The whole quote, from Rand’s Atlas Shrugged goes:
There is no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking the law. Create a nation of lawbreakers and then you can cash in on the guilt. Now that’s the system!
Well, here’s another example, and a reference to Carnivore – the program that sifts through e-mail for incriminating evidence:
Three days before Halloween, George Norris, 24407 Pine Canyon Drive, Spring, got a visit from a U.S. agency that proved scarier than any spook or goblin.
He is still recovering from the encounter.
Norris, 65, and his wife, Kathy, own Spring Orchid Specialties.
“I import orchids from all around the world and have been doing it more than 25 years,” he said.
A small greenhouse is located in the back of their home.
The income supplements his Social Security check.
He suffers from diabetes, arthritis and heart problems and is unable to work, he said.
At 10 a.m. Oct. 28, he said, three pick-up trucks pulled into his driveway and six people, five men and one woman, got out.
All of the men were wearing body armor and carrying sidearms.
Four of them came to the front door and two went to the back.
When he answered the front door, one of the men identified himself as a special agent with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a branch of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“They serve me with a search warrant, they sit me in a chair in my kitchen, tell me not to move out of the chair. They read me my Miranda Rights, then tell me I’m not under arrest, but I can’t leave that chair,” Norris said.
“They wouldn’t even permit me to get my glasses to read documents they were showing me. They had to send somebody to get my glasses for me.”
The agents had a search warrant issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy in Houston, empowering them to search for a certain type of orchid imported from Peru without required United States import permits.
According to FWS, Norris represented the plants as lawfully imported and sold them via electronic mail. The importation and selling of the orchids is a violation of the Lacey Act and is a felony.
Selling a flower is a felony?
The agents proceeded to rummage the entire house and greenhouse for nearly four hours, he said.
“They went through our dresser drawers, they went through my wife’s underwear drawer; they went through my sock drawer; they went through our closets; they went through all the rooms in the house.
“They tore up everything, particularly my office. They took 20-something boxes of documents; they took my computer; they took my customer list; they took invoices; they took everything. They even took floppy disks that had fishing pictures on them.”
Norris said he tried in vain to explain to the agents he was in compliance with U.S. and international laws allowing the sale of the type of orchid for which they were searching, phragmipedium, which grows in Peru.
Of course it was in vain. This is the U.S. GOVERNMENT you’re talking to. They know everything!
Two types of classifications, Appendix One and Appendix Two, exist for some orchids, Norris said.
Appendix One orchids are endangered and Appendix Two are threatened. Appendix One applies to a limited quantity of plants considered seriously endangered in the wild.
All the rest of the plants are Appendix Two, which are considered threatened but legal for trade.
“I imported some Appendix One type plants from Peru in August, but they were artificially propagated. Any of the Appendix One plants that are artificially propagated, they don’t come from the wild. They are either grown from seeds or divisions of plants that have been in greenhouses for a long time or something other than wild collected. They’re no longer subject to Appendix One; they become automatically Appendix Two if the grower can certify that they are artificially propagated,” he said.
Though the FSW agents listened, he said, they didn’t seem to understand the explanation.
“They don’t understand the differences. These are people that mostly make raids on folks with illegal parents, people trading in rhinoceros horns, tiger products, things of mostly animal nature,” he said.
Norris said he believes his troubles may stem from FSW’s use of CARNIVORE, a government system that can tap into computer e-mails.
“They showed me page 3 of a 5-page e-mail from several years ago where I was being offered smuggled plants. They did not show me pages 4 and 5 which were my answer to this fellow telling him we would not buy any such plants that were undocumented. This was so old that I don’t even remember this e-mail,” he said.
“Well, they went down and convinced the judge to give them a search warrant because they had an old copy of my CITES document from Peru showing these plants on there which they generally regard as Appendix One plants.
“But I imported them on my permits which allow me to import artificially propagated Appendix One plants,” he said.
About four years ago, the FWS conducted a similar investigation of his premises and concluded he was in compliance with all laws, he said. “And this search was done without a search warrant by only asking me to cooperate, which I did.”
Terry Thiebeault, the FWS supervisor of the agency’s latest search of the Norris premises, declined to comment Monday on the case.
Norris has not been arrested or charged.
BUT HIS PROPERTY HAS BEEN CONFISCATED.
Norris said he will ask Judge Milloy to rescind the search warrant order and to instruct the FSW to return all the material they confiscated.
“For now, I am out of business and prevented from conducting my business,” he said. I am getting checks coming in for payments of bills, but I do not have any of those records to make the payments to.”
So, again we have the heavy hand of government coming down on someone over what appears to be a misunderstanding on the .gov’s part.
Now, was it really necessary for USF&WS officers to be armed over a flower raid?
I guess they haven’t taken kitten-stomping lessons from the BATF.