Woman under government assault for whistling to a whale

| August 2 2012
Christopher Cook

Apropos of a previous post, in which we discuss how regulations and environmental extremism cost jobs and ruin lives, we bring you this chilling piece, which makes clear that . . .

. . .the federal government’s ability to ruin lives can be very precisely targeted at one individual:

The huge humpback whale whose friendliness precipitated a surreal seven-year — so far — federal hunt for criminality surely did not feel put upon. Nevertheless, our unhinged government, with an obsession like that of Melville’s Ahab, has crippled Nancy Black’s scientific career, cost her more than $100,000 in legal fees — so far — and might sentence her to 20 years in prison. This Kafkaesque burlesque of law enforcement began when someone whistled.

Black, 50, a marine biologist who also captains a whale-watching ship, was with some watchers in Monterey Bay in 2005 when a member of her crew whistled at the humpback that had approached her boat, hoping to entice the whale to linger. Back on land, another of her employees called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to ask if the whistling constituted “harassment” of a marine mammal, which is an “environmental crime.” NOAA requested a video of the episode, which Black sent after editing it slightly to highlight the whistling. NOAA found no harassment — but got her indicted for editing the tape, calling this a “material false statement” to federal investigators, which is a felony under the 1863 False Claims Act, intended to punish suppliers defrauding the government during the Civil War.

A year after this bizarre charge — that she lied about the interaction with the humpback that produced no charges — more than a dozen federal agents, led by one from NOAA, raided her home. They removed her scientific photos, business files and computers. Call this a fishing expedition.

keep reading this appalling story

Even some of liberty’s best friends are wont to allow for the idea of “minimal” regulations. And perhaps if they stayed minimal, that would be okay. After all, natural resources are a public good worthy of being preserved. (It would be foolish, for example, to allow the Atlantic cod to be fished into extinction.) But once you have empowered an agency to regulate, there is no stopping it from going to this absurd level.

A solution won’t be easy to come by, but one thing we know for sure—the current situation is not acceptable. One first step would be to stop regulating via agencies. Make the elected branch responsible for ALL regulations. That way, they can be held accountable in ways that career bureaucrats in an impregnable administrative state cannot.

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