American Samizdat

Wednesday, October 08, 2008. *
The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday. Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July. ..

The surveillance took place over 14 months in 2005 and 2006, under the administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). The former state police superintendent who authorized the operation, Thomas E. Hutchins, defended the program in testimony yesterday. Hutchins said the program was a bulwark against potential violence and called the activists "fringe people." Sheridan said protest groups were also entered as terrorist organizations in the databases, but his staff has not identified which ones. ...

Hutchins said the intelligence agents, whose logs were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland as part of a lawsuit, were monitoring "open public meetings." His officers sought a "situational awareness" of the potential for disruption as death penalty opponents prepared to protest the executions of two men on death row, Hutchins said. "I don't believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government," he said. Hutchins said he did not notify Ehrlich about the surveillance. Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said the governor had no comment. ...

Both Hutchins and Sheridan said the activists' names were entered into the state police database as terrorists partly because the software offered limited options for classifying entries. The police also entered the activists' names into the federal Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area database, which tracks suspected terrorists. One well-known antiwar activist from Baltimore, Max Obuszewski, was singled out in the intelligence logs released by the ACLU, which described a "primary crime" of "terrorism-anti-government" and a "secondary crime" of "terrorism-anti-war protesters."

Sheridan said that he did not think the names were circulated to other agencies in the federal system and that they are not on the federal government's terrorist watch list. Hutchins said some names might have been shared with the National Security Agency. Although the independent report on the surveillance released last week said that it was part of a broad effort by the state police to gather information on protest groups across the state, Sheridan said the department is not aware of any surveillance as "intrusive" as the spying on death penalty and war opponents.
posted by Uncle $cam at 3:05 PM
Post a Comment

Site Meter

Creative Commons License