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Beyond Conspiracy Theory:

Patterns of High Crime in American Government

  • Lance deHaven-Smith Florida State University, Tallahassee,
American Behavioral Scientist 2010; 53; 795
DOI: 10.1177/0002764209353274


This article explores the conceptual, methodological, and practical implications of research on state crimes against democracy (SCADs). In contrast to conspiracy theories, which speculate about each suspicious event in isolation, the SCAD construct delineates a general category of criminality and calls for crimes that fit this category to be examined comparatively. Using this approach, an analysis of post—World War II SCADs and suspected SCADs highlights a number of commonalities in SCAD targets, timing, and policy consequences. SCADs often appear where presidential politics and foreign policy intersect. SCADs differ from earlier forms of political corruption in that they frequently involve political, military, and/or economic elites at the very highest levels of the social and political order.The article concludes by suggesting statutory and constitutional reforms to improve SCAD prevention and detection.

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