"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Maryland State Police Caught Spying on Anti-War Anti-Death-Penalty Advocates and Groups including infiltration techniques.

O'Malley pledges not to infringe on citizens' free speech
Baltimore Sun, United States 142 News Articles

MSP Documents Takoma Park Mentioned here

7/17/08 Letter to Governor O'Malley

MPIA Lawsuit Information

National ACLU "SpyFiles" website

National ACLU Report: "No Real Threat"

Northern California Report on Government Monitoring of Political Activity

A day after the American Civil Liberties Union released documents showing that the Maryland State Police spied on peace activists and anti-death penalty groups, Gov. Martin O'Malley vowed yesterday not to allow state law enforcement agencies to monitor people exercising their right to free speech.

ACLU Video Link

In a prepared statement, O'Malley, a Democrat, noted that the spying occurred under the previous administration, that of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. And while he said the state would "take seriously" possible threats to public safety, O'Malley vowed not to allow police to monitor groups when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

The governor said his administration "does not and will not use public resources to target or monitor peaceful activities where Maryland citizens are exercising their First Amendment rights."

The police measures, which involved the infiltration of activist groups by covert agents, also drew an expression of concern by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and a sharp rebuke by Maryland Common Cause, a government watchdog group. Cardin called for a "full accounting" of the police surveillance.

"All U.S. citizens enjoy the protection of the First Amendment to the Constitution," said Cardin, a Maryland Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The amendment protects 'the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.' Our nation cannot allow police activity that is intended to discourage dissent by Americans who may disagree with certain government policies."

Ryan O'Donnell, executive director of Maryland Common Cause, said the spying was "an abuse of the public trust, taxpayer money and resources."

"Politicizing the public safety responsibilities of state police is more than dangerous," O'Donnell said in a statement.

"It is astounding and very troublesome that law enforcement would brand as a 'security threat group' law-abiding people whose only offense was dissenting from Governor Ehrlich's views on the death penalty and the Iraq war and then proceed to waste 14 months monitoring them rather than pay attention to legitimate public safety issues," O'Donnell said.

An Ehrlich spokesman did not return phone messages yesterday afternoon.

Surveillance pattern

The ACLU released 43 pages of state police summaries and computer logs Thursday - some with agents' names and paragraphs blacked out - that it obtained from the state attorney general's office through a lawsuit based on Maryland's Public Information Act.

The files depict a pattern of spying and surveillance over a 14-month period in 2005 and 2006. During that time, agents infiltrated the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a peace group; the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and the Committee to Save Vernon Evans, a death row inmate.

Police entered the names of activists in a law enforcement database of people suspected of being terrorists or drug traffickers, the documents show. Police officials said they did not infringe on the protesters' freedom; the ACLU said that nothing in the documents indicated criminal activity or intent.

Many of the spies' reports seem innocuous. In one, an agent who attended a gathering of the Evans group noted that activists discussed the stance that a candidate for Baltimore County state's attorney might take on the death penalty.

Ehrlich 'sympathetic'

Yesterday, Ehrlich said on WJZ-TV that he was "sympathetic" to the principle that police should not spy on groups when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

But he added, "We pay state police to make decisions, and obviously they bring discretion with them to their jobs every day, so their job on a daily basis obviously is to weigh the relative value of intelligence they've received and to make decisions accordingly."

A governor or police chief risks being blamed for not doing his job if an activist "cell" or organization takes actions that put people at risk, Ehrlich said. People could ask, "'Why weren't you doing your job? Weren't you supposed to have intelligence operations out there to monitor this sort of situation?'" he said in the television interview.

Full probe urged

David Rocah, an ACLU attorney who worked with the activists to obtain the documents, said they were happy with O'Malley's promise.

But Rocah faulted the governor for not committing to a "full investigation and accounting of the surveillance that took place."

He also criticized O'Malley for not detailing safeguards that his administration would put in place to ensure that such spying doesn't happen again in Maryland.

"There needs to be binding, easily enforceable rules in place to prevent this from happening," Rocah said. "The federal regulations are good as far as they go, but they're not detailed enough."

Late yesterday, O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzesse said the governor intends to address all of the concerns of the ACLU. The administration did not have sufficient time after the files were released to respond fully yesterday, he said.

Max Obuszewski, a longtime Baltimore peace activist who was one of the protesters who had been monitored by the Maryland State Police, called O'Malley's pledge "impressive" but still had reservations and unanswered questions.

"It's presumably what we want to hear," Obuszewski said. "The proof, though, will be in the pudding."

jonathan.bor@baltsun.com gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Report: Suspicious Cookies

The petty and pernicious spying operation of Maryland's state police


Saturday, July 19, 2008; Page A14

WHAT HAVE we learned from the Maryland State Police's undercover spying program targeting peaceable groups opposed to the death penalty and the war in Iraq, other than that the police are prone to ludicrous misspellings? Well, here's a sampling of the "intelligence" gleaned during 288 hours of police surveillance in 2005-06, in reports unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland:

· On Oct. 3, 2005, an undercover state police agent attending a meeting of activists ferreted out the fact that antiwar protesters were laying plans to distribute fliers at the Towson Town Center mall.

· On July 11, 2005, an officer attending an antiwar meeting held by "an activist named Bernie" and "five middle-aged women" discovered that in a protest held a week earlier at the National Security Agency, peaceniks shared cookies with NSA guards who issued them a citation for trespassing.

· On June 6, 2005, an agent who infiltrated an anti-death-penalty protest in Baltimore reported "no problems" at the event, attended by about 25 known and "currently unidentified recurrent death penalty protestors."

American governments have an inglorious history of spying on domestic dissidents; compared with FBI operations during the Red Scare, the Maryland State Police seem like Keystone Kops. But it's a mistake to dismiss Maryland's police espionage against its own residents as the work of hapless bunglers. In fact, it is pernicious and symptomatic of a post-Sept. 11 erosion of respect for fundamental civil liberties.

Justice Department regulations explicitly prohibit police from gathering information on groups and individuals unless "there is reasonable suspicion that the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct or activity." But with state and local law enforcement agencies awash in federal money meant to root out domestic terrorist plots, civil libertarians have warned that police will start seeing potential terrorists and plots everywhere, "reasonable suspicion" be damned. The Maryland episode and other recent cases in Colorado and Massachusetts suggest their concerns are justified.

If the authorities equate dissent with criminal intent, they undermine the impulse for free speech and political activity itself. The specter of police infiltration can sow suspicion and paranoia and prompt people to keep their mouths shut. Could anything be more anti-American than that?

The police, invoking the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, suggest that any operation undertaken for any reason is legitimate. "In a post-9/11 world," said Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, officers are duty-bound "to protect the citizens of Maryland from threats foreign and domestic." But if they cannot distinguish five middle-aged peaceniks from criminals, the police themselves become the real threat to American society.

Police State Maryland: Big Brother-Style! Examiner.com

Rep. Kucinich Calls for Investigation of Maryland Monitoring of ... FOXNews