Letters To The Editor


July 23, 2008

Spying on protesters curbs basic rights

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly prohibits any laws abridging "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

What laws, then, were our state law enforcement officers enforcing when they engaged in surveillance of peaceful anti-war and anti-death penalty groups ("Spying uncovered," July 18)?

While the Maryland State Police infiltrated their living rooms, Baltimoreans suffered the persistent pain of real crime.

In 2005, while the state police spent hundreds of hours investigating citizens who were doing their solemn patriotic duty to oppose the decisions of governments, 338 human beings were murdered in the Baltimore area.

Thousands in Baltimore were the victims of violent crime, while our law enforcement officers were taking notes on the views of a candidate for Baltimore County state's attorney.

Police surveillance of peaceful assembly raises serious legal and political questions, surely, but it also reveals the government's tragic misallocation of resources and negligently misplaced priorities.

Andrew M. Bennett, Baltimore

In "Spying uncovered," state police officials said that their spying on protesters "did not curtail the protesters' freedoms."

They are dead wrong. Their statement conveniently ignores the deeply chilling effect of police surveillance on legitimate First Amendment activity.

Max Obuszewski and his colleagues are peaceable dissenters whom the state groundlessly recast as terror suspects.

The designation "terrorist" has become the 21st-century equivalent of calling someone a "communist." It has supplanted the latter as the most viral form of character assassination with which to stigmatize one's opponents.

Allowed to wield such a weapon, any government can intimidate its critics.

Marylanders owe the activists and the American Civil Liberties Union a debt of gratitude for bringing to light this betrayal of democracy by the very public servants sworn to uphold it.

Daniel Fleisher, Baltimore

It is frightening but also ridiculous that our government would spy on aging peace activists.

I admire courageous human beings such as Max Obuszewski who show incredible strength and integrity in standing up for peace and justice issues. I can't thank him and his fellow peace activists enough for showing compassion and determination to create a better world.

Leslie Ebert, Catonsville

Labeling Max Obuszewski a terrorist is tantamount to labeling President Bush a left-wing Democrat.

It sounds to me like some agency was looking for money from the Department of Homeland Security.

Fern Dickman, Towson

The surveillance conducted by a state police unit of anti-war and anti-death penalty advocates, and the fact that 1 million people - including large numbers of American citizens - are now on the U.S. government's so-called terrorist watch list, show that one of the major aims of the so-called war on terror has been to set up the structure of a police state here in the United States.

The state surveillance is not aimed at protecting the American people from terror attacks.

It will ultimately be used to track political opponents, particularly as popular opposition to the worsening social conditions confronting tens of millions of people, to the attacks on democratic rights, and to the various wars the U.S is engaged in continues to grow.

Michael Melick, Baltimore

Kudos to The Sun for the editorial "Home-grown spies" (July 20) and to the writer of the letter "Spying by police imperils liberty" (July 20).

While the spying appears to have occurred under a former governor, I hope that Gov. Martin O'Malley will take immediate and strong steps to ensure that this practice is ended.

Under the Bush administration, we have sadly become accustomed to having our Constitution trampled on, and it's past time to discontinue this chilling behavior.

Velva Grebe, Towson

The revelation that Maryland State Police officers spied on members of civic groups, including local Amnesty International meetings, is troubling and deserves public outrage for the message it sends: that a government agency sees a group of citizens peacefully advocating together as a threat.

It is a political message that discourages constitutionally protected actions by citizens - one that is only too familiar in the behavior of some of the world's most brutal regimes.

Such an invasion of liberties must be thoroughly investigated, and the people of Maryland should not be treated like this again.

Sadly, there are real crimes that need to be fought, and that's where law enforcement resources should be focused.

Folabi Olagbaju, Washington

The writer is the Mid-Atlantic regional director for Amnesty International USA.

Struggling broker wins little empathy

Sitting in my modest $150,000 duplex in Baltimore reading Sunday's paper, I was disgusted by the article "Struggling back to the good life" (July 20).

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