Friday, Aug. 1, 2008

‘Spygate’ feedback

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From ‘‘Maryland Politics Watch” (blog) posted July 28:

Blair Lee has criticized this blog in his Gazette column [‘‘‘Spygate’ politics,” July 25]: ‘‘And, of course, the liberal bloggers went into lynch mob mode. Maryland Politics Watch launched a (five)-part series, ‘Inside Ehrlich’s Secret Police’ and went completely over the top with this: ‘If you want to surrender your liberties to tyrannical government, vote for Bob Ehrlich in 2010.’”

... Let no one claim that we devote too little attention to civil liberties here! And we will concede that at the time we made the statement he cites, it may have been premature. But we now know the following about Governor Ehrlich’s views ...

1. He declines to say there was anything wrong with the investigation.

2. He blames the former Attorney General for the spying without a shred of evidence to back up his view.

3. He believes that the state police should not be monitored by either the Governor or the legislature ... the state police should be accountable only to themselves.

So now I will say it again: If you want to surrender your liberties to tyrannical government, vote for Bob Ehrlich in 2010.

— Adam Pagnucco

Adam,

I touch base with a variety of Maryland blogs — your blog and ‘‘Free State Politics” for the liberal spin, and ‘‘Red Maryland” and Ken Burns on ‘‘PolitickerMD” for the conservative spin. I choose these blogs because they usually back their opinions with facts and reasoning. That’s how I learn.

I also appreciate your frequent disclosures that your liberalism stems, in part, from your job with the unions although I suspect it’s the reverse — your job with the unions stems from your liberalism.

But here’s why I criticized your ‘‘Ehrlich’s Secret Police” series: Instead of addressing the State Police surveillance problem (Spygate), Governor O’Malley exploited it for his political purposes by suggesting Governor Ehrlich masterminded the spying and hoping the media would blame Ehrlich.

Unfortunately, you went for O’Malley’s ploy hook, line and sinker. You were used by O’Malley, but instead of backing off you compounded your error by digging in.

Ehrlich’s position on Spygate differs little from the O’Malley administration’s. I refer you to ‘‘Maryland Politics Watch” fellow blogger and fellow liberal Paul Gordon who takes a far more balanced view on Spygate (July 25):

‘‘No evidence has been reported that Governor Ehrlich ordered it or even knew about the spying ...

‘‘Now, what about today. What about this (O’Malley) administration?...

‘‘[State Police Superintendent Terrance] Sheridan also says the surveillance was lawful ... that’s a pretty damn narrow interpretation of free speech and assembly ... ‘‘

‘‘If the surveillance was lawful, then clearly the State Police does have ‘the right and authority’ to do exactly what it did ...

‘‘And I find chilling his assertion that we should rely on the judgment of those in power, rather than the force of law, to protect our right — a belief shared by Governor O’Malley...

‘‘I put my faith in the rule of law, not the kind hearts of governors and police superintendents.”

Paul Gordon got it right, Adam, and you, blinded by partisanship, got it wrong. Ironically, during the same months that the State Police were conducting Spygate, Baltimore Mayor O’Malley’s administration made 25,000 illegal arrests (with Mayor O’Malley’s full knowledge) resulting in lawsuits by the ACLU and NAACP. You condemn Ehrlich but remain silent on O’Malley’s transgressions. To me that smacks of selective outrage.

— Blair

Blair,

Nice piece on Spygate. I agree in principal with your argument about the whole operation being very disconcerting. I agree the intel operation should have stopped, but there are a few instances in the reports where I can see why the agents might have wanted to continue. For example the Oct, 25, 2005, report about a possible toxin released at an anti-war rally ... The protestors were also looking at disrupting Ehrlich’s schedule and protesting at his parent’s home in Arbutus.

This isn’t 9⁄11 type stuff I will admit ... In the end these types of things come down to judgment calls and obviously it was a bad call to keep the operation going.

— Mark Newgent

Mark,

When it comes to constitutional rights and liberties I’m a hard-liner, especially on the First Amendment. Because we live in a dangerous world people are too easily frightened into surrendering their freedoms. Government surveillance cameras on street corners, warrantless wiretaps, the Patriot Act and electric signs on interstates saying, ‘‘Report any suspicious activity,” all make me cringe.

The police are in a ‘‘no win” position — damned if they conduct surveillances, damned if they don’t. That’s why the ‘‘judgment calls” you correctly refer to should be made by the top elected officials — not by the police.

‘‘I didn’t know” should no longer be a governor’s defense when something like ‘‘Spygate” surfaces. By law, make the governor sign-off on spying just like we make judges sign-off on search warrants, although search warrants require a higher standard of proof. Such political accountability permits us to police the people who seek to police us.

— Blair

Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring.