Monday, September 22, 2014

As the Archaeological Blogosphere Celebrates the Latest Repatriation, Serious Questions Are Being Raised About Government Tactics

As the archaeological blogosphere is celebrating the latest repatriation to Italy, the Los Angeles Times has raised serious questions about the government's hardball tactics used to crack down on collecting Native American artifacts from federal land.

Moreover, John Yoder and Brad Cates, two former chiefs of the Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture office, have concluded the whole civil asset forfeiture program is so prone to abuse that it should be scrapped.

They conclude:

Civil asset forfeiture and money-laundering laws are gross perversions of the status of government amid a free citizenry. The individual is the font of sovereignty in our constitutional republic, and it is unacceptable that a citizen should have to “prove” anything to the government. If the government has probable cause of a violation of law, then let a warrant be issued. And if the government has proof beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt, let that guilt be proclaimed by 12 peers.

While Yoder and Cates do not address civil and criminal forfeitures relating to so-called "cultural property," CPO submits the opportunities for abuse arising from the application of confiscatory foreign patrimony laws as the basis for a National Stolen Property Act violation, may, if anything, be considerably worse.

It's long past time for far greater public scrutiny of government action in this area.  But, who in the media will dig beyond the easy "morality tale" derived from a government press release for the real story?

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