[FoRK] Newsroom score: American Taliban

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Wed Aug 29 13:37:35 PDT 2012

On Aug 29, 2012, at 12:31 PM, "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> On the banking example, I can think of few legal restrictions that would prevent a bank from reporting a pattern or even specific instances that seem to indicate jury tampering.  They in fact have a moral and perhaps some degree of legal responsibility to do so.

This was not about jury tampering, this was about bribing judges. 

> While the government can't and shouldn't go on fishing expeditions, that has nothing to do with what private citizens and entities may choose to do.  I would be surprised if there wasn't a catchall "report suspicion of illegal activities" on the books to cover this.

Not without running afoul of regulations and laws regarding individual privacy. Privacy often boils down to the theater of refusing to notice things that are plainly obvious. 

If your job is to work with data that is considered to be "private" by law -- financial data, medical data, etc -- then the protocol is that you only notice those things required to execute your job. The banks are required to use that data to find money laundering. If you are bribing judges, smuggling drugs, political corruption, etc it is none of their business. 

If they had an unbounded obligation or policy to report anything deemed suspicious, it would be equivalent to giving the government an unbounded right to invade your privacy and go fishing for potential crimes. I cannot fathom why you would think this is a good idea.

> The only reason I can see that a bank wouldn't report suspected illegal activity is if they didn't want to lose that and loosely associated (i.e. other nefarious) business.

Of all the reasons that actually exist, this is one of the least important ones. The invasion of privacy implications of why they don't report suspected illegal activity, outside of what they are required to, should be really obvious. 

Another important reason that should also be obvious is that there are many cases where you would be reporting crimes that implicate, directly or indirectly, the people and political powers-that-be that you are reporting to. Again, "none of my business" is the winning play.

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