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Tilting at Windmills

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January 4, 2009

SURVEILLANCE STATE RUN AMOK.... In July, the Washington Post reported on undercover Maryland State Police officers conducting surveillance on war protesters and death penalty opponents. Today, we learn that the monitoring was worse, and more pervasive, than first believed.

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."

And people wonder why "civil-liberties types" worry about government abuse when it comes to surveillance of Americans.

Under the administration of then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), Maryland law enforcement infiltrated law-abiding protest groups and labeled 53 Americans, who had done nothing wrong, as "terrorists" in a state database shared with federal authorities. (It turns out, their law enforcement database didn't have categories for anti-war activists. Police created "terrorism" categories to make filing easier. How reassuring.)

How many Maryland State Police officials have been punished as a result of this project? To date, none. An undercover trooper who infiltrated peace groups has instead been promoted twice.

The Maryland State Police is "preparing to purge files and say they are expecting lawsuits." It seems like a safe bet.

Steve Benen 9:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Bike lanes have long been known to a key invasion route for the DFH horde. Good for Maryland!

Posted by: sal on January 4, 2009 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

So in America you might be labeled a terrorist if you're not thrilled by a circus trainers abusing elephants or tigers. In the meantime, how many murders and other violent crimes went unsolved last year.

Posted by: Jan in Stone Mtn on January 4, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Maryland has many federal buildings and institutions. We are at war. It would be lunacy not to be vigilant in these times. Or do liberals want a second 9/11?

Posted by: Al on January 4, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

The Maryland State Police is "preparing to purge files and say they are expecting lawsuits."

Is there an innocent definition of "purge files", or are the Md State Police actually broadcasting their intent to obstruct justice?

Posted by: Danp on January 4, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

The Maryland State Police is "preparing to purge files and say they are expecting lawsuits." It seems like a safe bet.

The thing is that really pisses me off is that my taxes will go to pay off these lawsuits while the former governor and those who followed his orders will go on in life as if nothing happened.

Posted by: SteveT on January 4, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

The US is a de facto rogue terrorist state. Other countries have formally labeled it as such and deal with the US on that basis.

Citizens CAN use the power of the vote/purse and defund law enforcement agencies which are in reality domestic terrorist organizations.

Posted by: Annie on January 4, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Is there an innocent definition of "purge files", or are the Md State Police actually broadcasting their intent to obstruct justice?

Actually, I think what they're saying is they're going to take out the files that were wrongfully added, so that Amnesty International isn't in their terrorist database anymore. Not that they're going to destroy evidence.

Posted by: EarBucket on January 4, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Al wrote:
Maryland has many federal buildings and institutions. We are at war. It would be lunacy not to be vigilant in these times. Or do liberals want a second 9/11?

All right sir, your statement indicates that you have an unusual interest in potential terrorist targets. Please place your hands on your head and step away from your computer.

We will be examining your internet use for the past five years. We'll also be looking at your phone use and all of your financial transactions. We'll also need a list of everyone you have spoken to for the last 18 months -- and we'll be talking to them.

We're sure you won't mind if you have nothing to hide . . . .

Posted by: SteveT on January 4, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Yea Al liberals want a second 9/11 but only if it somehow includes you. What are you some kind of chatty Cathy doll. You pull the string and out comes a statement that's so assinine that it would be laughable if were coming out of a real human being.

Posted by: Gandalf on January 4, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

I have come to the conclusion that most Republicans are suffering from a genetic deficiency. They seem to be lacking the gene known as the “common sense” gene. Targeting Amnesty International as a possible terrorist group? What a waste of time and resources!

Posted by: sheridan on January 4, 2009 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

AL:

Do you not grasp the difference between keeping a judicious eye on potential 'terrorists and labeling honest, American Anti-war citizens as 'white supremacists', not to mention DISTRIBUTING such unsubstantiated suspicions to other agencies?

Fear and the attendant cowardice that comes with it are the seed that create a police state - and some of us are NOT fine with that.

Posted by: J. Barrett Wolf on January 4, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

One of many reasons I'm glad Earlick and that jackass Steele are no longer disgracing my state, but what Steve T said. I live in P.G. County now so half my local taxes go to defending brain dead cops who shouldn't be allowed near letter openers, much less billy clubs and guns. At least I assume that's where the money goes. They sure as hell don't go to fixing the damn roads.

And yes, purging the files means removing people's and organization's names from the watch list. It does not mean they'll be able to shred the records and say "Who me?"

Prediction: The state will argue no harm, no foul.

Finally, I can't believe you guys are responding to such lame trollery.

Posted by: tAwO 4 That 1 on January 4, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

"I have come to the conclusion that most Republicans are suffering from a genetic deficiency. They seem to be lacking the gene known as the “common sense” gene. Targeting Amnesty International as a possible terrorist group? What a waste of time and resources!"

I've come to a slightly different conclusion. Republican is either a religion that worships failure or a disease that prevents you brain from working - or both!

Posted by: Mark-NC on January 4, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

There was an article in the Washington Post a few years ago, sometime between 2001 and 2003 I think, saying the DC police had done essentially the same thing. In fact, the undercover officers who had infiltrated anti-war and anti-globalization groups were discovered to be the ones encouraging violence, hoping to entice others.

Posted by: kp on January 4, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

To date, none. An undercover trooper who infiltrated peace groups has instead been promoted twice.

Hazard duty, I suppose?

Is this guy proud of himself or laughing his head off?

I'll accept the latter. Is it a crime to hoodwink idiots if they ASKED for it?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on January 4, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Paranoia changed everything; 9/11 just gave the chicken-shits and the head-bashers the upper hand. How free the Free State of Maryland remains has yet to be determined.

Posted by: beep52 on January 4, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

But, don't you know that the police are there "to protect and to serve"???

40 years ago I used to have a sign on my telephone that read: "Don't say anything on this phone you wouldn't say to J. Edgar Hoover." People used to say I was paranoid, then 30 years ago I got my copy of my COINTELPRO file, and -whattayaknow??? - they had me under surveillance from 1966-75.

The police are only your friends if you're part of that part of society they really are there to protect and to serve.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 4, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Point to bear in mind: Maryland is one of the most liberal states in the union-- one can only imagine what's been going on in places where the powers that be think that unsupervised surveillance of liberal groups by the state police is probably a good idea.

Posted by: MattF on January 4, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

I keep hoping that self-identified members of the "reality based community" will embrace, you know, reality. If the last two years of Congressional behavior have proved anything it is that the abuse of state power is not a Democratic vs. Republican issue. It is an issue of the powerful vs. the rest of us.

For me, the first big test of the Obama administration will be how he addresses civil liberty issues, how effectively he limits, if he does anything at all, the surveillance state. His initial moves are less than promising. Senator Obama broke a promise to support a filibuster intended to block telecom immunity in the warrantless NSA eavesdropping case and then voted in favor of the bill. Incoming Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, is an avid proponent of the technological infrastructure that makes widespread state surveillance much easier and thus more likely.

Democrats are every bit as capable of abusing state power as Republicans (see Japanese-American citizens, internment of and extraordinary rendition, Bill Clinton's support of to name just two obvious examples). Instead of snarking at the bad ol' Rethuglicans, citizens ought to be preparing to act as a check to the inevitable misuse, if not outright abuse, of state power by the incoming administration.

Posted by: jm on January 4, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Good Post !! Thanks for the links and for staying on top of this important story and for the followup.

and to Al - F*** You.

Posted by: Good Post - Thanks !! on January 4, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like this site and everybody on it is now under surveillance because it carried an ad for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, a terrorist organization if ever there was one.

Posted by: Larry on January 4, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's very difficult not to feel at least a little satisfaction when they police get beaten by criminals. They are so very much assholes.

Posted by: MNPundit on January 4, 2009 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

It's funny how conservatives gripe about government power in economics (free market not a right given in the Constitution), but love suppression of dissent (right given in the Constitution.)

Posted by: Neil Bee on January 4, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

There are certain advantages to monitoring and infiltrating civil rights groups, as opposed to monitoring and infiltrating terrorist and criminal ones.

For one thing, peaceniks are easier to find than terrorists; they come out and demonstrate in the open, they don't hide like those d...d terror-cowards. Secondly, when they find you out, all they do is shun you and shake their heads at you in sadness; they don't send you down the Potomac fitted with a pair of cement brogues. So, it's not only easier, but safer as well. And, of course, we wouldn't want our fine officers taking unnecessary risks on our behalf, would we?

We should be *happy* that they found a safe and easy way to spend our money and their time instead of carping like this...

Posted by: exlibra on January 4, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Problem is, the worst of GOP falangism will be festering in state troopers for a long time. State police are not drawn from the sharpest knives in the drawer, and they won't want to relinquish their brief moment of glory in the Bush police state.

Posted by: C- on January 4, 2009 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

This is just one example of why most Americans do not trust law enforcement.

Every day there seems to be another example of an agency running amok or an officer abusing their power.

It's gotten to the point where even someone like myself (a 39-year-old white man whose most serious offense to date is a speeding ticket for going 10 mph over the speed limit) subconsciously cringes every time I see a police car.

Instead of being able to trust law enforcement, we are afraid of them.

Posted by: mfw13 on January 4, 2009 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

"(It turns out, their law enforcement database didn't have categories for anti-war activists. Police created "terrorism" categories to make filing easier. How reassuring.)

How many Maryland State Police officials have been punished as a result of this project? To date, none. "

Why is that, I wonder?

Could it be that there's no database catagory for "law enforcement violating citizen rights"?

Just file 'em under "sex offender". What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on January 4, 2009 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

In the interest of justice, when insolvent states' employees start fighting it out to screw each other out of unaffordable pension benefits, we should help the teachers beat out the police and consign them to penury in their old age. Fucking brownshirts.

Posted by: surveil this, zip! on January 4, 2009 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Millions of Americans are regularly hurt by adverse (& incorrect) data without their knowledge in employment decisions in hiring, retaining and promoting. This is done with the tacit support of government entities protecting �investigative� systems and records. As an individual you will not be able to obtain any records, FOIA and PA requests notwithstanding. However, if you�re a corporation or business entity as defined in tier 1 or 2 of federal acquisition regulations, you should be able to obtain a �suitability� finding in minutes. � A Do Not Work (Non-suitable) List. It is kind of like a �NO FLY� list except for the number of suicides. � shock n� awe - Govt and Corp Attorneys working in partnership

Posted by: Oracleconsult on January 5, 2009 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

I have come to the conclusion that most Republicans are suffering from a genetic deficiency. They seem to be lacking the gene known as the “common sense” gene. Targeting Amnesty International as a possible terrorist group? What a waste of time and resources!"

I've come to a slightly different conclusion. Republican is either a religion that worships failure or a disease that prevents you brain from working - or both!

Republicans and democrats are equally retarded. The problem isn't your partisan it's you and your unwillingness to open your eyes and see outside the two party fascism that we are oppressed by now.

Posted by: killa on January 5, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

If the cyclists have their own lane, the terrorists win.

Posted by: bartkid on January 5, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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