I listened intently to President Obama’s address to the nation on Sunday. As an average American, I was looking for some hope and reassurance that my president had the safety of my family and myself in mind above all else.

What I heard was that my safety would be enhanced if I, and my fellow citizens, would only give up our arms. Then I heard that it was ridiculous that a law that would keep anyone on the “no-fly list” from acquiring a gun was struck down in Congress.

What I did not hear was a coherent strategy on how our president intended to keep me and my family safe from an attack similar to the one in San Bernardino, Calif. I did not hear any changes that would be put in place to restrict, or otherwise enhance the scrutiny of, foreign nationals entering the U.S. from countries that have a clear record of harboring, tolerating and, in many cases, supporting known terrorists. I did not hear how our president would ensure that refugees from anywhere in the world are not “radicalized extremists” bent on using our generous refugee immigration policy to infiltrate the U.S. Most of all, I did not hear anything that even hinted at some level of empathy with the American people’s profound sense of fear and dread that surrounds this heinous act.

The American people do not, and I pray never will, understand a cause that holds the death of innocent people in the highest regard. Americans are looking for leadership that denounces such a cause without exception and provides a passionate and bold plea for the country to back a plan to crush such a cause. The American people are still looking.

Mark Plooster, Plymouth

• • •

Obama’s address was inspiring, calming our fears and vowing the destruction of the Islamic State in Iraq in the Levant. But there was something he said when talking about Congress that I want to point out. In the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land, it is detailed in the enumerated powers that Congress has the sole power to declare war. Obama has pleaded with Congress to declare war on ISIL. Why Congress has not yet declared war astounds me. Many members don’t want to give ISIL the credibility of being called a state, but that is childish. Declaring war on ISIL unites the American people behind a message of freedom, a message demanding that ISIL shall not maim, hurt or injure any more innocent people. Declaring war shows our conviction toward the eradication of this threat, and the conviction we have for “human dignity,” as Obama was quoted as saying. Congress needs to act for the sake of the innocent.

Connor Lynch, Savage



County attorneys are wrong about smartphone encryption

I’m tired of listening to law enforcement officials and prosecutors crying for government back doors to encryption (“Apple, Google encryption is blow to safety,” by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, Opinion Exchange, Dec. 7). Encryption is the only tool that private citizens have to protect their digital privacy. Compromising encryption is a slippery slope that should not be allowed to happen.

I understand the authors’ reasoning that law enforcement authorities can use a warrant to enter a private home to search for evidence of a crime, and I know that they want that to apply to encrypted data. I also understand their frustration that there may be information to help them solve crimes on our personal electronic devices.

However, these heavily relied upon devices have become intimate extensions of our lives. I propose that the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination be extended to cover these devices instead. Police cannot compel you to divulge information that would incriminate yourself, so why should they be able to force extraction of this information from devices that have become such an intimate part of our daily lives?

Greg Kline, Minneapolis

The writer is an information technology security risk manager.

• • •

I’ll ignore the obvious constitutional issues and questionable factual assertions in the article by Freeman and Backstrom, and instead offer a practical objection.

If Apple and Google are forced to insert a government “back door” to their encryption, then that encryption will promptly become worthless. Every cyberterrorist, hacker and hostile foreign government will immediately set to work to identify and exploit that back door. And they will succeed.

So, we are asked to make a values assessment. Do we value our Fifth Amendment right to not be compelled to incriminate ourselves by giving a password? Or allow this back door to become law, put every smartphone and tablet in the country at risk of being hacked, and throw one of our most cherished constitutional principles out the virtual window?

There can be only one constitutional and practical answer: No, we will not sacrifice everyone’s security and privacy in the name of convenience. There are other ways.

Joe Sanow, Sleepy Eye, Minn.

The writer is an attorney.



Well, at least it shows where Washington gridlock originates

Here is what troubles me about the Minnesota GOP straw poll (“Ted Cruz easily tops GOP straw poll,” Dec. 6). Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have a plethora of choices, including three candidates who are more or less moderates in U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (who believes in climate change), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (who supported Medicaid expansion) and former New York Gov. George Pataki (who won three terms in a blue state).

Neither Pataki or Graham got any votes, and Kasich got only three.

Instead, Minnesotan Republican activists heavily chose a right-wing, hard-line, Tea Party ideologue in U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has tried to link Democratic policies to communism and fascism, which has upset other Republicans like John McCain. Moreover, both former President George W. Bush and former House Speaker John Boehner do not like Cruz. The straw poll winner also has caused government shutdowns and gridlocks, believes that climate change is a myth, and was not even born in the U.S. (meaning that support for him may be hypocritical, considering that some Republicans falsely insisted that Obama was born in Kenya, so could not be president).

But the poll raises a good point: If anybody wonders why there is so much gridlock in Washington or in St. Paul, just look at whom local Republicans want to be their presidential nominee and whom they apparently do not want as their nominee.

William Cory Labovitch, South St. Paul



Just to clarify, here’s the process for acquiring treatment

I would like to clarify a statement made in the Dec. 5 editorial regarding medical marijuana for intractable pain (“A courageous step on medical marijuana”). The editorial states that “Minnesota doctors will be able to prescribe the drug … for those suffering from incurable pain” starting next August.

Under the Minnesota medical-marijuana legislation, doctors do not “prescribe” marijuana. Patients must obtain certification from a medical provider that they have been diagnosed with one of the qualifying conditions and, after completing the enrollment process, must visit a dispensary. There, the form, dose and frequency of treatment will be determined by a pharmacist, not by a physician.

Dr. John Kelly, Minneapolis