Friday, January 30, 2009

Afghanistan: Calling a Time Out

Washington Post
By George McGovern
Thursday, January 22, 2009;

As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your supporters.

True, the United States is the world's greatest power -- but so was the British Empire a century ago when it tried to pacify the warlords and tribes of Afghanistan, only to be forced out after excruciating losses. For that matter, the Soviet Union was also a superpower when it poured some 100,000 troops into Afghanistan in 1979. They limped home, broken and defeated, a decade later, having helped pave the way for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is logical to conclude that our massive military dominance and supposedly good motives should let us work our will in Afghanistan. But logic does not always prevail in South Asia. With belligerent Afghan warlords sitting atop each mountain glowering at one another, the one factor that could unite them is the invasion of their country by a foreign power, whether British, Russian or American.

I have believed for some time that military power is no solution to terrorism. The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East -- our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel -- that drives the terrorist impulse against us would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere. We also need to close down the imposing U.S. military bases in this section of the globe, which do so little to expand our security and so much to stoke local resentment.

We cannot evade this reckoning. The British thought they could extend their control over Iraq even while pulling out their ground forces by creating a string of bases in remote parts of the country, away from the observation of most Iraqis. It didn't work. No people that desires independence and self-determination wishes to have another nation's military bases in its country. In 1776, remember, 13 little colonies drove the mighty British Empire from American soil.

In 2003, the Bush administration ordered an invasion of Iraq, supposedly to reduce terrorism. But six years later, there is more terrorism and civil strife in Iraq, not less. The same outcome may occur in Afghanistan if we make it the next American military conflict.

Mr. President, the bright promise of your brilliant campaign for the White House and the high hopes of the millions who thronged the Mall on Tuesday to watch you be sworn in could easily be lost in the mountains and wastelands of Afghanistan.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has estimated that the war in Iraq will have a total cost of more than $3 trillion. That war has clearly weakened our economy and our armed forces even as it has made the national debt soar. The Bush administration committed itself to Iraq before the recession. Today, with our economy teetering, does the Obama administration believe that it is time for yet another costly war in yet another Muslim country?
Washington Post
By George McGovern
Thursday, January 22, 2009;

As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your supporters.

True, the United States is the world's greatest power -- but so was the British Empire a century ago when it tried to pacify the warlords and tribes of Afghanistan, only to be forced out after excruciating losses. For that matter, the Soviet Union was also a superpower when it poured some 100,000 troops into Afghanistan in 1979. They limped home, broken and defeated, a decade later, having helped pave the way for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is logical to conclude that our massive military dominance and supposedly good motives should let us work our will in Afghanistan. But logic does not always prevail in South Asia. With belligerent Afghan warlords sitting atop each mountain glowering at one another, the one factor that could unite them is the invasion of their country by a foreign power, whether British, Russian or American.

I have believed for some time that military power is no solution to terrorism. The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East -- our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel -- that drives the terrorist impulse against us would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere. We also need to close down the imposing U.S. military bases in this section of the globe, which do so little to expand our security and so much to stoke local resentment.

We cannot evade this reckoning. The British thought they could extend their control over Iraq even while pulling out their ground forces by creating a string of bases in remote parts of the country, away from the observation of most Iraqis. It didn't work. No people that desires independence and self-determination wishes to have another nation's military bases in its country. In 1776, remember, 13 little colonies drove the mighty British Empire from American soil.

In 2003, the Bush administration ordered an invasion of Iraq, supposedly to reduce terrorism. But six years later, there is more terrorism and civil strife in Iraq, not less. The same outcome may occur in Afghanistan if we make it the next American military conflict.

Mr. President, the bright promise of your brilliant campaign for the White House and the high hopes of the millions who thronged the Mall on Tuesday to watch you be sworn in could easily be lost in the mountains and wastelands of Afghanistan.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has estimated that the war in Iraq will have a total cost of more than $3 trillion. That war has clearly weakened our economy and our armed forces even as it has made the national debt soar. The Bush administration committed itself to Iraq before the recession. Today, with our economy teetering, does the Obama administration believe that it is time for yet another costly war in yet another Muslim country?

I'm aware that some of my fellow Americans regard me as too idealistic. But sometimes idealism is the best realism. And at a minimum, realism and idealism need not be contradictory. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has not only angered Iraqis who have lost family members, neighbors or homes; it has also increased the level of anger throughout the Muslim world and thrown up obstacles to our political leadership in that deeply important part of the planet.

Like you, Mr. President, I don't oppose all wars. I risked my life in World War II to protect our country against genuine danger. But it is the vivid memory of my fellow airmen being shot out of the sky on all sides of me in a war that I believe we had to fight that makes me cautious about sending our youth into needless conflicts that weaken us at home and abroad, and may even weaken us in the eyes of God.

As you have noted, Mr. President, we take pride in our soldiers who conduct themselves bravely. But as you have also said, some of these soldiers have served two, three and even four tours in dangerous combat. Many of them have come home with enduring brain and nerve damage and without arms and legs. These troops need rest, rehabilitation and reunions with their families.

So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war -- unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?

During that interval, we could work with the U.N. World Food Program, plus the overseas arms of the churches, synagogues, mosques and other volunteer agencies to provide a nutritious lunch every day for every school-age child in Afghanistan and other poor countries. Such a program is now underway in several countries approved by Congress and the United Nations, under the auspices of the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Act. (Forgive the self-serving title.) Although the measure remains painfully underfunded, with the help of other countries, we are reaching millions of children. We could supplement these efforts with nutritional packages for low-income pregnant and nursing mothers and their infants from birth through the age of 5, as is done here at home by WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

Is this proposal pie-in-the-sky? I don't think so. It's food in the stomachs of hungry kids. It would draw them to school and enable them to learn and grow into better citizens. It would cost a small fraction of warfare's cost, but it might well be a stronger antidote to terrorism. There will always be time for another war. But hunger can't wait.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

William Thomas Dies


William Thomas, dedicated peace and anti-nuke activist, passed away Friday morning at home. He was co-pilot of the 24-hour seven-day a week vigil at the White House for 27 years. He is survived by his wife Ellen and vigil co-pilot Concepcion. I remember Thomas from my high school years years early in on his vigil. Millions of people from hundred of countries visited Thomas as he kept vigiling, warning them of the dangers of nuclear holocaust and the ravages of war. He will be greatly missed by the peace and justice movement.

An excerpt from an article in The Washington Post by David Montgomery, published a couple years ago:

WASHINGTON — William Thomas first introduced fanny to brick on the White House sidewalk on June 3, 1981. His sign said, "Wanted: Wisdom and Honesty." He's been there ever since, still squatting, still wanting.

A few months after he began, he was joined by Concepcion Picciotto, who has remained similarly steadfast.

War is not over, but the peace protesters have won. Sort of. Lafayette Square, the oasis of green across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, is theirs.

Get rid of the shelter made of a battered patio umbrella, a weathered plastic tarp and those faded anti-nuke signs erected by Thomas and Picciotto?

It wouldn't be the same park.

Tourists from such places as Beijing and Chicago no longer would flash peace signs for digital cameras. School groups would make one less stop. Tour-guide shticks would shrink by a sentence or two.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Witness Against Torture praises Obama's initial steps toward justice during its 100 Days Campaign, demands rapid implementation


WASHINGTON -- Witness Against Torture (www.witnesstorture.org), an organization formed from a march to Guantanamo in 2005 to protest the prison there, applauds President Barack Obama's executive orders to shut down Guantanamo and the CIA "black sites," and to end the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the CIA at Guantanamo and other prisons.

"President Obama has taken important first steps to undo much of what was the worst Bush administration policies," said Matthew Daloisio, one of those who marched to Guantanamo.
According to the Guantanamo order, "The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order."

Witness Against Torture joins other human rights groups in insisting that the facility can be closed much sooner than one year. "While pleased with these developments, we are disappointed that Guantanamo will stay open another year, allows for a new system of detention without charge, and does not adequately address other facilities, such as that in Bagram, Afghanistan, that share the problems of Guantanamo," Daloisio said.

Today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Witness Against Torture will hold a vigil in front of the White House. It will feature reading of detainees' letters, and calling for their rapid release or initiation of fair trials in the Federal Courts.

Witness Against Torture also demands that the Obama administration live up to its promises of transparency and accountability. The group is asking that those responsible for authorizing torture practices be investigated and prosecuted for crimes, and applauds Obama's selection for attorney general, Eric Holder, for his statement that no government official is above the law.

"We need more transparency in holding the responsible parties accountable for the immoral and illegal policies that have, in fact, made America less safe," said Frida Berrigan of Witness Against Torture. "We cannot reliably prevent the crimes of the future unless we fully understand, account for, and appropriately punish the crimes of the past. We fear that efforts to move forward without a process of justice, truth-telling, and reconciliation are doomed to fail."

http://www.100dayscampaign.org/

Monday, January 19, 2009

A ‘terrible disease of the mind’

By Zaid Nabulsi

I lost my gloves one day in a coffee shop in Geneva, and I tell you, it’s difficult to ride a motorcycle without them when it’s really cold. So as I was paying for a new pair with a credit card, the salesman - who I knew was from Israel - asked me what my family name means. I told him that it relates to the city of Nablus where my family is originally from. Suddenly, the most bewildered look got plastered on his face.

“Where is Nablus?” he asked, “I’ve never heard of it”. Then he pretended to remember. “Ah, Shkheim you mean?”

With my insistence not to learn these ugly sounding names that the Zionists have dug up from oblivion to erase our identity, that name certainly didn’t ring a bell.

Now it was my turn. Although I knew where he was from, I asked: “And you’re… from?”

As he smiled, I replicated the look on his face moments ago. “Israel? Where is that?”

Then after a brief pause: “Ah, the land of Canaan you mean. Palestine.”

You see, if you want to get biblical, there was never such a thing as Israel, and I made that very clear to this gentleman with obnoxious chutzpah.

So here we were all of a sudden; my family descended from a place called Shkheim, and this guy became a Palestinian. God does work in mysterious ways, but I still thanked Him for His small mercies; that at least my name was not Zaid Shkheimy.

While the gloves warmed up my grip on the bike, my heart was still frozen. I just cannot stand thieves who steal your gloves, or any other kind of thieves.

Then it finally dawned on me. Zionism is a sickness, for it takes much more than just a twisted ideology to make people think like that. It requires a profound leap of immorality of a higher order to instill this mentality in your followers. Zionism is not merely a political movement, but in its essence represents a deeply disturbed view of the world, resulting from a terrible affliction of the mind.

Indeed, to deny the existence of a vibrant community such as the Palestinian society in the early 20th century and describe Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land” is a serious blinding ailment.

To assert property claims over real estate after thousands of years with the same certainty of title as if one resided there yesterday is the essence of arrogance.

To describe the colonial immigration to Palestine of a European people with no proven historical link to the ancient Israelites - and whose great, great recorded ancestors have never set foot there - as some kind of a “return” to that land is a distorted misapplication of the verb to “return”.

To blame the Palestinians for being unreasonable in rejecting a partition plan in 1947 which gave the Jews, who only owned 7 per cent of the land, an astounding half of Palestine, is an arithmetical impairment.

To eventually grab 78 per cent of Palestine through war, evict the population through massacres and then live in their same houses is unashamed theft.

To deny the orchestrated eradications of hundreds of Palestinian villages in 1948 and then denounce the Israeli historians who later exposed this truth as self-hating Jews is compulsive forgery.

To claim that having escaped the horrors of the Nazis is a justification for the murder, expulsion and occupation of another, guiltless, people is moral incapacity.

To legislate that any resident of Poland, New York or Brazil, who happens to be blessed with a Jewish mother (yet cannot point to Palestine on the map), has a right to “return” and settle in Palestine, unlike someone who has been expelled from his own land, confined to a squalid refugee camp and still holds the keys to his house, is racism.

To blame God for the theft and occupation of someone else’s land by claiming that it was He who had pledged this land exclusively to the Jews, and to seriously promote the myth of a land promised by the Almighty to His favourite children as an excuse for this crime, is insanity.

To milk the pockets of the entire world for the atrocities of the Nazis, while stubbornly refusing a simple admission of guilt, let alone compensation or repatriation, for the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people, is perverted conceit.

To keep blackmailing the world with expensive museums and endless movies of the plight of the Jews under Hitler 70 years ago, while at the same time inflicting on the Palestinians today the fate of the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto, is acute schizophrenia.

To impose collective guilt on the Western civilisation for the Holocaust and to criminalise all legitimate historical debate of the nature and extent of that horrific event is thuggery.

To incarcerate the Palestinian people inside degrading cages, destroy their livelihoods, confiscate their lands, steal their water and uproot their trees, and then to condemn their legitimate resistance as terrorism, and to exact vengeance on the innocent families of suicide bombers by punishing them with the dynamiting of their homes is sadistic cruelty.

To describe the offer of giving the Palestinians 80 per cent of 22 per cent of 100 per cent of what is originally their own land as a “generous” offer is macabre Shylockian humour.

To believe that you have the God-given right to continue to humiliate the Palestinians at gunpoint by making them queue for hours to move between their villages, forcing their mothers to give birth at checkpoints, is a predisposition to bestiality.

To flatten the camp of Jenin on its inhabitants’ heads and deny any wrongdoing is a severe delusional disorder.

To build a huge separation wall which disconnects farmers from their farms and children from their schools, while stealing even more territory as the wall freely zigzags and encroaches on Palestinian land is unrepentant immorality.

To leave behind, in the last 10 days of a losing war in Lebanon, more than one million cluster bombs which have no purpose except to murder and maim unsuspecting civilians is murderous depravity.

To believe that the entire world is out to get you, and to denounce any critic of the racist policies of the state of Israel as an anti-Semite, the latest victim being none other than peace-making Jimmy Carter, is hysterical mass paranoia.

To possess, in the midst of a non-nuclear Arab world, more than 200 nuclear warheads capable of incinerating the whole planet, in addition to having the most lethal arsenal of weaponry on earth, while continuing to demand sympathy, is the ultimate false victimisation syndrome.

And today, to blockade the world’s most densely populated strip of land for 18 months, suffocate its already displaced and miserable inhabitants by asking them to die a slow death, and then punish them for refusing to die silently by deliberately bombing their schools, mosques, hospitals and ambulances with internationally prohibited weapons and poisonous gasses in the ugliest televised massacre of children in modern history, all the while looking the world in the eyes and claiming that this is an act of self-defence, is a critical stage of dangerous psychosis, and is pure, unadulterated madness.

Yes, and for that salesman in peaceful Geneva to be as insecure as a common thief to refuse to acknowledge the name of the largest West Bank city under his country’s brutal military occupation is, sadly, more of the same infectious and ultimately fatal disease of the mind.

The writer is an attorney, partner in Nabulsi & Associates law firm. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I was arrested while mourning those killed with our tax dollars


On Tuesday, January 6, about 80 anti-war protestors came to Capitol Hill to remind elected representatives of the death and destruction they continue to fund. Laurie Arbeiter and her colleagues in the Activist Response Team (ART) organized another performance of the March of the Dead on the first day of the 111th Congress, followed by dramatic banner drops and arrests for nonviolent civil resistance later that day.

The protestors did not gain much media attention, although plenty of cameras were on the scene. It appears at the end of the day their producers and editors only had time for Mr. Burris, the man appointed by a defamed governor to take the president-elect’s seat in the senate. However, Bill Moyers picked up on it and commented on it during his TV show. The rest of the media did not have time for the names of the dead slain by our military, or our proxies the Israelis.

I marched in this somber procession of remembrance that rainy day, and I took part in the nonviolent civil resistance afterward inside the Hart Senate Office Building. The action was powerful and poignant. In side the building, senate staffers came to the balconies overlooking the atrium and saw us in the death masks and saw the huge banners produced by our New York friends in ART.

I carried the name of Iman Muhammad al Aju. She was a four-month-old girl from Gaza killed in her mother’s arms. I was arrested minutes after calling out her name inside the atrium; inside these shiny halls of power. There were 17 of us arrested. Five for disorderly conduct because they hung the banners that read: “The audacity of war crimes,” “Iraq,” “Afghanistan,” and “Palestine,” as well as “We will not be silent.” Why were they disorderly? Because our message of truth caused some distress in those halls where truth is often not desirable?

On the ground floor 12 more of us were arrested because we would not be silent, we continued to read the names of those senselessly slaughtered. We were charged with unlawful assembly. I wondered what made our assembly unlawful? Surely we were not blocking anything, and we were not louder than most tourist or school groups. One arresting officer told us, through a bullhorn, “Cease your criminal activity.” What was the criminal activity – us honoring those tragically killed in wars of aggression, or those in the offices who continually fund them to the tune of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars?

Most of us arrested are planning to go to court. We hope to turn this around and place the real war criminals on trial. I know when I appear in court for my arraignment on February 5th, that when my name is called, I will respond: “My name is Pete Perry, I am representing Iman Muhammad al Aju, a four-month-old girl killed in her mother’s arms. I plead not guilty, because she was truly innocent.”

Sunday, January 04, 2009

More Groups Than Thought Monitored in Police Spying

New Documents Reveal Md. Program's Reach
By Lisa Rein and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, January 4, 2009; A01

The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored -- and labeled as terrorists -- activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes.

Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling the group a "security threat" because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation.

One of the possible "crimes" in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: "civil rights."

According to hundreds of pages of newly obtained police documents, the groups were swept into a broad surveillance operation that started in 2005 with routine preparations for the scheduled executions of two men on death row.

The operation has been called a "waste of resources" by the current police superintendent and "undemocratic" by the governor.

Police have acknowledged that the monitoring, which took place during the administration of then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), spiraled out of control, with an undercover trooper spending 14 months infiltrating peaceful protest groups. Troopers have said they inappropriately labeled 53 individuals as terrorists in their database, information that was shared with federal authorities. But the new documents reveal a far more expansive set of police targets and indicate that police did not close some files until late 2007.

The surveillance ended with no arrests and no evidence of violent sedition. Instead, troopers are preparing to purge files and say they are expecting lawsuits.

The effort, made public in July, confirmed the fears of civil liberties groups that have warned about domestic spying since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Interviews, e-mails, public records and an independent state review reveal that police in Maryland were motivated by something far narrower: a query about death penalty activism directed to a police antiterrorism unit that was searching for a mission.

But some observers say Sept. 11 opened the door. "No one was thinking this was al-Qaeda," said Stephen H. Sachs, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to review the case. "But 9/11 created an atmosphere where cutting corners was easier."

Maryland has not been alone. The FBI and police departments in several cities, including Denver in 2002 and New York before the 2004 Republican National Convention, also responded to the threat of terrorism by spying on activists.

Sachs's review, released in October, condemned the Maryland spying as a severe lapse in judgment. No one has been reprimanded or fired, and the undercover trooper has been promoted twice.

To date, the activists listed as terrorists are not known to have experienced any related limits in their travel, employment or financial transactions.

State police officials have provided only glimpses of their intelligence-gathering and have defended some of it as necessary to ensure public safety at potentially contentious protests. Although they have provided related documents to the American Civil Liberties Union and Maryland lawmakers, they have not given the same records to The Washington Post under the Public Information Act.

The department declined to make the officers involved available to answer questions. Some sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case's sensitivity. Ehrlich also has declined to comment; senior police officials say he was never briefed on the program. The newly discovered documents do, however, reveal for the first time the stated purpose of the operation: "To assess the threat to public safety by various protest groups, and identify high threat groups for continued monitoring."

* * *

The documents and law enforcement sources say the operation began in 2005 with a simple request from Maj. Jack Simpson, a field commander in special operations. In late February, he called Lt. Greg Mazzella in the intelligence division and asked for a threat assessment of protests expected before the scheduled execution dates for two men on Maryland's death row.

After trawling the Internet, an analyst reported a "potential for disruption" at both executions. Mazzella dispatched a corporal who needed experience in undercover work to the Electrik Maid community center in Takoma Park, where death penalty foes were organizing rallies.

At a rally to save Vernon Evans Jr. outside the Supermax prison in Baltimore a few weeks later, the woman who said her name was Lucy McDonald asked veteran activist Max Obuszewski how she could learn more about passive resistance and civil disobedience.

The activists recall that she had a genial disposition and refreshing curiosity, and she quickly became a fixture at meetings and rallies of death penalty opponents and antiwar activists. She used a laptop computer at meetings, but the activists say no one was alarmed. "Maybe I wondered what she was typing," said Mike Stark of Takoma Park. "But you always check yourself. In our movement it's very important to be outward and not paranoid."

The trooper provided weekly reports to her bosses, logging at least 288 hours of investigative time. She did not return phone calls seeking comment, and The Post is not identifying her because of concerns about compromising her cover in other possible operations.

The logs described silent vigils outside the prison and a ceremony of poetry and songs to commemorate the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. The activists pledged nonviolence. Yet she closed several entries this way: "Due to the above facts, I request that this case remain open and updated as events warrant."

The woman's bosses considered her surveillance a low-risk training exercise; it quickly expanded to the antiwar movement as she met activists whose causes overlapped, police said.

Intelligence commanders discussed the spying at their daily briefings and made Lt. Col. Thomas Coppinger, then the chief of the intelligence bureau, and Superintendent Timothy Hutchins aware of it, law enforcement officials said. Coppinger and other officers involved in the case declined to comment.

The program emerged after the antiterrorism squad had been whittled from almost 65 to a dozen.

Hutchins's predecessor, Ed Norris, a hard-charging former Baltimore police commissioner, had built up the division after the Sept. 11 attacks to fight terrorist threats.

But when Norris was forced out by corruption charges in 2004, the unit was gutted. Most of the computers and other high-tech equipment for intelligence troopers were literally ripped out of the walls, law enforcement sources said.

"We concentrated on what we could do best, rather than a little bit of everything," Hutchins said.

When Simpson called, the unit finally had a mission.

Greg Shipley, a police spokesman, said the undercover operation spanned months as the death penalty cases saw their timelines grow and the executions delayed.

Other intelligence gathering was prompted by planned protests largely to ensure that no violence occurred, Shipley said. Investigators had concerns about the potential for "counter-demonstrations" to planned protests, he said.

Current Superintendent Terrence Sheridan said in a Nov. 25 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) that police had a right to monitor activists in public forums.

"Presence at a rally, a demonstration, gathering information from open sources such as the Internet, etc. are all part of the collection of the knowledge and information crucial" to police work, Sheridan wrote.

* * *

The undercover trooper's early moves were sometimes clumsy. She sent e-mails from a domain linked to the state police that could easily have been uncovered with an Internet search. She sprinkled truth across her cover story, once revealing her home county. She suddenly changed her name to Lucy Shoup and offered a new e-mail address, claiming a change in marital status. She asked lots of questions but never shared her thoughts, activists say. She also tried to use her new friendships to learn more about other groups.

Then, with Evans's execution stayed, the woman disappeared. "Lucy was no more," Obuszewski recalled.

Meanwhile, the intelligence-gathering expanded in other directions, to activists in New York, Missouri, San Francisco and at the University of Maryland. Shane Dillingham's primary crime, according to the six-page file classifying him as a terrorist, was "anarchism." Police opened a file on the doctoral student in history a week after an undercover officer attended a College Park forum featuring a jailhouse phone conversation with Evans.

Investigators also tracked activists protesting weapons manufactured by defense contractor Lockheed Martin. They watched two pacifist Catholic nuns from Baltimore. Environmental activists made it into the database, as did three leaders of Code Pink, a national women's antiwar group, who do not live in Maryland.

PETA was labeled a "security threat group" in April 2005, and by July police were looking into a tip that the group had learned about a failing chicken farm in Kent County and planned on "protesting or stealing the chickens." A "very casually dressed" undercover trooper attended a speech by PETA's president that month and waited afterward to see whether anyone talked about chickens. Nobody did.

Police had turned to the database in a low-cost effort to replace antiquated file cabinets. The Washington High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a regional clearinghouse for drug-related criminal information, offered its software for free.

But the database did not include categories that fit the nature of the protest-group investigations. So police created "terrorism" categories to track the activists, according to the state review. Some information was sent directly to HIDTA's main database as part of an agreement to share information.

Putting the activists into the database was "a function of nothing more than the insertion of a piece of paper in a paper file in a file cabinet," Sheridan wrote. But labeling them "terrorists," he said was "incorrect and improper."

The activists fear that they will land on federal watch lists, in part because the police shared their intelligence information with at least seven area law enforcement agencies.

HIDTA Director Tom Carr said his organization's database became a dead end for the information because law enforcement agencies cannot access the data directly. The database instead acts as a "pointer": Investigators enter case information and the database indicates whether another agency has related material and instructs investigators to contact that agency. The activists were not a match with any other data, Carr said, and their information has since purged.

"The problem lies in the fact that once [the state police] checked it out and found it was not accurate, they should have removed it from the system," Carr said. "And they did not do that."

* * *

The surveillance program became public largely because of documents released during a trespassing trial for Obuszewski, the nuns and another activist arrested during an antiwar rally at the National Security Agency. The documents showed that Baltimore intelligence officers were tracking them. The American Civil Liberties Union then filed public records requests with several law enforcement agencies. When the state police refused to release what they had, the ACLU sued.

O'Malley condemned the monitoring as a politically motivated mistake and moved quickly to seek answers. He appointed Sachs, who had prosecuted Catholic activists for raiding a Selective Service office in 1968.

Sachs called the spying a "systemic failure" that violated federal regulations and said police were oblivious to the activists' rights to free expression and association.

The Maryland State Police have changed their policies and plan to solicit advice from the ACLU, the General Assembly, prosecutors and police about regulations that would raise the bar for intelligence-gathering to "reasonable suspicion" of a crime.

Some activists have responded by redoubling their efforts.

Pat Elder, a Bethesda advocate who organizes a demonstration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the gates of Lockheed Martin's headquarters, sent a public message to police last month on a local Web site.

"Did it ever occur to you that we're on the side of the good guys and you're not?" Elder wrote in an open letter to the NSA, the Maryland State Police and Montgomery police. "How do you think it makes us feel to know you're looking over our shoulders this way?"

Staff researchers Julie Tate and Meg Smith contributed to this report.