Agre – I agree. We use the term “piling on” of charges when things are thrown with the hope that something will work to bring this “dangerous criminal” to prison.
Arjuna Aluwihare – I am a surgeon from Sri Lanka. The debate and the case are very interesting, raising the question, Is might always right, or does might allow people to define their obligations in a way they want that is not necessarily related to anything absolute about correct and moral ways of handling obligations, or for that matter, rights? Do the countries that have might, or the regimes that have might in poorer countries, are they prepared to stick to the norms they promulgate for others when they themselves feel they are under threat? In this case, looking at it from outside, when the anthrax threat was going on, it seemed clear that an organization as clever as the FBI in a country as advanced as the United States could find it very difficult to admit that it couldn’t actually catch the guys who did it. They had to find a scapegoat and then cloak it in a terminology that was apparently both confusing and acceptable. The question is, Is there any absoluteness in any of this, or is everything so relative that it can be manipulated to serve a particular agenda and expediency at a particular time?
Agre – It is an egregious example when the U.S. Department of Justice, with unlimited resources, can pick out an individual like this. Alfred Hitchcock did a good job in his movies with the dilemma of an individual who is suddenly a suspected criminal. With its unlimited resources, the government could probably find something wrong in almost any of our backgrounds. If loss of a receipt for a car rental results in a federal felony charge for tax evasion, then goodness knows where this can end. The punishment should meet the seriousness of the crime, and, in Butler’s case, it clearly does not. It is something that we in the United States are very concerned about. We like to hold ourselves up as a nation as an example, but clearly this is not always justified.
O’Neill – Rights and obligations are wholly general normative notions. They apply to governments and individuals and less to institutions—even probably to institutions with fairly minimal decision-making procedures, like networks. You can find an obligation slapped on you as a business, for example, or you can find that you have a right. It seems useful to have a common, practical coin in which we talk about who, including which institutions, are required to do what for whom.
Wiesel – I think also this case illustrates individual jeopardy when government power is misused.