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

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


Babies have no respite from secondhand smoke

I think we need a new law that puts a large fine and punishment on people who surround babies with secondhand smoke.

We were at the boat ramp in Gray recently, and a young girl (probably a state case) left her car with two small walking kids and a little one on her hip.

She walked across the parking lot to the beach area, all the while letting a cloud of smoke from every puff go right in the baby’s face.

When she got to the beach area, she stopped to really puff a lot more, before going in. We were 25 feet away and could smell the smoke go by us.

I called Gray Dispatch, and there isn’t a law that protects babies from this, but there are laws that protect adults. Something is terribly wrong here. I am saying there needs to be one.

Also, where do these kids get the money for their butts? Oh, I forgot — you and me.

Earl Harnden


Tube feeding inmates usurps their right to opt for death

I am not a member of the military, but I am a faith-based person. Having just read about the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, I am disturbed. I do believe prisons are necessary but I am upset about this action of tube feedings being forced upon prisoners who choose to hunger strike.

These are human beings who have or have not gone astray. They have a right to die.

God will decide where they end up after death. It is morally wrong to force feed them. It is their right to choose life or death.

If this is the policy of the U.S. Department of Defense, then we should change it. I strongly disagree with it and believe hunger strikes should be tolerated. A hunger strike affects only the individual. He or she is not a suicide bomber who kills herself as well as others. It affects only the individual!

The prisoners have had all their rights taken away from them. Let them choose between life and death. Let them deal with God.

Susan Peabody Love


Faded striping not a help to those on foot in the city

Summer is here and the asphalt is a-flowing. But where are the white lines that serve pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers?

Portland’s major avenues are largely paint free, the crossings scrubbed out by a hard winter. But isn’t spring the time to repaint them?

Walk down Forest, Stevens or Washington avenues and one will find only faint archaeological lines. This is a great disservice to kids getting to school and seniors trying to make the crossing.

Life isn’t good on the streets of Portland.

Alfred Padula