Governments do one thing well. They make things illegal. They have done so with startling efficiency since before the ink was really dry on the Constitution. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, they fail to understand the fallacy of legality.
The idea itself isn’t really that hard to comprehend. Most know it on some level at least. That idea is that the legality of an act only matters to those inclined to follow the law. By definition, those that will run afoul of a law aren’t likely to follow laws in the first place.
Where the fallacy of legality kicks in is where government enacts laws in the name of public safety. For example, take the old Texas law that forbid Suzanna Hupp from taking her gun into a diner where she was eating with her parents. Hupp was inclined to follow the law because she was law abiding. Unfortunately, George Hennard wasn’t so inclined. He rammed his pick-up truck into the diner and began to shoot patrons. Two of the dead were Hupp’s parents.
Honestly, this isn’t a difficult thing to comprehend. Unfortunately, we see far too often that those we elect to “lead” don’t grasp the basic concept.
Laws exist as grounds for people to know what is acceptable and what isn’t, not as a way to hamstring the law abiding but as grounds for the non-law abiding to understand they are crossing the lines of decency. They should serve as the expectations of what humans should do.
For example, laws against murder don’t hamstring the law abiding (despite smart remarks to the contrary). Instead, the level an expectation that people should not kill and that those who fail to comply will be punished.
With the recent release of information likely to embarrass ambassadors and diplomats, Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have become targets for the government’s latest arrows in the “War on Terror.” Even the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Pete King (R-NY), has called for the Justice Department to aggressively investigate and prosecute the site and its founder, an Australian, for the releases that many government officials have cited as “putting lives at risk.”
While I haven’t read every word released by Wikileaks, I find it hard to believe that leaked information about the American government and their actions will endanger lives. In fact, I like the “new normal” in terms of government transparency. I hardly think that accepting and publishing information given qualifies one, as King asserts that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should declare, as “a foreign terrorist organization.”
The investigation into Assange’s involvement in a suspected rape in Sweden aside, the work being done by his organization opened many eyes about the Federal Government’s actions in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their publication of government information on the Iraq War in October provided a valuable release of information to the public with statistics, documentation, and accounts of war activities that the U.S. Government feels is too dangerous for us to know. In fact, Time Magazine stated that Wikileaks “Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”
According to Ohio state law, convicted child pornographers are required to carry a Tier 2 sexual offender classification, requiring registration as a sex offender for twenty years. In this case, a teen girl from Licking Valley High School is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second-degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony.
In case you made it this far without passing judgment on “yet another child pornographer,” the girl charged is fifteen years old, her “criminal tool” was a cell phone and MMS (multimedia messaging service). Her “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material” were nude photos of herself. Putting those together, you can deduce that she took nude photos of herself with her cell phone. The Licking County prosecutor, Ken Oswalt, has received reports of 20 similar cases among school age teens, and he has been traveling to the area schools with an assembly program that discusses the consequences of such actions.
While the teen girl who sent these nude pictures of herself to others via MMS is not alone, she has been the only person arrested. She also spent a weekend in jail awaiting arraignment and a bond hearing. The statute she has been accused of breaking has exemptions in place that allows parents and/or guardians to take pictures of their naked children for a list of acceptable purposes. Interestingly, the statute does not provide the same exemption for the child themselves. While the consequences for her have already been laid out by the prosecutor in the charges, the recipients of her messages may be also facing prosecution for their passive role(s) in this incident.