on this subject here), giving the federal government the power to detain American citizens without due process based on the suspicion of terrorist activity.  This can be as innocent as someone saying they heard you talking about wanting the current administration out of office.

While I am all for holding people accountable for their actions, I am vehemently opposed to paying or otherwise compensating potential witnesses.  Since 1973 over 130 people who were on death row have been exonerated.   This is just the death row data…how many more convictions have been overturned?  How many innocent people could not afford to continue appeals or the court would not hear them?

Our system is broken.  It will not be fixed until we, the people, demand it from our elected representatives.  I hope and prey that you and your loved ones never face these issues, but if you do, I hope you are more fortunate than those who are currently behind bars…or dead…because someone SAID they did something wrong!

Free vs. Freedom

EBTMany of us are quick to take free stuff. However are these things really free? Most (if not all) of the things that are given away must be paid for by someone.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common things that people are quick to take advantage of. There are many, including businesses offering incentives, charities, food stamps (now called EBT which stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer or SNAP for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), there is unemployment, welfare, heating subsidies and housing subsidies and the list goes on. Who pays for these things?

Free perks offered by a business are funded by the customers, as a general rule.  Often there is a requirement to purchase something…free toothbrush with purchase of XYZ toothpaste.  Sometimes free things are offered in the hopes that you will purchase something, but again the expense is factored into the items for sale.

Charities (private organizations) are funded by donors who willingly give money to the group.  But they are also funded in part by your tax dollars, if only because they do not have to pay taxes on their income.  Now I am not saying this is a bad thing, only pointing out the fact.  Actually, I think that income tax is theft and anti-freedom, but that is for another post.

In the case of unemployment, I hear many say that they paid into this so they deserve to collect it. Well, in most states this is not the case. The employer pays a tax based on past claims and on an average for their region. So an employer who has never had a claim will be paying into the pool as long as they have people on staff.  And if they are in a “high risk” pool they will pay higher rates even if they never had a claim.  This cuts into the net pay of every employee at those companies

Welfare, EBT and other subsidies are slavery in disguise.  Those who work are forced to give the proceeds of their labor to others…who may or may not NEED the funds, but did not EARN the funds.  Make no mistake, this is not charity.  Charity is voluntary, not forced and the donor can select the beneficiary.  The other insidious effect of these programs is the theft of the self respect of the recipient.  There was a time when no honorable man (or woman) would take a handout except under the most dire circumstances.  If they were forced to accept charity it was paid back as quickly as possible.  Today, there seems to be a race to see how many “free programs” one can participate in!

In Virginia former Governor McDonnell gave an award and a promotion to a Social Services director for growing the department and exponentially expanding the number of recipients.  Isn’t the goal of such programs supposed to be helping people to become self sufficient?  Or is it to “create more jobs” by expanding government and requiring those working in private industry to give up even more of their hard-earned dollars?

The concept of freedom is that if you work hard you will be rewarded by accumulating wealth which you can use to make your life, and the life of your heirs, more enjoyable.  The practice of penalizing success is counterproductive to that goal.  There are many lures to entice us to take these give-away programs, but there is always free cheese in a mousetrap.  Even if we don’t have to pay for these things, our children and their descendants will.  Perhaps we should think long and hard before we give up our freedom and theirs in exchange for a little bit of “free” stuff.