In Lodi, California, just a half-hour from Sacramento, the feds have arrested several Muslim clerics. These persons are potentially terrorists and helped Al Qaeda – but that is not why they were arrested. They are being held, without bail, for lying to the FBI about their whereabouts and what they were doing.

But first, assuming these are terrorists, do I care what they are being held for? Lock em up and throw away the key. Traffic violation? Send them to prison. Sort of like Al Capone. He never went to prison for being a gangster. They finally stuck a tax evasion charge on him.

More recently, Martha Stewart went to prison. Her crime? Playing Pinocchio. She did not go to jail for insider trading.

What is disturbing here is a theme that is becoming more and more common. Not just these two high profile situations, but in numerous articles about criminal cases. The government is putting people in jail for their lies and not for any underlying crimes. Sure, in the short-term I like finding any excuse to put away a terrorist. But in the long-term, the government power and loss of the freedom to speak is frightening.

Hello Big Brother and Goodbye First Amendment.

It is one thing to speak your mind – like I am doing now. But what if you say something wrong? Is there a right to lie? Is there a right to be wrong? If the risk is going to jail people will shut-up and de Tocqueville’s America will no longer exist.

The First Amendment is supposed to protect speech – including lies. Who decides if there is a lie? Different people witnessing the same incident will have different versions of what happened. The truth to one person is a lie to another.

If questioned by the government, if someone does not answer a question they could run the risk of going to prison for interfering with an investigation. If they assert the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination they are just waving a red flag saying guilty – leading to more investigation. Even if they tell the truth, if the government takes down their statement wrong, or there is a rogue government employee intent on taking someone down, their claim someone lied could put them in jail.

Get the picture? They sure did in the founding of this country, and from that experience our Constitutional and rights of free speech were created – rights that have swept most of the globe, and hopefully someday all of the planet.

True or False: If someone criticizes the government they cannot be jailed because the government says their speech is a lie?

Let’s bring criminals in for real crimes, and not create Pinocchio Prisons.

Pinocchio Prison
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