07.25.08 Maryland Spy-Gate – Take II
We hear from J. L. Smith in today’s Post that there’s nothing wrong with government spying on activist organizations. After all (Smith says), those meetings were public and no one ended up getting arrested.
And we’ve heard now a couple of times from our governor that the surveillance stopped before he took office and that the problem with its having taken place under the previous governor is simply how long it went on.
What’s wrong with these sentiments?
Back to opportunity cost. It simply doesn’t make any sense to waste police resources (not even for the first dozen of the eventual 288 hours) on activities without any probable cause when there are so many other real threats to public safety for police to work on.
Much more serious is the threat to civil liberties. Whether meetings are open or not, the spectacle of government officials donning false identities and acting under false pretenses is fundamentally different than a “civilian’s” right to join a cause with less-than-noble intent.
Furthermore, if no probable cause is required for government spying to take place, why doesn’t our government spy on all citizen groups? Since it obviously can’t do that (imagine the tax hikes necessary to fund a Chinese-style ubiquitous police state!), the question of how the government decides on which groups to infiltrate gets to the heart of the matter.
Are we hearing about government spies going after anti-abortion groups, anti-gay organizations, or the NRA?
Nope. Which is odd, since these groups clearly include violent elements.
What record of violence do the anti-death-penalty or peace movements have? It’s been an awfully long time since the Weathermen and SDS were planting bombs in the 60s. The answer is: NONE!
This leads to the obvious conclusion that the groups being picked on by the government were chosen not because there is even the tiniest hint that they pose a public danger, but rather because they were dissenting against the political views of our (as proven by this case) crypto-fascist leaders in Annapolis.
Get this, L. J. Smith: none of this was about protecting Marylanders from threats to the public order. All of this was about suppressing a particular range of nonviolent dissent that particular government officials happened to disagree with.
The outrageousness of Smith’s view is obvious. What has me so riled up about Governor O’Malley? Just read between the lines. His statements are meant simply to distance himself from the current scandal (“didn’t happen on my watch”), without any call for accountability or commitment to prevent such travesties in the future.
I am outraged at O’Malley because he is apparently not the least bit outraged by this outrage.
It’s good to hear that Senators Brian Frosh (D-Bethesda/Garrett Park), Jamie Raskin (D-Silver Spring/Takoma Park), and others have called for hearings on the matter this fall. But my general distrust of the Democratic Party, leads me to foresee a joyous celebration of GOP wrongdoing revealed (justified as that is), while doing nothing to hold O’Malley accountable for his inexcusable indifference.
©2008 Keith Berner