Democratic Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer got caught by a federal wiretap hiring a prostitute. This has caused Glenn Greenwald to ask: “who cares if Eliot Spitzer hires prostitutes?”
Yes, Spitzer apparently broke the law. I also believe public officials should be held to high standards. But, one has to wonder if the fed was actually investigating a crime in this instance, or investigating a person. These are the exact type of petty and shallow prosecutions with ulterior political motives that one worries about in a surveillance state. The goal isn’t to make the society safer. It is to distract the public and embarrass political opponents for political gains. Vast resources are used to investigate and prosecute petty offenses and in the worst case blackmail officials.
These are the types of prosecutions you get when you give vast and unchecked spying powers to the state. It isn’t to make us safe from terrorists. It is to ensure those who are in power, stay in power. The way they do so is having every piece of dirt you can possibly imagine on everybody, then selective enforce the law while touting the highest of ethical standards. It should be no surprise that Spitzer is being prosecuted under the anachronistic Mann Act, an act with an infamous history including the prosecution of Jack Johnson.
Should Spitzer resign? I don’t know. I don’t really care. He isn’t the governor of the state that I live in, so my opinion doesn’t count for much anyway. However, this prosecution should give us some pause on how federal surveillance is actually being used. It should also be obvious that the purpose of unchecked spying powers isn’t to legitimately track down terrorists. It is to discover personally embarrassing crimes like this. Such a wide dragnet is patently illegal, and precisely why the telecoms need immunity.