Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I was one of the 53 spied on by the Maryland State Police


The Maryland State Police spied on me, and placed me in a database. Despite being fully committed to nonviolence, I was categorized as a terrorist. This has been a pretty hot item with the press in Maryland. Apparently my Work with DAWN (DC Anti-War Network) and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance attracted their attention. Below is one of the latest stories. Funny thing, I received a copy of my file and they didn't even have a physical description of me. Also, no photo, and about 80% of it was redacted. So I will most likely be part of the ACLU lawsuit against MSP.

Senators press for spying answers
Annapolis
By LIAM FARRELL, Staff Writer

U.S. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski are pressing federal agencies for answers on whether they have any knowledge or information about the Maryland State Police's spying on anti-death penalty, anti-war, and environmental activists.

Mr. Cardin and Ms. Mikulski, both Maryland Democrats, were joined by Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin in a letter sent yesterday to federal law enforcement and intelligence officials. The senators urged the government to delete any information it has about the 53 protesters mistakenly classified by the state police as suspected terrorists.

The senators also are asking the agencies to identify how much of the information reached federal databases; the extent the information has been used, shared, or resulted in someone being placed on a federal terrorism-related watchlist; any plans to eliminate the data; and whether any federal officials told the state police the information was being improperly collected.

The state police did not use any federal funds for the surveillance and none of the activists were placed on any federal terrorism watchlists, said Greg Shipley, a spokesman for the state police.

"We did not take any overt, adverse law enforcement actions against any individual," he said.

The letter was sent to Michael Mukasey, the U.S. attorney general; Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI; Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency; and Michael E. Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

"Anti-war protesters, environmental protesters, and anyone exercising their First Amendment right to nonviolent protests should not be unlawfully spied upon nor should they be grouped together with criminals and terrorists," Mr. Cardin said in a prepared statement. "The actions uncovered over the last month are unacceptable and need to be addressed before they happen again."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland released documents this summer that uncovered a covert surveillance operation of regional protest groups conducted by the state police during 2005 and 2006.

A report on the spying ordered by Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was not governor when the investigations were occurring, and compiled by former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, criticized the state police for "overreaching" by continuing to monitor groups when there was no evidence of criminal conduct.

A total of 53 people were mistakenly classified as terrorists in police databases, and some of the information was placed in the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, a federally funded database used to communicate between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Sachs' report states the police may have violated federal regulations by sharing data about individuals when there was no reasonable suspicion they were involved in criminal activity.

Although the covert operation originally appeared limited to anti-death penalty and anti-war groups, three staffers for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network revealed in October they were also on the list.

David Rocah, an attorney for the ACLU, said the state police have not been "terribly forthcoming" on how far the bad information was spread, and there are reasons to be skeptical about any positive assurances.

"We are thrilled that (the senators) are asking these important questions," Mr. Rocah said. "These are questions we have been asking since day one."

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