I saw an interesting film last night–Judgment at Nuremberg–In case you haven't seen it, you should. As the title suggests, the film deals with the war crimes of the Nazis–but in particular the criminal complicity of lower level Nazi judges who participated in the legal machinations of the Nazi regime.
On a related theme, Kathleen Parker has found a new way to pass out moral responsibility in such situations. If you think you're involved in a criminal regime (but are not yourself criminally responsible), then your saying nothing is worse, yes, worse, than the crimes you have witnessed being committed. Speaking on C-Span, courtesy of Crooks and Liars, she says:
Parker: Oh wow that’s, you know I’ve met Scott and he is, comes across as just the sweetest, nicest fellow. I took great umbrage at this primarily because, whether the… you know, if… if he were… if he sat in those meetings where evidence was being trumped up and people are actually dying and never so much as cleared his throat or raised an eyebrow–which is what I’m told by everyone in the White House– then I think that he is guilty of something much greater than whatever he presents to the public in this book. You don’t sit there and listen to what you now consider lies and know… you walk out the door. An honorable man walks out the door. And you can go and call a press conference if you are the Press Secretary of the President of the United States. You can call a press conference. You can walk out and get a book contract that day, but you don’t sit through it for years and years and then say ‘well, I think I’ll go get a book contract and you know, present basically my notes that I’ve taken all these years knowing that these people were doing wrong.’ So I simply don’t trust a person like that.
That's novel. The usual claim is that the person is complicit in the crimes, a silent accomplice perhaps. Perhaps in an extreme case one might consider the person guilty of a serious crime, but no one could sustain the claim that his or her crime is worse than the original crime. This would, after all, make the actual criminal less bad than the silent witness.