RICO, short for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, is a (US) federal law enacted in 1970 as a crime-fighting tool for use against the Mafia. It includes prison sentences of up to 20 years and seizure of financial assets for those found guilty of such “racketeering.” A noble cause – who could disagree with clamping down on organized crime? Fast-forward 45 years, and have a look at the proposed application of the RICO Act by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) against scientists who speaks out against Michael Mann, Dr. Rajandra Pachauri, and the rest of the Clime Syndicate at the IPCC.
The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (BSA) was not intended as a way to catch those engaging in menial tax evasion, but rather as a tool to help federal prosecutors fight the worst of the worst: international criminal syndicates who were daring and powerful enough to make prosecution a nightmare. Unlike targeting your average street thug, the BSA was supposed to be a big gun capable of taking out the really tough guys. Organized crime. Terrorists. Drug cartels. The kind of people whose money could influence law enforcement with bribes and/or intimidation. Another noble cause! Again, fast forward 45 years, and see who the US government is harassing with FBAR penalties (not to mention giving a whole new meaning to “off-shore bank account”).
Operation Choke Point is an initiative of the United States Department of Justice that was announced in 2013, which is investigating banks in the United States and the business they do with payment processors, payday lenders, and other companies believed to be at higher risk for fraud and money laundering (another noble cause). This operation, disclosed in August 2013 Wall Street Journal story has been accused of bypassing due process; the government is pressuring the financial industry to cut off the companies’ access to banking services, without first having shown that the targeted companies are violating the law. As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, critics believe “it’s a thinly veiled ideological attack on industries the Obama administration doesn’t like, such as gun sellers and coal producers.”  Earlier this year, FDIC chairman Martin Gruenberg told Congress that Choke Point was over, but many business owners believe the FDIC and DOJ has passed enforcement duties along to a newly created independent agency: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the brainchild of progressive senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The CFPB operates under the guidance of the Federal Reserve and doesn’t rely on Congress for funding, which critics say allow it to operate without any meaningful checks on its power. 
We are all familiar with civil forfeiture in the United States. Proponents see civil forfeiture as a powerful tool to thwart criminal organizations involved in the illegal drug trade, with $12 billion annual profits, since it allows authorities to seize cash and other assets resulting from narcotics trafficking. Proponents argue that it is an efficient method since it allows law enforcement agencies to use these seized proceeds to further battle illegal activity, that is directly converting bad things to good purposes by harming criminals economically while helping law enforcement financially. Critics argue that innocent owners become entangled in the process such that their right to property is violated, with few legal protections and due process rules to protect them in situations where they are presumed guilty instead of being presumed innocent. 
These are just a few of many pieces of legislation, purportedly enacted to go after criminals, that are now used to prosecute, intimidate, extort and criminalize honest, law-abiding citizens. The people acting with malevolence here are not those who these laws are being applied to, but those who are applying the laws. Someone once said, “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Tyranny is defined as “cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control” – my question is, “are we there yet?”
The Harper government passed Bill C-24 to protect us from terrorists. They included the IGA implementing FATCA in Bill C-31 to protect Canadian banks from debilitating sanctions at the hands of the US government. The intention of Bill C-51 is also to protect us from terrorism. These are all good things! But from my perspective (I have the stink of the US on me), C-31 made me a second class citizen in my own country. Bill C-24 provides “my government” with the potential ability to strip me of my Canadian citizenship merely because I had the misfortune to be born in the US and I have been vocal in my disdain for my treatment by the Canadian government. Bill C-51 would ease the transfer of information between federal agencies, including confidential data (like that collected in the long form census) – of course, none of these federal agencies would even consider transferring any of this information to a foreign government! Ask Maher Arar!
Obviously, my concern that government would ever misapply a law or share my personal information among federal agencies (and foreign governments) indicates my need to be fitted with a tinfoil hat! Anyone would have to have been paranoid, or just plain crazy, to think laws enacted to go after the Mafia, drug cartels and terrorists would ever be applied to law-abiding citizens!
Of course, our recently elected Liberal government is obviously different. Justin Trudeau transcends politics – if we had only had him as Prime Minister when the US demanded an IGA enacting FATCA, things would have been so different! He would have put Obama in his place. It was that evil Harper who caused all of our problems! (Anyone who believes any of this paragraph is more in need of a tinfoil hat than I am). I would point out that it is progressive policies and politicians who are predominantly responsible for this affliction.
As someone who has for the most part been a Harper supporter, I was betrayed by him (and relegated to second class citizenship as a result). I have stated in the past on this site that I have no doubt that the Liberals or NDP would have done the same – it seems every other country in the world did. But it was not the Liberals or NDP who had the misfortune to be in power at the time – it was the Harper government. I have made many negative comments about Harper as a result, and voted for the Liberal candidate (Bill Casey) in my riding.
I will be watching with great interest what transpires from here. If the Trudeau government does not get rid of the enabling IGA, will he be subjected to the same venom that Harper (deservedly) was? Will this be an issue he even cares about? Or will he just pay it lip service and say, “I tried, but it is Harper’s fault.” I am concerned that such a charade would be enough to appease many on this site. Can we get some kind of commitment from those of you on the left that, if Trudeau does not get rid of the IGA, he will be subjected to the same venom that Harper was? One of the first things he plans to do is to cozy up to Obama – that does not bode well for us.
And if you think the long form census data will only be used for benevolent purposes, you have not been paying attention to what is going on in the world. In the words of Ronald Reagan, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”