March 31, 2009

The wrong balance on police spying

Charles S. Faddis' proposed "balance" on spying is no balance at all ("A balance on spying," Commentary, March 26).

Nothing in the bill he promotes would prevent the Maryland State Police from conducting abusive investigations of peaceful political activists in the future, just as they have in the past.

That bill would allow Maryland law enforcement officers to investigate people they do not have any reason to suspect of breaking the law, and would allow undercover police officers to infiltrate peaceful demonstrations and public meetings of advocacy groups not suspected of wrongdoing.

If the police don't like your politics, they could follow you around, interview your neighbors and compile a dossier about you and your beliefs, just as they have done with many innocent Maryland activists.

Senate Bill 256, the bill Mr. Faddis says would "handcuff" law enforcement, only applies when the police target individuals or groups engaged in free speech activity. And in those cases, the bill only asks that police have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before starting to investigate.

In my experience as an FBI agent specializing in domestic terrorism cases, it would never have occurred to me to start investigating someone I didn't reasonably suspect of engaging in improper conduct. The police in Maryland shouldn't do so either.

Investigating innocent people is a waste of time and resources.

In 2006, while the state police were infiltrating peace groups, there were 38,110 violent crimes in Maryland, including 546 murders and 1,178 rapes.

Mr. Faddis is right that bad people are out there.

But the police would do better in finding the bad people if they focused on those they actually suspected of wrongdoing rather than looking for them at peaceful political rallies.

Mike German, Washington

The writer is policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI special agent.

GOP in no position to criticize budget

The article "'We will recover,' Obama says" (March 25) cites House Minority Leader John A. Boehner sharply criticizing the president's proposed budget.

I am amazed at Republican opposition and criticism of President Barack Obama's budget and economic recovery plan. After all, it is the Republican Party that caused our economic meltdown that Mr. Obama is attempting to fix.

Republicans caused the crisis through eight years of incompetence and mismanagement coupled with Wall Street greed and dishonesty.

Actually, it all began with the befuddled economic theories of Ronald Reagan, who started the downward slide with his misguided dismantling of government programs, tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of the marketplace.

Republicans have lost all credibility when it comes to the economy.

They should simply feel remorse and shame and stay out of the way as the president tries to repair the damage that they caused.

Jack Kinstlinger, Baltimore

Criticism of Obama offers little balance

Kudos to David Zurawik for his column "Riding the airwaves while the economic storm swirls" (March 22).

Mr. Zurawik was critical of President Barack Obama for flying around the country and appearing on TV day after day, night after night while he has big problems back in Washington.

He wondered who was back in Washington doing the real work of governing rather than performing nightly on TV.

I was shocked to see such criticism of Mr. Obama in The Baltimore Sun. But wouldn't you know that it appeared in the You section of the paper.

Mr. Zurawik needs to move up to the editorial department. It would give the paper a little balance.

Murray Spear, Baltimore

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