76. Withholding/Destroying Information

Withholding Information

No person should ever have the right to withhold information concerning any illegal activity from any appropriate law enforcement agency. Neither clergy nor any other religious personnel, neither parents nor any other family member, neither friends nor any other entity, not even journalists or the criminal himself, should ever be given any legal protection or allowance to withhold the divulsion of information concerning any past, present, or potential future crime from law enforcement. It is every individual’s, including every criminal’s, absolute obligation to do their part to prevent and solve crime, even when it involves them.

Journalists should not be allowed to claim press freedoms or any form of media shield protections or any other privileges that would otherwise allow them to withhold  from a court any type of information, including but not limited to notes and unpublished information. Such information may be requested to be reviewed behind closed doors by the judge so that he/she could make a final determination regarding its relevance and/or the level of protection or privacy such information may warrant.

Any individual withholding such information for any length of time considered longer than reasonable by the courts (generally, after a two-week grace period) would be considered as an accessory to or facilitator of the criminal behavior and this would, in fact, be considered a crime on its own. In addition, the punishment for withholding such information should be equivalent to the punishment the actual wrongdoer would receive if convicted of the offense. If the information is divulged, leading to the wrongdoer being caught, the person withholding the information should only be given a punishment equivalent to a percentage of the punishment the wrongdoer receives, namely, a fine for each unit of time (like each day), beyond this two-week grace period, that has passed without divulging the information. In addition, if investigators find or attempt to find the information through some other means, the individual(s) withholding the information should be charged for all or a percentage of the investigative expenses of those other means which have accrued after the end of such a grace period.

Accordingly, no individual should ever have the right against self-incrimination. If somebody did something wrong, it is their obligation to do all that they can to rectify the situation. This would include fully divulging their role in the matter and offering any other relevant or useful information. This section of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution should be revoked immediately.

Destroying Information

Official files and any other important historical information that could, with a reasonable possibility, be used for future historical reference, should be required to be kept. Any person who is involved, in any way, illegally destroying records with potential value should be punished severely with heavy fines depending on the details of each particular case. But as an example, this case of Veteran’s Affairs Cleveland medical center employees deciding to destroy or deliberately misfiled up to 1,800 records. The penalty imposed should be constructed to reflect the magnitude of the crime, and should be based on each unit (record) misplaced or destroyed.  Naturally, every case is different and the courts would need to come up with a just cost, but in this case, perhaps a penalty of $1,000 per record should be the minimum. This cost may reflect the costs (including emotional costs) to the victims of these lost records if they happen to request them, as well as the costs to other associated  entities who may need such records for research or statistical purposes. To give these criminals an incentive to correct their misbehavior, they would be given the option (perhaps the requirement) to find as many records as possible within a certain period of time (like 12 months) in order for the judge to reduce the ultimate fine amount by a certain percentage.

Historical information is very valuable because it cannot be easily recreated, if even at all. So the penalties for what can be described as the permanent loss of such potentially information information should be very heavily punished.

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