Criminal Justice

"I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don't trust anything."


I've long had a theory that most people don't find libertarianism so much as it happens to them. They find themselves on the receiving end of some sort of government incompetence or abuse, or they know someone who is, and it starts them on the road to a generally more skeptical view of state power.

Steven Hatfill, the government scientist whose life was turned upside down when he became a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, is now talking about what happened to him. Hatfill was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and given a settlement, but only after years of harassment and abuse at the hands of the federal government.

Jim White at FireDogLake has relevant excerpts from Hatfill's recent interview on the Today Show, and from a David Freed feature on Hatfill in the April issue of the Atlantic.

From Today:

"I love my country," Hatfill, 56, told Lauer. But, he added, "I learned a couple things. The government can do to you whatever they want. They can break the laws, federal laws, as they see fit … You can't turn laws on and off as you deem fit. And the Privacy Act laws were put in place specifically to stop what happened to me. Whether we're at war or have been attacked, the foundation of society is that you hold to the laws in place. I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don't trust anything."

And from the Atlantic:

Boo was driving Hatfill to a paint store a week later when FBI agents in a Dodge Durango, trying to keep up with them, blew through a red light in a school zone with children present. Hatfill says he got out of his car to snap a photo of the offending agents and give them a piece of his mind. The Durango sped away—running over his right foot. Hatfill declined an ambulance ride to the hospital; unemployed, he had no medical insurance. When Washington police arrived, they issued him a ticket for "walking to create a hazard." The infraction carried a $5 fine. Hatfill would contest the ticket in court and lose. The agent who ran over his foot was never charged.

"People think they're free in this country," Hatfill says. "Don't kid yourself. This is a police state. The government can pretty much do whatever it wants."

But remember folks, all the government does is protect your rights. The people who criticize the government are the real threat to your liberty.

NEXT: George Carlin: I Hate Fucking Earth Day, I'm Tired of These Self-Righteous Environmentalists...

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  1. Where is the media in all of this? I think most Americans would be appalled by this if they knew. But most don’t know. So where is the media? Oh yeah, they are helping the government smear innocent people like Richard Jewel and Hatfill.

    1. And who knows how many others in low profile cases?

      1. Is it really still a low profile case once the media starts smearing it?

        1. Yes if it is the local media.

          1. Sorry, living near DC for so long had eliminated my concept of local news.

      2. Too many. The local news does little beyond parrot what the local cops and DAs tell them. The Hatfill and Jewel cases because they each happened in a different administration show how sick the government is right now. If only the problem were Bush and Chaney. That would be easy to fix.

        The problem is an entire law enforcement establishment that hasn’t ever been told no or slaped down in any meaningful way. The FBI and the rest of the Feds are accountable to no one and completely out of control.

    2. Who gives a shit? The NFL draft is on tonight. Get your priorities straight, you commie.

      1. Figures you would be a draft geek Warty. You are probably a fantasy degenerate to.

        1. I once played fantasy for half a season before I realized it sucks. As for the draft…I think I’d rather do all the problems in my old complex analysis book than watch that abomination unto entertainment.

          1. No kidding. You really have to be some kind of degerate NFL fan to watch it. I will read about it the next day. But watching it is bizzare.

            1. I can’t believe people watch the draft. If you simply must know right now who your team drafted, why not use the Intertubials?

              The Bucs are drafting Suh. Detroit should draft him, but they’ll waste their pick in some amazing way.

              1. I guess maybe it’s cool to watch college highlight reels for a few hours, maybe? But then again, Youtube should have obviated the need for the draft to be on TV.

              2. Technically, McCoy is a better overall fit for Tampa because he’s more of a prototype 3-tech for that Tampa-2.

                1. Yes, that was my feeling, too, but I think Suh is too destructive a force to ignore. He and McCoy played in the same conference, so the disparity in stats is a factor.

                  Personally, I think either would be a dramatic improvement.

                  1. Yeah, but different divisions – except in ’07 (which was a freakshow year all around), the South has been stronger than the North recently.

            2. You guys have it all wrong. You watch the draft with friends who are fans of other teams so you can laugh at them when they make a ” WTF?” pick.

          2. Whoa there John. We have been in agreement on most issues since I began posting, but once you knock the NFL Draft and Fantasy Football, themz fighting words.

            1. But it’s cool, you’ll beat the nerd outta him, right Sudden?

              1. Nah, I’ll just outcoach him and do so with more talented players because of my scouting skills.

                1. And then onto the Fake Superbowl. Nothin’ but net!

    3. The media covers the incredibly wide spectrum of lazy to complicit. They’re either completely uninterested in the story or want to hype it to get eyeballs. Actual investigation is too much work unless your name is some weird thing like Balko or something.

      What the hell are you anyway, Radley? Where does “Balko” come from?

      1. It is a lot easier to just repeat police and DA press releases as “news” and have Nancy Grace finger herself about how the accused is a “monster” for an hour every night than you know actually do some reporting.

        1. Reporting is hard, John. Reprinting press releases or drawing on a chalkboard on your show is easy.

          1. Or showing hours of taped jailhouse conversations. Jesus, is there nothing too inane for TV?

            1. Are you saying Oz was a bad show, ProL?

              1. Only if it used actual, unedited, unscripted jailhouse conversations.

              2. There are people out there who watch the Mr. Oz show?

            2. The fact that channels still show infomercials at night would indicate that no, nothing is too inane for TV.

              I don’t understand why more channels can’t do what cartoon network did with adult swim.

              Playing actual programming that the 18+ demo wants to watch along with real commercials must make more money than infomercial garbage.

              1. Or do what the Euros do. Put varying levels of porn on phone sex infomercials–R through XXX, depending on the country.

          2. hey now, chalkboards are tough. Writing on them without smearing the words with your hand and stuff….

        2. Good lord, John, I’ll never be right again after reading that. I’m talking about permanent mental damage.

      2. Let’s say…Estonia. You know what else comes from Estonia? Fuckin’ losers, that’s what. Fuck you, Estonia.

        1. hey lay off estonia good people come from there dick

      3. Personally, I’ve always believed it was a pseudonym to protect him from the fuckers he exposes, as “Radley Balko” is a really bizarre name, but if it’s his real one, I’m also curious as to its origin.

    4. Let’s not forget the Duke lacrosse team. But at least that bastard DA lost his job.

    5. “””Oh yeah, they are helping the government smear innocent people like Richard Jewel and Hatfill.”””

      They are just giving people what they want. Media has discovered the more you hype it, the more exciting, the better the ratings. The media moved facts to the back seat long ago. When you were a kid, news ratings were not a be all end all. But with 24 hour news channels, they are far more important to the network as a whole.

      I’m not disagreeing with you. I just think you could spread the blame a little more appropriately.

      The TV’s always been called an idiot box in my life. 24 hour news channels just prove the point.

      1. Blaming TV and cable news, while certainly correct, is an old theme (rhymes with meme.) It isn’t the fault of the media but the fault of the people.

        I propose Djoser’s Law:
        A person will only investigate the facts of a new event or idea up until their pre-existing worldview is corroberated.

        1. “”A person will only investigate the facts of a new event or idea up until their pre-existing worldview is corroberated.””

          Leon Festinger would probably agree.

          But that shouldn’t apply to media. They have more of a responsibility to get the facts right. lol, I could hardly type that without laughing.

    1. Ever get any resolution with your incident? (stupid question, I know)

  2. Actually, I would argue that there are two types of libertarians: those for whom libertarianism finds them, and those who are sufficiently empathetic that seeing libertarianism find others is sufficient enough. I grew up in a blue collar, conservative family and have few direct grievances against the government (they take too much of my money via taxes, but who can’t say that?). I found libertarianism not because I’ve been screwed over by the government but because I witnessed enough other people getting screwed other that I didn’t need to wait around for the government to find me.

    1. I came to libertarianism through general misanthrophy. It’s not just the government; it’s everybody.

      1. Me too. We’d get along great, except for the misanthropy.

        1. And the odor. Can’t you bathe just one day a week?

          Mac: (slow-dancing with Charlie) I do not even understand the smell coming from your body, dude.

          Charlie: Oh, my God, dude. Relax, dude. I forgot to put on deodorant, OK?

          Mac: I have never once, never once seen you wear deodorant, Charlie. Never once.

          Charlie: Yeah, well, you’ve never once seen me wash my testicles either, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do it every Friday.

        2. Fuck the both of you bastards.

        3. I would think that wanting to rape every human in sight with a barrel cactus could be considered misanthropy in some circles. Or is that just what passes for “sexual freedom” where you come from, Warty?

          1. You misunderstand; I was saying that i’m a misanthrope too. Since we’re both misanthropes, we’d get along great if we weren’t misanthropes.

            This is the last time I explain something to you without rape.

    2. I was libertarian inclined from a very young age. The idea of, for instance, forcing people to wear seatbelts seemed completely wrong to me, even as a dipshit teenager. I’ve never really recognized the state as having any right to tell me what to do, only that it was in my best interests to stay out of its way because it was so powerful.

      1. I’ve been a libertarian since at least my early teens. Probably longer, though I didn’t label it thus before that age.

        1. I was born a libertarian.

          Well, ok, I wasn’t. But I did come from a long line of libertarian leaning people… consisting of my Dad.

          1. I am the product of an eight-generation eugenics program to breed the perfect libertarian.

            Just ten thousand generations to go!

            1. Pro’L Dib.

      2. I was in my early 20’s when I became one.

        An acquaintance of mine come out as a libertarian at a conference we attended this week. He kept saying how Obama came to his center and while Obama’s politics weren’t close to his, he was impressed with the charisma he exuded. Granted, it was a DNC fundraiser…he finally admitted that he was “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.”

        Yeah, it’s kinda like being gay. Ironic, since we both work at performing arts .orgs.

        1. Well, you are a confused lesbian, so it fits. NTTAWWT.

          1. Not true. I have no desire to rent a U-Haul or buy a Subaru.

            Oh wait. That explains the confusion. Help me Anne Heche!

      3. I’m pretty sure I popped outta the womb as one. I just didn’t know what to call myself until later in life.

      4. Every dipshit teenager hates rules and doesn’t understand why he can’t just be left alone. All the while getting housing, food, and various luxuries for free. Adults are supposed to grow out of this attitude.

        1. Let us all hope that someday you do.

        2. Word.

          To the liberal, freedom concerns none of these things. Apart from freedom of expression, the liberal’s idea of freedom is mainly about privacy. It is about a place for whoopee, and for not being held to account or morally judged afterward. In many ways his idea of freedom is the 15-year-old’s: Stay out of my room. Show me respect. And hey, when’s dinner?

        3. Irony is a harsh mistress Tony.

        4. What services does government provide for free–or, in other words, services not funded by taxes nor printing their own money and devaluing others’?

          Even if there’s a great answer to that, I would imagine that most parents who have children and keep them do so because they like them, which makes for a mutually-beneficial relationship. Politicians have disdain for those who oppose them and frequently give the populace things they not only don’t need (in the way one would need food) but also don’t want (whether they be wars, taxes, bans on a commodity or action, foreign intervention, …), so the analogy couldn’t work.

          1. What services does government provide for free–or, in other words, services not funded by taxes nor printing their own money and devaluing others’?

            Government doesn’t provide anything for free. When you become a grown-up you pay for things. You want the security, stability, and benefits of your society and you don’t want to pay for it because you don’t agree with every little thing. That is not the attitude of an adult. That’s my point.

            frequently give the populace things they not only don’t need (in the way one would need food) but also don’t want

            I’d argue that government mostly gives people things they need. At any rate it gives them what they vote for, for the most part.

            So you’re complaining that democracy doesn’t give you everything you want. I’ll get the violin… that’s how it works. (Interestingly, and there’s polling to back this up, when they lose elections and policy battles liberals tend to take it like a man while conservatives whine like treasonous bitches.)

            1. What was that classy take it like a man website after 04? We’re sorry or something like that? Threats of moving to Canada that never came to pass?
              How many “US dumb” headlines on the morning after the 04 elections? Those leftists really took it like men.

              1. Ooh some liberals threatened to move to Canada after the worst president in history was reelected. That’s exactly the same as impeaching a president over a sex scandal or mass hysteria holding a gadsten flag and demanding birth certificates.

                1. “the worst president in history”

                  How old were you during the Jimmy Carter Administration?

                  For those of you too young to remember Carter, you will have the dubious pleasure of telling youngsters that you remember the administration of the man who displaced him as “the worst president in history”.

        5. Sure, in libertarian society, kids are supposed to take up the mantle of self-sufficiency to become equal members of society. In progressive society, they simply graduate to a new parent, who still says “live in my house, live by my rules”, while undermining any attempt they make at getting out of the house.

    3. I used to think I was a liberal before I realized that it means something other than “leave people alone unless they are hurting someone or stealing their stuff” to most people nowadays.

      1. If you admit that externalities exist this formulation is totally in line with liberal thought–it’s just a lot more complicated than you think.

        1. Most reasonable people do believe in externalities, Tony. It’s the length and breadth of those externalities that people disagree on– and how those externalities should be dealt with.

          Unfortunately, we’ve come to a place where we’re being ruled by those supposed externalities, with no limits or brakes to keep them from colliding with our basic human rights.

          When a person no longer has a right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, or have a right to property due to the ‘externality’ of something so vague as a ‘public purpose’, our rights must now maintain an active constituency. They no longer transcend the whims of the mob. They are at the mercy of the next politically active coalition with broad public support.

          1. Why are you speaking to Tony like he’s a real person deserving of respect? Go smear yourself with meat and swim in the Amazon, Tony.

          2. There is absolutely no chance our economy could even take all real externalities into account, so worrying about inventing non-real ones is a little silly. Ignoring them altogether is the least sensible option. Some measure of fairness should exist in the economy, and it’s part of pragmatic governing to figure out how to increase it.

    4. I agree with you 100%, ClubMedSux. I think that’s how I became a libertarian. I also moved from NH to MA and was subjected to quite a shock in terms of the loss of freedom, which made me examine what was going on in NH… and I discovered that NH was largely “libertarian” and that that word fit my world view quite well.

    5. I think I started on the path when I was 14 or 15 and didn’t see why gay marriage, polygamy, and incest should be illegal. Took a huge leap forward when I was 17 and the PATRIOT Act passed in a panicked society.

      Another small step upon hitting 18 or so and realizing that the problem with something like gay marriage (etc.) wasn’t inequality but the fact that government never should have been involved with straight marriage in the first place.

      Probably hit the point of no return at 20 when the two major parties would have me believe that either of their candidates were acceptable. Now I’m 25 and if it wasn’t already sealed, the bailouts and health care bill have sure done it.

      There’s no hope for government. Never will be.

  3. Sounds familiar…

    I warned you, Treacher.

    “You get in bed with Tucker Carlson, you wake up with the government running down your leg.”

    Exact words!

  4. “Don’t kid yourself. This is a police state. The government can pretty much do whatever it wants.”

    Get over yourself, Hatfield. People need housing, people are hurting in this country. Did it ever occur to you that the road on which your foot got run over was a government road? That school zone was put there by government.

    The libertards in this country will finally realize what keeps them fed, warm at night and safe in their homes. Well, their other home because we had to take the first one for a public purpose. Here’s your “fair market value” as determined by a judge. And there’s no smoking here. Read the sign. Public property. Keep out. Permits available at the court house between 2:45pm and 3:00 every third tuesday of the month. No waiting outside. No parking. Stay behind the yellow line.

    1. that is some quality, high grade dope you’re smoking

      1. Freebasing Balko posts is not good for you. Be Warned.

      2. That dope I smoke is courtesy of the government. Without government, no one would be allowed to smoke dope.

        Oh wait…

        1. Without government growing crops is about the only thing you’d be able to do. Assuming you could find seeds and someone doesn’t murder you for them or to take the dirt you arbitrarily claim is yours.

          1. who hurt you?

  5. “””The libertards in this country will finally realize what keeps them fed, warm at night and safe in their homes.””

    AIG, Con Ed, and the Sloman shield?

    1. I was channeling Edward.

  6. This was a different (and, I thought, better) slant on the daily Balko Kick In the Nuts / Ovaries TM we are used to.

    Gets perversely monotonous to read about drug busts gone awry, at least for me.

  7. But, yeah, we’re lots more free than we used to be. right???

  8. Government employees = retarded fetuses.

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