In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 5, 2007 / 20 Sivan 5767

Ethics of the snitch

By Clarence Page

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Can snitching be ethical? The question has troubled me ever since I was a little-bitty boy. I ratted out my neighborhood friend Andrew. He had brazenly filched a couple of cookies out of his nice mother's cookie jar after she had told us not to. When I snitched, Drew was ticked off at me. But his mom let him off the hook. She even gave each of us a cookie. Years later, sadly, Andrew would go to prison on much more serious charges. I would pursue a career in journalism. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.

My childhood friend came to mind when I heard about a Web site called whosarat.com, which is devoted to snitching on snitchers. It posts names, photos and court documents of witnesses who cooperate with the government. The Internet, that great megaphone for the masses, now enables tattletales, too.

Whosarat.com was launched by a guy named Sean Bucci in 2004, apparently out of personal rage. He had been indicted in federal court in Boston on marijuana charges based on information from an informant. At first the site was free, but it caught on. Now it charges $7.99 for a week of access or $89.99 for a life membership and a free "Stop Snitching" T-shirt.

In case you haven't heard, "Stop Snitching" T-shirts, DVDs, rap videos and Internet sites are a sign that the criminal underworld's values have gone mainstream, transmitted like a lethal virus through the culture and multi-billion-dollar commerce of hip-hop.

As the rap star Cameron "Cam'ron" Giles said in a recent CBS "60 Minutes" interview, cooperation with police would violate his "code of ethics" and damage his street credibility. "It would definitely hurt my business," he said. As a result, neither he nor his entourage of potential witnesses have cooperated with police investigating Giles' shooting in Washington, D.C., in October 2005 by a presumed carjacker.

The whosarat.com site claims to have identified more than 4,000 informers and 400 undercover agents, many from documents obtained from court files available on the Internet.

Of course, police and prosecutors would like to shut it down, but that pesky First Amendment stands in the way. The Web site claims that it does not condone violence against anyone. Yet its homepage prominently displays mug shots and bios of its "rats of the week" in a way that all but paints targets on their faces.

According to a recent article about the site by New York Times reporter Adam Liptak, at least one witness in Philadelphia has been relocated, and the FBI was asked to investigate after material from the Web site was mailed to neighbors and posted on cars and utility polls in his neighborhood.

The "Stop Snitching" culture is bad, but it has grown in reaction to two other malignant problems. One is the false testimony offered up by too many witnesses looking for lighter sentences and used too eagerly by unquestioning prosecutors. The other is a persistent pattern of bad relations between police and civilians in certain neighborhoods.

Arrests and prosecutions too often have been tainted by witnesses lured or coerced into lying in return for lighter sentences.

As stated in "The Snitch System," a 2005 report by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law, "snitch testimony is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in capital cases."

An American Bar Association report, "Achieving Justice: Freeing the Innocent, Convicting the Guilty," last year similarly recommended requiring corroboration of jailhouse informant testimony with other evidence or testimony to avoid wrongful convictions.

Even in the small-town neighborhood where I grew up, residents would refuse to cooperate with police if they felt the police could not be trusted. Urban crime declined sharply in the 1990s after cities and towns got a lot smarter about "community policing" programs to improve police-civilian cooperation.

What happens next at whosarat.com depends on how smart police, judges and prosecutors are going to be about the risks it poses. The Web site's operators could be charged with witness tampering or aiding and abetting criminals, but it would be hard to make the charges stick. The information on whosarat.com is drawn from court documents posted elsewhere on the Internet. That helps other defendants and their lawyers to receive a fair trial. Judges are better off deciding in each case whether witnesses' identities can safely be posted anywhere on the Internet or whether they should be sealed legally from public access.

There may be hope for hip-hop, too. Giles issued a national apology after saying in his "60 Minutes" interview that he would not even snitch on a serial killer next door. Even the world of gangster rap reeled at that one.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on Clarence Page's column by clicking here.


© 2007, TMS