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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  • Display: Sort:
    The nuttiness never ends.... (none / 0) (#1)
    by PssttCmere08 on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 05:08:14 PM EST

    did i enter the (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 05:20:40 PM EST
    "wayback machine", and go to the 60's & 70's? where the heck is mr. peabody when you really need him?

    i kid you not, this is sounding more and more like a highlight reel of hoover's and nixon's greatest anti-constitutional hits.

    That's what I was thinking (none / 0) (#9)
    by splashy on Sun Jul 20, 2008 at 04:48:43 AM EST
    I remember what it was like back then. It sticks with you for the rest of your life. People coming of age now will have a bit of paranoia living with them from now on, caused once again by the right winger creeps.

    The collective Law Enforcement Community (none / 0) (#3)
    by AX10 on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 05:32:47 PM EST
    is in a great part responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing.  The mentality of this community is that ONLY left wing groups are prone to commit acts of violence.  The fact is that most groups on both sides peacefully advocate their causes, occasionally
    there are some extremists (ON BOTH SIDES).  The law enforcement community, leaning towards the
    authoritarian/right side of the aisle, seems content to allow right wing activists to go without any monitoring all the while looking only at those on the left.   Remember, extremists exist on both sides of the spectrum.  No side has this monopoly, as Maryland police (like too many others) believe.

    I disagree... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 09:09:35 AM EST
    No one should be monitored because of their political beliefs..far right or far left.

    Not true.. (none / 0) (#8)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 11:37:42 AM EST
    The were those in the FBI who warned Reno their was a sh!t storm brewing over Waco and she chose to provide political cover instead.

    Seems to me (none / 0) (#10)
    by splashy on Sun Jul 20, 2008 at 04:50:45 AM EST
    That the really violent ones are mostly on the right, but I haven't done a study on it.

    Some eco-terrorists come to mind (none / 0) (#11)
    by txpublicdefender on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 04:35:31 PM EST
    Some of the radical eco-terrorists would be considered on the left.  While there are many the government classifies as "terrorists" who only inflict property damage, some of them have engaged in arson and bombings to support their cause, in some cases injuring or killing others.

    Remember several years ago in Denver (none / 0) (#4)
    by echinopsia on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 06:00:09 PM EST
    When Diane Carman wrote a column in the Denver Post about a couple of middle-aged women who were followed and surveilled by police when they went to lunch on the 16th street mall after protesting Bush's visit to address the Cattlemen's conference at the convention center?

    One of them was me. One of the women, I mean.

    We were sitting there like two ladies who lunch (which we were), when we noticed there were two mounted police sitting their horses right across from where we were sitting at a table on the sidewalk. My friend went over to pet the horses and the cops got verrrry nervous. Then they were joined by a motorcycle cop and a squad car - all parked on the mall, across from us. When I went inside to use the ladies', the motorcycle cop followed me, then tried to act invisible when I came back out and practically an into him.

    We were wondering WTF was going on - it was a sleepy early spring weekday afternoon and we didn't see anything out of the ordinary to merit such a police presence.

    We finally figured out they were watching us. Two middle-aged ladies in a sidewalk cafe on the 16th street mall, having lunch. With out protest signs stacked under the table, in plain sight.

    Hey guys? If we were going to do something subversive, do ya think we'd be doing it here? Over lunch?

    Anyway, shortly after that was the Denver spy files flap, and when the files became "available" you had to show ID and provide all kinds of information to see if there was a file on you. I never applied, because how stupid would it be to go to the Denver police and say, "Hi, I'm a dissident, here's all my information, have you been spying on me?"

    If they were honest, they'd have to say, "Well, we sure will be spying on you now."

    Opened my Baltimore Sun this morning (none / 0) (#5)
    by Anne on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 08:55:49 PM EST
    to this front-page news and wanted to barf.

    This is what happens when there are no longer any lines to separate the legal from the illegal; what is happening in Maryland is nothing more than a by-product of the mind-set that led to the WH establishing surveillance programs that violated all kinds of laws, and is - for me - one of the bullet-points in the "Why Impeachment Makes Sense" power point presentation.

    And it's not going to stop as long as the executive branch is allowed to violate the 4th Amendment at will.

    I will never understand why the people who are supposed to be the watchdogs of the Constitution haven't figured that out.

    Bush as set the bar for spying. (none / 0) (#6)
    by weltec2 on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 09:11:01 PM EST
    What more precedent do they need?