Saturday May 25, 2013
Controversial Stop Snitching Website Identifies Informants Who Work With PoliceTim King Salem-News.com
New Web sites like whosarat.com devoted to exposing the identities of informants who cooperate with the police are making federal prosecutors furious and prompting calls to limit the public access of electronic files and databases.
(SALEM, Ore.) - One of the nation's most controversial Websites, whosarat.com, was the subject of media reports early Tuesday, but where did it go?
Whosarat.com claims that it has identified 4,300 informants and 400 undercover agents since 2004. It has many people in law enforcement calling the practice highly unethical at best. And while the site is off the Internet at this particular time, it appears that the information whosarat.com publishes is at least somewhat legal and protected.
There are multiple reports of people getting busted for drugs, informing on someone to reduce charges, and then their life is turned upside down again, when notifications are mailed to neighbors and bulletins are posted in the neighborhood warning criminals that a drug informant had moved into their neighborhood.
As odd as it may be, that problem is strangely similar to sex offenders who are identified through the actions of courts and police to neighbors. This of course has run a few sex offenders out of a neighborhood, even though in some cases, the convictions were fairly minor and many years had passed without any repeat offenses.
Still, it typically makes families nervous to learn that they are living near a sex offender. And likewise it makes drug dealers nervous to have a narc move in next door. One thing we know is that the creation of the site is not a trophy in the mirrored cabinet of the nation's continuing drug war.
The site whosarat.com, was started by Sean Bucci, after an informant provided information to prosecutors that led to his indictment on federal marijuana charges. It seems the thinking behind it was closely aligned with the new movement in the hip-hop world that encourages people not to work with police on any level, even with violent, major crimes.
The new movement to "stop snitching" is a heavily criticized cultural takeover that is impacting many people in the hip-hop world and beyond. It began in 2004, the same year Bucci launched whosarat.com
According to Wikipedia, the Stop Snitching campaign gained national attention in late 2004 when artist Rodney Thomas released “Stop Snitching!” in Baltimore, Md., a place that is considered by some to be one of the most dangerous and crime ridden cities on the earth.
The video features footage of several men claiming to be drug dealers who address the camera, threatening violence against anyone who reports what they know about their crimes to the authorities.
This threat is especially directed towards those who inform on others to get a lighter sentence for their own crimes.
One person who appears, a notable NBA star named Carmelo Anthony who is a former resident of Baltimore, says it was all a joke and the message wasn’t intended to be taken seriously.
But like police, many talk show hosts and news reporters like CNN's Anderson Cooper see it is as much more than a prank or joke, they say it is bad business and without a doubt their criticism has led to an increased awareness of this new phenomena sweeping American inner-city culture.
According to one rapper quoted in Wikipedia, ”Stop Snitching doesn't mean stop talking to police. It's always misconstrued by the public, or the powers that be, that we're trying to intimidate the regular people or the law-abiding citizens. That's not what it's about."
It does appear that whosarat.com keeps its list narrowed to people who “rat” on others over drug crimes. The site's extensive disclaimer notes that in part that "All posts made by users should be considered as inaccurate opinions unless backed by official documents." It urges members to "Please post informants that are involved with non-violent crimes only."
But Salem, Oregon Police, along with other Oregon law enforcement agencies, have had what seems to be increasing good luck with drug suspects “rolling over” on each other. A recent story in Salem relayed how during a recent meth bust, one suspect after another continued talking to police, who kept arresting new suspects as they were named and subsequently, discovered to be in possession of more drugs. They all went to jail; the kids were taken away by state authorities. It certainly is a bittersweet ending.
Even if it has disappeared for the time being, new Web sites like whosarat.com devoted to exposing the identities of informants who cooperate with the police are making federal prosecutors furious and prompting calls to limit the public access of electronic files and databases.
According to The New York Times, the sites, like whosarat.com, post names and mug shots of government witnesses, along with court documents outlining the plea agreements they made in return for more lenient sentences. Much of the data is obtained from files readily available to anyone on the Internet.
Whosarat.com posted information last week on a Florida cocaine dealer who had a weapons charge dropped, in exchange for working in an undercover role to contact and negotiate with other drug dealers. The site and similar other sites are making the police/informant relationship strained.
The Times says the site was "initially modest and free, the seeming product of a drug defendant's fit of pique." It now charges between $7.99 for a week's access to $89.99 for a lifetime membership, which includes a free “Stop Snitching” T-shirt.
As of this particular day, the site is not coming up when the address is typed in. Perhaps it is a glitch, or something more interesting, like the pulling of a plug so to speak. It will be interesting to see if it comes back up, and even more interesting if it doesn't.
A Justice Department official issued a letter quoted by The Times, said these sites were set up "for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment," and pose "a grave risk of harm to cooperating witnesses and defendants."
They are also telling police officers to stay off the site in case information on the individual officer is traced by the site. The world is changing and it is hard to say where it is going next. Obviously, the violence that the nation has been so steeped in during recent years is taking on a newer and even more dangerous face, as the Internet continues to serve humanity as both a blessing and for some, a curse.
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