31st July 2012
On Friday, George Will wrote a harrowing column about the Justice Department’s prosecution — courtesy of the Environmental Crimes Division — of Nancy Black, a marine biologist. Black captains a whale watching ship. Finding herself under investigation for “harassment” of a marine mammal, the alleged harassment consisting of whistling at whales to keep them near the ship for a while, she submitted a tape of the incident. Black edited the tape slightly to highlight the whistling, according to Will. The feds found no harassment, but indicted Black for editing the tape, calling this a “material false statement” to federal investigators.
They also charged Black with feeding killer whales. But, according to Will, what Black actually did was photograph the killer whales eating a whale they had already killed. Her only contribution to the feast was to cut a hole in one of the floating slabs of blubber and, through the hole, attach a rope to stabilize the slab while a camera on a pole recorded the whales’ underwater eating.
Will notes that the federal persecution of Black has crippled her scientific career, cost her more than $100,000 in legal fees so far, and might see her sentenced to 20 years in prison.