Rabbi Joseph di Trani (1538-1639 ), known as the Maharit [considered to be perhaps the leading Talmudist and halakhic scholar of his generation], also ruled to the effect that, "Anyone who knows of a flaw [vis-a-vis] someone's marital eligibility is not permitted to reveal it, but will leave it as if it were kosher." This points to the malicious combination of halakha and bureaucracy that is unique to the modern era [especially in haredi-controlled Israel].
Tomer Persico writes in Ha'aretz:
…The matter of [mamzerut] bastardy demonstrates a problem unique to our times, which has not been accorded a solution by that law. In the past, a Jew suspected of bastardy, or an aguna or a woman whose bill of divorcement is being delayed, could possibly, in their distress, move to another Jewish community where nobody knew them and build a new life. But our era, in which when everything is registered, documented and computerized, does not allow for reasonable doubt as to an individual's identity, doubt that in other periods sufficed to qualify a person for marriage (from "a family that has been accepted ... is accepted," Tractate Kiddushin 70-A ).
Rabbi Joseph di Trani (1538-1639 ), known as the Maharit [considered to be perhaps the leading Talmudist and halakhic scholar of his generation], also ruled to the effect that, "Anyone who knows of a flaw [vis-a-vis] someone's marital eligibility is not permitted to reveal it, but will leave it as if it were kosher." This points to the malicious combination of halakha and bureaucracy that is unique to the modern era.…
In other words, the rabbis of old had created a legal fiction that saved women from living as agunot and children from living as mamzerim, bastards (and thereby being barred along with their descendants from marrying "pure" Jews for many generations).
If a woman was an agunah, she could travel to another town where she was not known and marry there. And if it happened that someone recognized her or somehow heard about her status, he was forbidden to tell anyone about it.
If a woman who was an agunah had sex with a man and became pregnant, her children – if born more than year after her husband disappeared or fled (in fact, I think there may be an opinion that stretches that time to 14 months) – known as mamzerim in her town, could move to another town or country and marry within the Jewish community there, where their identity was not widely known.
This was a recognition by rabbis that the biblical halakha was too punitive and too difficult to follow much in the same way their redefinition of the Torah's command "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" from the literal to the abstract, from actual physical punishment like gouging out an eye to monetary payment. And, indeed, there is evidence this was an old rabbinic practice (in some cases, like "an eye for an eye," the redefinition may have even preceded rabbinic Judaism).
But today's rabbis not only refuse to legislate like this to deal with modern problems, they trample over many of the earlier leniencies developed by their predecessors. Hence Israel's haredi-controlled chief rabbinate's meticulous registration of all Jewish Israelis to determine their genealogical "purity" and to flag those deemed "impure" to prevent marriage with fellow Jews – or anyone else, for that matter (except for those people labeled mamzerim, who can marry other mamzerim but no one else).
Today the average haredi Jew – especially the average hasidic Jew – has no idea that the rulings of their rabbis in these matters run counter to what was normative halakha, Jewish law, for centuries. And the few times haredi rabbis are actually forced to answer questions about this, their standard answer has been that the previous generations of rabbis were "big enough" to make these types of rulings; we, however, are not. They then go on to insist that even though that is "true," today's rabbis must rule stringently because of it – ruling directly against the rabbis of the past that were supposedly much greater than themselves! And they do this to "protect the Torah" from the "attack" of modernity, the Enlightenment, science – and from, it seems, life itself.
And so spies are sent, lists are made and collated with the suffering of Jews whose only crime all too often is that they were born under the leadership of such small and benighted little men.