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Why is O'Malley silent on NSA spying?

Marta Mossburg says the governor owes Marylanders answers about where he stands on massive surveillance programs

Marta H. Mossburg

2:24 PM EDT, June 18, 2013

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As it turns out, we are "one" Maryland, as Gov. Martin O'Malley likes to say — one Maryland under surveillance by thousands of people who live and work in this state.

The fact that Maryland is the spy capital of the United States is the story within the story about revelations that the Fort Meade-based National Security Agency is blanket-surveilling Americans via metadata of their phone records and back-door monitoring of their email.

But it is not one that Mr. O'Malley talks about. He pretends Maryland remains a progressive utopia on the Chesapeake, untouched by daily national news headlines showing government is potentially monitoring virtually every aspect of Americans' lives just off of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

This Saturday, for example, he gave a speech in D.C. at the convention of the liberal American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, where he highlighted his push for "nation-leading" gun control laws, tuition assistance for illegal immigrant children and gay marriage, according to The Washington Post. "These things make our state more innovative as well as more just, more creative as well as more open, a better place for business, a better place for job creation," he said. At a gathering of people interested in the Constitution, wouldn't it have been appropriate to focus on — or at the very least, mention — the biggest legal issue in the state?

I can find no public statements from him about the NSA scandal. His most recent press releases are about his trade mission to Europe, a job training program and a new appointment to his administration.

As the chief executive of the state where the NSA is headquartered and where thousands of federal employees and defense contractors live and work in intelligence-gathering operations, he needs to speak. As someone who consistently pushes for a larger federal cybersecurity footprint in Maryland, he needs to speak. And as someone who likely will be running for president, he needs to outline to Marylanders and the American people the Free State's role in the federal government's intelligence operations, his views on their significance to national security, and whether those actions are legal.

For starters, here are a few questions residents of Maryland and all Americans deserve answers to:

•What did Mr. O'Malley know about the NSA's operations? Was he aware of their tactics, and as a lawyer, does he think they violate the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure?

•Has any of the information collected through monitoring activities been used by Maryland and/or local law enforcement to obtain search warrants or to arrest Maryland residents? (Remember when state police officials spied on peace activists and anti-death penalty groups in 2005 and 2006 — sending reports to the NSA?)

•How does he reconcile his progressive philosophy of government as an agent of personal freedom and fulfillment with the fact that it spends billions of tax dollars sifting through the most intimate details of Americans' lives?

I asked his office for answers to these questions and did not get a response by the time of publication.

His views on these issues are of huge importance — much more than who is the next director of the Maryland Energy Administration or how he plans to help "Maryland businesses market themselves to international customers" in France and Ireland this week, as he noted in press releases. And his silence, like President Barack Obama's on the scandal after scandal rocking his administration, makes him a bystander to events central to who we are as Americans at the same time he seeks a promotion to higher office.

Maybe he thinks if he does not say something, no one can blame him as Big Brother exercises free rein in the state. But right now he is in the unenviable position of trying to market himself as a champion of personal rights while presiding over a state that hosts a massive intelligence apparatus of at best questionable legal authority aimed at American citizens. He risks proving himself to be a man who accepts no boundaries to federal government power so long as it means a lower unemployment rate and more $100,000-plus paychecks to tax.

Marta H. Mossburg is a Baltimore-area writer whose work appears regularly in The Sun. Her email is marta@martamossburg.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mmossburg.