Three Felonies a Day
Vol: 171 Issue: 16 Wednesday, December 16, 2015
A few years ago, a Boston-based civil liberties lawyer wrote a book entitled “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.” According to Harvey Silverglate, that is how many felonies the average American unwittingly commits in the course of a normal business day.
By design, the law is built up over time by court decisions, statutes and regulations. Sometimes even criminal laws are left vague, to be defined case by case.
Technology exacerbates the problem of laws that are so open and vague that they are hard to abide by, to the point that we have all become potential criminals.
Silverglate describes several cases in which prosecutors didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand technology. This problem is compounded by a trend that has accelerated since the 1980s in which prosecutors have trended toward abandoning the principle that there can’t be a crime without criminal intent.
Silverglate offers as one example the story of a Massachusetts man who was charged with violating that state’s wiretap laws. His company’s mail server routinely intercepted and copied emails as part of the process of shuttling them through the internet.
That is exactly how our own mail servers work. That is how ALL mail servers work. The mail is copied, transmitted and then the copy is immediately deleted. There is no criminal intent.
Prosecutors chose to interpret the ISP’s role of momentarily copying messages as they made their way through the system was no different than wiretapping private communications. The case went through several rounds of litigation, with no judge making the obvious point that this is how ISPs operate.
After six years, a jury found the defendant, Bradford Councilman, not guilty. But not until after Mr. Councilman went broke defending himself.
Under the English common law we inherited, a crime requires intent. But that protection is gradually disappearing. Silverglate writes in his book:
“Since the New Deal era, Congress has delegated to various administrative agencies the task of writing the regulations,” even as “Congress has demonstrated a growing dysfunction in crafting legislation that can in fact be understood.”
Here is how it works in practice. Prosecutors identify a defendant they want to ‘go after’ and then they sift through the various laws to look for a violation they can use to prosecute under.
Recently a number of states have passed laws against cyberbullying. The legislation was enacted in response to a heart-breaking case in which 13-year old Megan Meier committed suicide after supposedly receiving messages from a sixteen-year old boy named Josh Evans.
The two teens had been exchanging messages for about six weeks, but Evans’s messages had grown steadily more hostile. According to reports, his last message to Meier was that she was “cruel” and a “bad person.”
But it turned out that Josh Evans didn’t exist. He was really Lori Drew, the mother of another teen with whom Megan had been fighting. Meier, who had battled depression all of her young life, hanged herself in a closet.
When investigators uncovered the whole story, the public was outraged because there was nothing to charge Lori Drew with. So they passed local ‘cyberbullying’ laws while the Congress debated national legislation.
The law would prohibit using the Internet to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person.”
The Omega Letter regularly causes emotional distress to somebody. It is not possible to stay true to the Word of God without causing emotional distress in some quarters.
The Bible says that Jesus Christ ‘is the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father’ but by Jesus. That can cause a substantial amount of emotional distress to those who believe otherwise.
After all, if the only way to heaven is through Jesus and one is a non-Christian, that means that no matter how many times a day they pray or perform other religious duties, then they won’t make it. But saying so is offensive.
Three felonies a day. I can do that standing on my head.
One might assign evil intent to lawmakers but I don’t think so. In the Megan Meier case, one can only assume that lawmakers were genuinely attempting to right a wrong while ensuring protection for other potential victims.
But there is another law in operation here, known as the Law of Unintended Consequences. The Bible explains it this way.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
It is a principle God thought was so important that He included it twice – Proverbs 14:12 and again in Proverbs 16:25.
There are so many different laws aimed at protecting so many different groups that it is all but impossible for a person to make his way through the day without breaking at least some of them.
We’ve seen how easy it is for a clever prosecutor to identify a target and then look for a law to prosecute him under when Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby was charged with felony perjury because he couldn’t keep the details of a ten minute phone conversation from two years previous straight.
Libby was being investigated over the Valerie Plame Affair in which prosecutors were attempting to blame senior members of the Bush administration for ‘outing’ Plame as a CIA agent.
By the time Patrick Fitzgerald convened a grand jury, he already knew that the leak came from a career civil servant at the State Department and NOT anyone in the Bush administration. The leaker, Richard Armitage, was not even a Bush supporter.
But once Fitzgerald identified his target (which was any senior member of the Bush administration), finding a law under which to prosecute him was child’s play.
The Bible says that during the last days, being a Christian will once again become a crime as it was during the early days of the Church. Under the present-day legal code, that is already true.
It is illegal to preach or teach certain tenets of Christianity in public in America. It isn’t “illegal” in the sense that there is a law making Christianity a crime – what is illegal is offering offense to a person – whether intended or not.
We are living in the last days before His return. Although the Rapture precedes the Tribulation judgments that is not the same thing as saying that nothing bad will happen as long as the Church is here.
It only means that the Rapture will precede the revelation of the antichrist – not necessarily his system. The concept of political correctness as we understand it today was among the first things Jesus addressed in His reply to the question, “what will be the sign of Thy coming”?
“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” (Matthew 24:10)
Jesus said that when these things begin to come to pass, to look up and lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near. For nine years, we’ve been recording on a daily basis events that dovetail precisely with the prophecies of Scripture for the last days.
When we started out, the idea that the Omega Letter would ever have to worry about censorship or that we would ever have to worry about being prosecuted for telling the truth was laughable. That was then. This is now.
And thirteen years later, nobody is laughing anymore.
Originally Published: July 19, 2010