Maryland police forgets to fight crime, spies on innocents
Government slanders pacifists, environmentalists, and nuns
An undercover Maryland State Police trooper joined nonviolent groups and labeled dozens of people as terrorists, wasting time and money. While the threat to democracy is real, the buffoonery of the police is comical. Both become less prevalent when citizens exercise more control over the public purse strings and when injustice is rare, spurring less protest. To bring that happy day about, we need geonomics. And meanwhile to stay vigilant. This 2008 article appeared in the Los Angeles Time on International Rights Day, the day President Eisenhower began the Sister Cities program and warned us of the “military/industrial complex”, December 7.
By Bob DroginAn Maryland State Police trooper between 2005 and 2007 attended undercover more than two dozen rallies and meetings of nonviolent groups.
Maryland officials now concede that state police wrongly listed at least 53 Americans as terrorists in a criminal intelligence database -- and shared some information about them with half a dozen state and federal agencies, including the National Security Agency.
Among those labeled as terrorists: two Catholic nuns, a former Democratic congressional candidate, a lifelong pacifist, and a registered lobbyist. One suspect's file warned that she was "involved in puppet making and allows anarchists to utilize her property for meetings."
"There wasn't a scintilla of illegal activity" going on, said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit and in July obtained the first surveillance files. State police have released other heavily redacted documents.
Investigators, the files show, targeted groups that advocated against global warming, nuclear arms, military recruiting in high schools, and biological weapons research, among other issues.
"It was unconscionable conduct," said Democratic state Sen. Brian Frosh, who is backing legislation to ban similar spying in Maryland unless the police superintendent can document a "reasonable, articulable suspicion" of criminal activity.
The case is the latest to emerge since the Sept. 11 attacks spurred a sharp increase in state and federal surveillance of Americans. Critics say such investigations violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly, and serve to inhibit lawful dissent.
In the largest known effort, the Pentagon monitored at least 186 lawful protests and meetings -- including church services and silent vigils -- in California and other states.
The military also compiled more than 2,800 reports on Americans in a database of supposed terrorist threats. That program, known as TALON, was ordered closed in 2007 after it was exposed in news reports.
The Maryland operation also has ended, but critics still question why police spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars spying on Quakers and other peace groups in a state that reported more than 36,000 violent crimes last year.
Stephen Sachs, a former state attorney general, investigated the scandal for Gov. Martin O'Malley -- a Democrat elected in 2006. He concluded that state police had violated federal regulations and "significantly overreached”.
They sent “Lucy” to join local activists at Takoma Park's Electrik Maid, a funky community center popular with punk rockers and slam poets. Ten people attended the gathering, including a local representative from Amnesty International.
"The meeting was primarily concerned with getting people to put up fliers and getting information out to local businesses and churches about upcoming events," Lucy reported. That proved true for all 29 meetings, rallies and protests that Lucy ultimately attended. Most drew only a handful of people, and none involved illegal or disruptive actions.
Lucy, who has not been publicly identified, would not consent to an interview. Some police files based on her reports contain errors and inconsistencies that are almost comical.
Barry Kissin, 57, heads the Frederick Progressive Action Coalition, a group that works "for social, economic and environmental justice," according to his police file. Their protests "are always peaceful," it added. He was labeled "Terrorism -- Anti-Government."
Josh Tulkin, 27, a registered lobbyist with the Virginia state Legislature, regularly meets with governors and members of Congress. He is cited under "terrorism -- environmental extremists."
Nancy Kricorian, 48, a novelist on their terrorist list, is coordinator for the New York City chapter of CodePink, an antiwar group. She serves as liaison with local police for group protests, and has never been arrested. "I've never been to the state of Maryland,” she said, “except maybe to stop for gas on the way to Washington."
Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, said that no one in the department had been disciplined in connection with the spying program. The surveillance, Shipley said, was inappropriate. And the listing of lawful activity as terrorism "shouldn't have happened, and has been corrected."
This period looks a lot like 1929-32
U.S. Attorney General Caught Lying
Wars on peoples, including on Americans
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