June 27, 2013

Letters to the editor: Whistleblower unjustly targeted

The Obama administration's Department of Alleged Justice has filed charges of espionage against Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor.

Edward Snowden
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Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor accused of espionage by the U.S. Justice Department, “should be in line for a medal” for revealing the extent of federal surveillance, a reader says.

The Guardian via The Associated Press

Mr. Snowden had the nerve to inform Americans that their government was spying on them.

"Spy" is the proper word for this, since the surveillance program over our emails and Web searches would certainly be called spying if done by anyone else, and, unlike airport security measures, this program has been created and executed surreptitiously. He may be 29 years late, but George Orwell's "Big Brother" has arrived.

Based on information to this point, Mr. Snowden should be in line for a medal rather than an indictment. Whether the massive and undiscriminating spy program passes constitutional muster or not -- and whether it is necessary for national security or not -- the basic trade-off between individual privacy rights and national security benefits should have been openly debated and voted upon by Congress. It was not.

Even the Patriot Act's author called the massive spy program an abuse of that law. This is not a matter to be settled behind closed doors by a handful of congressional leaders. National security does not give the government a blank check to run roughshod over basic constitutional processes and protections.

Americans should not have had to depend on Mr. Snowden to inform us about what the government is doing to us in our name. Members of Congress lacked the courage to stand up for our system of government.

Whether the blanket surveillance program is right or wrong, the process by which it was approved and continues to operate is clearly wrong.

Congressional defenders of this program may believe they were protecting our national security, and they may have, but they also violated their oaths to defend the Constitution and further diminished trust in government.

Jim Campbell

Peaks Island

Congress Square gone wild best idea for Portland park

We Portland citizens still own the piece of real estate abutting the former Eastland Hotel. Why is there this unenlightened talk of selling it? Folks, you don't give away or sell away a vital part of your city! Haven't we learned anything since the demolition of Union Station?

This little space in the center of Portland was handed back to us some time back. Such a stroke of luck! What to do with it?

I don't know why everyone doesn't agree with me. Get rid of the Japanese trees, right away. Get rid of the cement. Fill it in up to street level. And then turn it into a miniature Maine forest grove.

Plant Maine trees: shrub pine and dwarf white birch (keep them in check). No benches, no cute paths, no "cleanups." Let it grow up wild like the Maine forest, with interesting weeds. Hopefully, birds will dwell in the branches.*

Then we Portland citizens, without driving out into the countryside, can pause and experience this precious remnant of the beautiful state that our city grew out of.

In the classic film "The Ten Commandments," there is an emotional scene showing the morning when the Hebrews start out for the Promised Land.

An old man in a cart, who knows he will never live to reach it, hands a sapling to a young boy. "Plant this tree in the Promised Land," he says. "Birds will dwell in its branches."

The Rev. Joseph R. McKenna

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