Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Covering the Bases

January 09, 2002

As he gears up for the gubernatorial race, Gov. Gray Davis is trying to make sure he protects the political base he naturally has as a Democrat and also to ensure that no Republican gets to the right of him on crime issues. Thus Tuesday evening he embraced anti-terrorism proposals including a dubious expansion of state wiretapping laws. But he offered no details and did not present a compelling case for the need to make it easier for police to eavesdrop. The Legislature should ask a lot of tough questions before advancing any such measure.

The wiretap plan came in Davis' annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature. The opening minutes focused on "the unspeakable attacks of Sept. 11" and the state's response, which he claimed led those of all other states. And Davis introduced from the audience a variety of individuals related to the Sept. 11 events, among them California family members of passengers on the planes involved, plus the family of Army Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, killed in action in Afghanistan.

Call this the unofficial launching of Davis' campaign for reelection, which will be wrapped generously in red, white and blue. To his credit, Davis promised to protect education "above everything else" in the budget but seemed to offer the same protection also to law enforcement. He pledged to seek $75 million to expand before- and after-school programs and work to make unemployment benefits retroactive to Sept. 11. Also important, he promised to help hospitals expand the number of nurses. These are commendable but costly moves. Davis, in his budget proposal Thursday, should say clearly how he would pay for all of this without trickery or pushing costs into the future.

California should be wary of Davis' call for sweeping new state wiretapping rules, including the examination of e-mail. Congress already has given federal authorities such power, including the "roving" wiretap that allows eavesdropping on suspected terrorists on whichever phone line or cell phone they may be using. Present state law allows law enforcement to contact a judge, by telephone if necessary, to ask for expansion of a wiretap warrant to additional phones. Officers claim this is overly burdensome, but the state should not make it convenient for local police to eavesdrop without extraordinary cause.

There was a little something for everyone in Davis' speech Tuesday. Except, notably, any use of the word "recession."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|