My July 5 column about California’s Department of Homeland Security struck a cord with many of you and I was surprised more of your responses weren’t different.
The overwhelming majority thought government monitoring of our political lives was just fine.
Glenn Farley writes:
I presume we can both agree that there is zero expectation of privacy at a large public rally which invites media coverage and encourages public awareness. Given that, what exactly is the concern, from the perspective of civil liberties and personal privacy? If the speakers and demonstrators are not acting unlawfully, they have little to fear from official observers.
SRE: Many of you made this good point about the law and you were dead on: there is no invasion of an individual’s right to privacy when the material disclosed is already readily available to the public. The concern from the civil liberties perspective is that perfectly respectable and American behavior like demonstrating at a political rally could be used against someone in the future, like it was in the McCarthy era.
C. Leofsky writes:
So "authorities" are monitoring events where disgruntled persons are hanging about. I think they should keep an eye out because even Al Qaeda persons might be there looking for a recruit. If we are fortunate, the threats we face now will diminish and vigilance can fade.
SRE: Given that Al Qaeda has no relation to Iraq, and probably doesn’t much care much about Canadian environmental policy or women’s reproductive rights, I highly doubt they would recruit among these groups. I understand your concern, but making the connection between politically active folks and disgruntled terrorists -- as has been done many times in history -- is quite troubling to me.
Elliot Atkinson writes:
I find it interesting that you assume a right to privacy while rallying (protesting) in a public place. Odd.
SRE: Nope, I just question the connections the department makes between these rallies and homeland security.
Ruston Eleogram of Pahrump, Nev., writes:
You're the worst kind of American: one who puts partisan politics above the good of the country. You know very well you are aiding and abetting the terrorists, but continue to do so, hoping only to hurt the Republican Party and its leaders.”
SRE: I don’t think that being vigilant about the tenets of our Constitution is partisan politics.
Joe Chirtz of Mount Pleasant, Mo., writes:
If a government agency wants to come to a public rally, I don’t see the harm. If a private individual wanted to keep track of what they were doing it would be fine. It isn’t unheard of for environmental groups to engage in violent activity.
Lastly, as a police officer who has extra training in accident investigation, I understand your story. As you are aware, it only takes a second for a lifetime to change. I am glad you are ok.
SRE: Thanks Joe, I appreciate that and applaud you for your service. I also understand the good faith desires all of you wrote me with to prevent another 9-11, and I want to prevent that too. I have a problem with the government monitoring private individuals in these harmless and constitutionally-protected activities because the government has many more resources than private individuals and the ability to formally investigate and prosecute.
Thanks for writing this week. I feel all of your frustrations about the threats to our country and have many similar concerns. I worry however when connections could be made between protected American political discourse and terrorist activity.
As for my column about Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman, most of you weren’t appreciative of the dance all presidential candidates must do in the Senate.
Rick Praml of Winchester, Va., writes:
The honorable thing to do was for Ms. Clinton to wait until after the primary to declare she would only support the Democratic nominee. She could have garnered a great deal of credit by supporting someone who has supported her (if not her husband) for decades. If he was defeated in the primary, she could have said that while she supported Lieberman, the people of Connecticut had spoken.
SRE: Thanks Rick, I think you identify the thin line between appearing strategic in public comments and appealing to further-left voters in the primary. The avenue she chose probably has less cost for her among the voting base.