Buy it from this link and Justice Denied will
receive a small percentage. Snitch
By Jim Redden
Venice, CA 2001
Reviewed by Hans Sherrer
Snitch Culture is a timely examination of how
personal and technological snitching is used by the state and private
organizations, in conjunction with informational databases, to
obliterate the privacy of Americans. The author, Jim Redden, formerly
published PDXS, a quasi-counterculture newspaper in Portland, Oregon.
Judas Iscariot is the most well known snitch in history. Mr.
Redden relates in considerable detail how the state in general, and its
law enforcement network in particular, is dependent on large numbers of
people emulating Judas' example of snitching on Jesus Christ for 30
pieces of silver. They are also duly rewarded with enticements that can
include a reduced sentence, dropped charges, informant payments and
deflecting their guilt on to others.
The state's addiction to snitches is illustrated by the U.S.
Supreme Court's decision in 1999 to let stand a lower court ruling in U.S.
v. Singleton, that federal prosecutors are exempt from the federal
statute prohibiting the bribery of witnesses to testify favorably for
The book also relates horror stories of innocent people who
have been victimized by snitches unconcerned with the truth. Their
ordeals emphasize that everyone is endangered by the state's
unrestrained purchase and reliance on questionable information from
Furthermore, when the state is unable to acquire information
directly, it has long relied on the intelligence network of snitches
working with private organizations, such as the Anti Defamation League
and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Mr. Redden points out that children are taught to snitch on
each other and their parents by programs such as DARE, employees are
encouraged to snitch on coworkers and their employers, lawyers snitch
on clients, acquaintances and spouses snitch on each other, ad nauseam.
Snitching is so epidemic in this country that it is becoming culturally
For anyone skeptical of how easily and quickly "ordinary"
people can be induced to become a snitch, Mr. Redden explains the
chilling "Third Wave Experiment" a San Francisco area high school
teacher conducted in 1967. In an April 2000 interview, the teacher
recalled that in few days: "Students were becoming like the Gestapo and
giving me personal information I could use against other students in
Mechanical and electronic snitching has a long history of
augmenting personal snitching. Although not mentioned in the book, at
the behest of the federal government a mechanical punch-card computer
was invented in 1884 that aided the collection of information on
Americans beginning with the census of 1890. When later controlled by
IBM, that same technology assisted the German censuses of the 1930's
and it eased the identification and rounding up of Jews and other
undesirables. The passage of the Social Security Act in 1935 and the
creation of a data file on most Americans and every business employing
workers, encouraged development of the electronic computer: the first
prototype of which was functional in 1939.
In the 1928 case of Olmstead v. U.S., the Supreme Court gave
its approval to the state's use of electronic snitch devices to snoop
on Americans. In his dissent, Justice Louis Brandeis warned of the
Pandora's Box of privacy invasions the Court was opening. Mr. Redden
explains that just seven decades later, Americans are subjected to
pervasive forms of technological snitching from before their birth
until after their death. Most of that covert surveillance and
collection of information is conducted as a part of the daily routine
of state agencies and private businesses and organizations.
There has been considerable publicity in the last few years
that phone calls, emails, and even faxes of people are secretly
monitored by State agencies, as well as employers who are not
constrained by any 4th Amendment concerns. Although published in March
2001, snitching is expanding at such a rate that Mr. Redden doesn't
mention the NSA's (National Security Agency) Tempest project that can
read a computer screen from 1/2 mile away, that was written about in
the April 20001 issue of Popular Mechanics. Neither does he mention the
NRO's 25 billion dollar spy satellite project reported on page one of
the LA Times of Mach 18, 2001. Those projects reflect one of the
central themes of Snitch Culture: we often don't know when or
how we are being watched or reported on.
Furthermore, untold thousands of businesses have improved on
Radio Shack's rudimentary collection, beginning over 20 years ago, of
information about its customers. State agencies are increasingly using
information in private databases to fine-tune its own snitch projects.
Mr. Redden also points out the irony that people who publicly express
the fear of losing their rights are specifically targeted for state
funded snitch programs that undermine those very rights.
Jeremy Bentham didn't apply his concept of the Panoptical
prison to the surveillance of an entire society. However, the U.S.
increasingly resembles just such a prison due to the
institutionalization of state and private snitching. Given that
environment, Snitch Culture provides a healthy counterbalance
to the deafening crescendo that technology is "our friend". It is
ushering in a brave new world, but one that has many ugly and
It can no longer be ignored that the technological
surveillance portrayed in the chilling 1970 movie, Colossus: The
Forbin Project, and in the book, The Year of Consent by
Crossen (1954), is now more in the realm of possible and even the real,
than it is of science fiction. Along with other science fiction of the
1950's and 60's, they prophesied that the ability of technological
devices to snitch on people would affect their conduct, and the
direction and "feel" of society.
This review only scratches the surface of the wealth of
information in Snitch Culture and the breadth of its contents.
Its last 60 pages, for example, are comprised of 9 case studies
covering aspects of the snitching and surveillance Americans have been
and are continuously being subjected to. A valuable addition to future
editions would be an index and a bibliography that are noticeably
absent from the first edition.
Snitch Culture is a significant contribution to the
growing body of criticism related to state sponsored and private
spying, invasions of privacy, and the law enforcement networks
dependency on closing case files by purchasing tainted information and
testimony. Mr. Redden succeeds in painting a horrific portrait of the
central role snitching has in the surveillance state the U.S. has
become. The book is worth reading by those
wanting to increase their awareness of how their life is, and will
continue to be, impacted by state and private surveillance,
intelligence networks and snitching techniques.
Snitch Culture can be ordered by mail for $18.45
($14.95 + $3.50 s/h) from:
Feral House P.O. Box 13067 Los Angeles, CA 90013-0067
It can be ordered online from bn.com (Barnes and Noble),
amazon.com, and other web sites. Feral House's web site is at: www.feralhouse.com