Often, especially in federal cases, defendants are asked by the government to inform on other people in exchange for lighter sentences. This is a part of how the system now works. Although the system is designed this way, it’s not right, and it’s part of our descent as a nation toward the totalitarianism that we once feared and hated in our most frightening enemy.
The United States of America
Once upon a time there was a free country, which had been founded by men who banded together against a despotic government, believing that governments are, by their nature, dangerous to freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to ensure that freedom overcame tyranny. In the schoolyards and homes of this free country, children learned that it was wrong to be an informant. The child who “told on” someone was ostracized by the other children and corrected by his parents.
The Communist State
At the same time there was a country that was not free; it had been founded by men who banded together against a despotic government, believing that they could be better despots than the monarchs they overthrew. In the schoolyards and homes of that unfree country children learned that it was right to be an informant. The child who “told on” someone was following the example of the adults, who were rewarded by the government for informing on their friends and neighbors.
The Present State
Somewhere on its way to the twenty-first century, both the free country and the totalitarian regime changed. Liberty blossomed in the USSR even as tyranny took root in the USA.
Children were rewarded for informing on other children, and even on their own parents.
Schools taught children to be informers.
Government agents gained the authority to buy incriminating information for favors, money, and freedom.
Citizen Against Citizen For Federal Gain
Liberty languishes and tyranny thrives when citizens turn against other citizens to help the government impose order. Only by remembering that government is not to be trusted any more today than 230 years ago do we have a chance of remaining free.
We work in a system in which a citizen who is charged with a crime is punished for making the government prove its case, and rewarded for snitching on other citizens. When it is necessary for our clients to help themselves by truthfully informing against other people, we will help them do it. That is our obligation as lawyers.
We do not, however, have to like it.