Maryland Police Spy on Activists
It's good to know that there's no crime in Maryland. That must be the case if the Homeland Security and Intelligence Division of the Maryland State Police found time to mount undercover operations to spy on people who support progressive viewpoints.
Undercover Maryland State Police officers repeatedly spied on peace activists and anti-death penalty groups in recent years and entered the names of some in a law-enforcement database of people thought to be terrorists or drug traffickers, newly released documents show.
What did Maryland taxpayers obtain in return for investing tax dollars in these spying missions? What terrible crimes were the peaceniks and death penalty opponents committing?
[N]one of the 43 pages of summaries and computer logs - some with agents' names and whole paragraphs blacked out - mention criminal or even potentially criminal acts, the legal standard for initiating such surveillance.
Note to the Maryland police: dissent is not a crime. It's not even suspicious. It's a right. Learn to respect it, would you please? [more ...]
This wasn't just a case of benign observation.
State police appeared to have been specifically tracking [Max] Obuszewski's activities. His name, the documents show, was entered into the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area database, even though there was "not a scintilla of evidence" that he deserved to be listed, said Rocah, the ACLU attorney.
Well, you know, if he believes in peace, he must be a drug dealer, if not a terrorist.
Obuszewski's take: it's all about money.
One reason [for targeting pacifists], he theorized, is that local police agencies need funds from the federal government, and surveillance of supposed "terrorists" might be a good way to keep getting the money. No matter the reason, the news that the Bush administration keeps about 1 million names on a terrorist watch-list is disheartening, Obuszewski said, since so many people cannot possibly warrant inclusion.
If you're an activist in Maryland, there's probably a file on you.
In a letter sent yesterday to Gov. Martin O'Malley, [Susan] Goering [executive director of the ACLU of Maryland,] wrote that the state police had "recorded extensive information about specific individuals and groups, including describing their political outlook, whether they were articulate, what political activities they are engaged in, and attended private planning meetings in a covert capacity."
Domestic spying has a chilling effect upon the exercise of our constitutional rights to free speech and assembly.
"Maryland residents should feel free to join a peaceful protest without fear that their names will wind up in police files," Goering wrote. "They should feel free to engage in nonviolent dissent without fear of being branded as 'terrorists' or 'security threat groups' in shared law-enforcement databases."
How free do you feel today?
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