Maryland Police Redefine “Terrorist” – Activists Beware

CommonDreams

“Terrorist” has been redefined by the Maryland State Police. If you oppose the death penalty or against the war in Iraq – so basically anyone that believes killing is immoral – now is a “terrorist.”

The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects. Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.

The department started sending letters of notification Saturday to the activists, inviting them to review their files before they are purged from the databases, Sheridan said. “The names don’t belong in there,” he told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “It’s as simple as that.”

The surveillance took place over 14 months in 2005 and 2006, under the administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). The former state police superintendent who authorized the operation, Thomas E. Hutchins, defended the program in testimony yesterday. Hutchins said the program was a bulwark against potential violence and called the activists “fringe people.”

The police looked upon protestors as common criminals also. I guess they forgot the part of the Constitution that allows for free speech. They are using the Patriot Act to violate our civil rights; these over zealous police officers have over stepped their boundaries of authority. This is what Sheridan had to say on the subject.

Sheridan said protest groups were also entered as terrorist organizations in the databases, but his staff has not identified which ones. Stunned senators pressed Sheridan to apologize to the activists for the spying, assailed in an independent review last week as “overreaching” by law enforcement officials who were oblivious to their violation of the activists’ rights of free expression and association. The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, does not apologize but admits that the state police have “no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime” by those classified as terrorists.

Hutchins told the committee it was not accurate to describe the program as spying. “I doubt anyone who has used that term has ever met a spy,” he told the committee. His officers sought a “situational awareness” of the potential for disruption as death penalty opponents prepared to protest the executions of two men on death row, Hutchins said.

“I don’t believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government,” he said. Hutchins said he did not notify Ehrlich about the surveillance. Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said the governor had no comment.

Some activists said yesterday that they have received letters; others said they were waiting with anticipation to see whether they were on the state police watch list. Laura Lising of Catonsville, a member of the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty, received her notification yesterday. She said she wants a hard copy of her file, because she does not trust the police to purge it. “We need as much protection as possible,” she said.

Both Hutchins and Sheridan said the activists’ names were entered into the state police database as terrorists partly because the software offered limited options for classifying entries. The police also entered the activists’ names into the federal Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area database, which tracks suspected terrorists. One well-known antiwar activist from Baltimore, Max Obuszewski, was singled out in the intelligence logs released by the ACLU, which described a “primary crime” of “terrorism-anti-government” and a “secondary crime” of “terrorism-anti-war protesters.”

The Senators are stunned, my answer to that is, where the hell have you been for the last eight years. Or are they really that stupid.. Police State, coming soon, to a former Democracy near you!

“Always vote for principal, though you may vote alone, and you shall enjoy the sweet reward that your vote was never wasted.” John Quincy Adams

Rest of the Article CommonDreams.

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44 thoughts on “Maryland Police Redefine “Terrorist” – Activists Beware

  1. Good post Freedom, I did catch it on CommonDream’s also and wondered how many list’s all of us are on…..Blessings

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  3. If the death penalty protest folk are dangerous, Grandmothers in tennis shoes must be a clear and present danger to national security by the same standard.

    I am not a protester of any strip, but it is chilling that the most nonviolent of groups are harassed for simply expressing their convictions as stated under the rights of citizens in our founding documents.

    This administration, the congress and judicial branch are actively altering our form of government, actively violating the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    This is bad.

  4. So, anyone who thinks otherwise of the Government and tries to voice against the Government is a “terrorist” too? How revolting. It stinks of New World Order tactics.

  5. well, I am for the death penalty, for child rapist, and murdering thugs and the like, and as for the war….I am against any war, but I support the troops 100%….I may be a bit of an enigma I geuss, and as much as I despise Code Pink and the like, I don’t think of them as terrorist, I just think they are a** holes. And unless I am wrong, being one is not a crime yet…..and as for the government……..what a bunch of consumate A**HOLES, that includes both sides of the lib/cons bs…riff

  6. “So, anyone who thinks otherwise of the Government and tries to voice against the Government is a “terrorist” too?”

    Joker I don’t think that is the case, you can against mccain for example, as long as you support obama, btw he will not bring the troops home :)

    You may criticise the government but not the system, that is my understanding of how it is supposed to work.

    And you can actually get away with criticing the system if nobody listens to you, but if they do, boy are you in trouble!

  7. This is the time we all stand up and declare ourselves terrorists. I know what a terrifying idea peace can be.

  8. I read this article myself, and in fact did a post on it yesterday, and while I too was pretty PO’d at the state police, I do think you’re mis-representing what occurred a bit.

    For one, it’s not a violation of your “right to free speech” to have the police monitor your public meetings. The mere presence of cops, even undercover cops, at a rally, does not mean that your right to assemble was infringed upon.

    Yes, the police did screw up by classifying members of these organizations as terrorists, and especially by (maybe, it’s unconfirmed) passing these classifications along to the federal government. But they never labelled the activists as “criminals” – at worst, they were called “fringe people” and observed secretly while they were in public.

    They were never charged with a crime. They weren’t, to our knowledge, wire-tapped or observed when they were in private. No one was sent to jail.

    Yes, the legislature is angry about this, but not because the cops violated anyone’s civil liberties. Because it looks bad, and we’re horrified that the state police mislabeled the people. But, from what we were told, that was due to a problem with the software not having a “people we need to keep an eye on to make sure that their rallies don’t erupt into violence.”

    So, yes, while I’m angry that the former police superintendent and the current police chief don’t see fit to apologize for this, and in fact wasted thousands of our tax dollars to plant undercover cops at non-violent protest planning meetings or whatnot, I don’t think this is some kind of rabid indication that the government is out to get us and put us all in jail without trial for legitimate protests.

    If you want to go off about that, then I suggest reading this article about how we’re now stationing army units on active duty in the US. http://www.armytimes.com/news/2008/09/army_homeland_090708w/

    It may not seem like a big deal at first, but when you couple it with how I feel about our government’s lack of respect for people’s rights, and this presidential directive:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.html

    about how a catastrophic emergency is classified…

    I, for the first time in my life, have a niggling fear of someone trying to institute Martial Law.

  9. This rings eerily of the book Fahrenheit 451 in my mind. If we are denied our Constitutional rights, then the citizens of the U.S. essentially have no voice in which to speak out against injustice. The prospect of peaceful protesters being proclaimed terrorists is unfair, unmoral, and without a doubt un-Constitutional. It’s just another look at how dark our country has become in the past 8 years…

  10. For decades now, it has been a question on the US Immigration application form – “Have you ever participated in overthrowing an elected government?”.
    A lawyer told me that included voting for an opposition party.

    Under US law, opposing the currently elected government is a crime, and has been for many, many years, going back to at least Nixon.

    Americans pride themselves on having gun laws that allow them to protect themselves from a dictatorial government. And yet, they never use them.

    Wake up America.

  11. You people are ignorant and have no idea what you guys are talking about, make sense!

  12. One point and one question. First of all, try to avoid quoting John Q. Adams after asinine comments like the ones you made in your blog. By contrast, it makes your remarks look even more ridiculous. And my question is, what specific right have you lost as the result of this so-called change in policy by the Maryland State Police and give me an example of how it has specifically changed your day to day life. No esoteric answers, please. No, “Well, I heard about this and I heard about that”, answers. Specifically, how has this changed your life. YOU and not someone else. Thank you and thank you for your blog. Peace.

  13. I’d rather be brave and criticise both the Government and the system that they cling to so dearly, actually. When this kind of situation breaks out in the Land of Oz, I know what I can do. Governments should really start fearing the people they supposedly govern over.

  14. This has been happening at the federal level with the no-fly list for awhile. Peace activists have found their names on the list and even Senator Ted Kennedy has been on it twice. Worse, there no spelled out way to get your name removed once on it.

    @stainfreemedia

    The only thing ridiculous was your comment. Just because a action by the government may not affect you personally does not mean it is wrong.

    I guess if a German citizen criticized the Jew round up in 1940′s Germany your response could be the same.

    Ideas and Revolution – If you’re not outraged you’re not reading this blog

  15. Kat, the problem with this is they put these non-violent activists into numerous databases. They basically labeled them as terrorists for peaceful protests.

    IMHO, that violates Free Speech because, if you voice an opinion or protest in public you could be labeled a terrorist in many databases. That in it self limits the flow of Free Speech. It makes people think twice about what they say or do in public.

    Look at what they did at the RNC, that is a perfect example of where all this is headed. Which is all thanks to George W. Bush and the Patriot Act.

    I see your point Kat, but I see this as stifling Americans to never disagree with the government or pay the ultimate price. You don’t have to be arrested to have your Freedom of Speech taken away or diminished.

    Thanks for coming to the Zoo, Kat..

  16. Sounds like a case for the ACLU. I haven’t read all the comments here, but I’d certainly contact them for an opinion.

    Putting emotion aside, try to consider the government’s side. I don’t know these police, nor their intent, but just consider their position.

    Back in the “day” communist sympathizers at times became violent. Considering our history with peaceful protest and what can happen if left unchecked, a few “could” become violent. Now, if this happens and the police have done nothing, they’re damned for it.

    Just something to consider..As I said, I don’t know both sides of this story so making an informed comment is impossible for anyone outside the situation or has listened to both sides openly, which is something that American’s seem to have a very hard time with anymore…(myself included)

    Peace

  17. stainfreemedia, I don’t look at the world that way. Something doesn’t have to affect me personally to be wrong. That is one of the problems in America-when did part of the American people get so self-centered it was all about them. We are suppose to care about one another. To wish and hope for the best for everyone. To want people to be happy and look out for one another. Call be a bleeding heart liberal. I can’t close myself off from helping others any more than I can ignore people in need or those who are being treated unjustly. These issues I feel very passionately about. So I don’t take them lightly.

    I used the quote because, people voted in the Representatives & Senators that backed the shredding of our Constitution and the trampling of our civil rights. Voting decides who gets elected into Congress to make the decisions that all of us Americans have to live with. As you see, that hasn’t been going too well the last 8 years.

    These are just my personal feelings to the questions that you asked. Thank you for coming to the Zoo. Peace to you also, and may you have a good day.

  18. Interesting story – I, too, caught it at common dreams.

    Remember when police officers were “peace officers”?

    Why do they refer to the police as a FORCE?

    Why are our local police officers being federalized and given huge grants and equipment to create a “quasi-military police force”?

    Why are more officers being caught on tape abusing suspects and innocent civilians, physically, with pepper spray and with “non-lethal” weapons like tasers?

    Why are our police officers taught to use a persons’ ignorance of their rights against them?

    What if these aren’t just “rogue” officers misbehaving, but a result of administrative changes in the function and role or our police?

    The police officer is a public servant, whose motto has long been “to serve and to protect.” Yet, who are they to serve, and who are they to protect? You? The criminals? Civilians? Government officials? The State? The federal government? Most local police departments require their officers to repeat an oath of office similar to this:

    “I swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of _____ and support the Constitution and laws thereof; and that I will, to the best of my skill and judgment diligently and faithfully, without partiality or prejudice, execute the office of police officer according to the Constitution and laws of this State.”

    In fact, this oath is very similar to the oaths of office that most public officials take (e.g. the President, Vice-President, Supreme Court Justices, etc.). What is important is the part about the Constitution – you know that thing that most people seem to think we don’t need anymore. The police officer swears a duty to support the Constitution.

    Why, then, are more and more precincts and departments being taught by the Federal government to consistently step over the boundary lines of individual rights? Why are our police officers being taught to profile citizens and be wary of those that talk repeatedly of the Constitution and about common law rights of man? Traditionally, these ideals are exactly what peace officers were to serve and to protect. Over the last few decades, however, we see that being turned on its head. Do you ever feel intimidation or anxiety when being pulled over by a police officer, even if you’ve done nothing wrong? Does the picture below frighten you, or would it deter you from protesting a cause you believed in?

    It’s enough to make most people think twice and not get involved with public assemblies for protests. In short, it curtails your First Amendment rights – especially when they utilize these storm troopers to corral American citizens into “free speech zones” in NYC and D.C. Last time I checked, the First Amendment didn’t say “you can have freedom of speech, but only in free speech zones under surveillance by men with automatic weapons.”

    Fear is not a natural response towards a public servant who is there to serve and protect you. So why do so many of us feel this way? I have my own ideas about why our local police departments are being federalized and militarized and it isn’t about protecting us and is all about squelching dissent and the ideals of liberty. I’d love to hear your thoughts, though!

    The following two pictures show an FBI pamphlet given to the Phoenix police department’s anti-terrorism task force. Please notice the marked sections:

    According to the above, Constitutionalists and Common Law advocates are grouped in with hate groups, terrorists, extremists and weapons of mass destruction. Ask yourself why this is so. Why is the Constitution a threat? To whom?

    We have a crisis in American, but most are not willing to look at it. The crisis taking place is not being televised, because our media thinks that Americans are more interested in Britney Spears and Heath Ledger than they are about their own liberties. The crisis is the reformation of our government and the abolishment of our constitutional Republic. Do you know what the difference is between a Republic and a Democracy? Which one is our government? Why, then, do our elected officials and media people constantly tell us we live in a democracy? The answer is that in a democracy, it’s mob rule. And it’s easier to control the mob than it is a few hundred million sovereign citizens. It is about control, and in this country NO ONE has authority or control over you – plain and simple. Your power lies in your individual sovereignty and protected by the Republic. YOUR FOUNDING FATHERS ESTABLISHED THE CONSTITUTION AND THE REPUBLIC SO THAT EVERY CITIZEN WOULD BE AS A KING OR QUEEN OVER THEIR OWN DESTINY. Take awhile and let that sink in. Then think about how much government has taken control over every aspect of your life.

    The militarization and federalization of our local peace officers is, in my opinion, detrimental to our free Republic and to our safety as sovereign citizens. Sacrificing a little liberty for security doesn’t make you safer. It makes you a slave. Benjamin Franklin knew this, and so did the rest of our founding fathers. In fact, Franklin stated in no uncertain terms, “Those that would sacrifice Freedom for Security deserve neither.” I wonder why, then, our government is trying to push through all sorts of gun laws to restrict American citizens from exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Is this to make us safe from terrorists? Or is this to disarm America so she can’t fight back against the totalitarian government that is forming?

    One thing is clear: our founding fathers recognized our NEED to be protected from the abuses of government. This is why the Constitution was written! Government has not changed. Our focus has changed, however, and we no longer recognize nor value our heritage. After all, the immediate threat of terrorism should require us to give up our rights without question so that big brother Homeland Security can makes us safe! This is called the politics of fear and we are being played the fool. We are constantly being distracted by corporate controlled news to make us think about other things and not the destruction of our Constitution.

    But don’t take my word for it. Read a retired state trooper and former U.S. Secret Service Agent’s view on what is happening in America:

    Militarization of the American Police

  19. If history and my memory serve me correctly, during the 1930s into the 1940s of the 2oth Century the same people that gave us WWII did the same thing to intellectuals and anyone they viewed as subversive. They were the Nazi. Isn’t it interesting how in America persons who supposedly guard our freedoms do the same thing and we now call them patriots? What a gross misuse of the word. Patriots gave us our freedoms by fighting tyranny and writing the Constitution of the United States. It appears that the Patriot Act and the police state it has given all Americans, has no concept of the definition for patriot or has redefined it to suit their purpose. This is a sad day for all of us. Really sad!

  20. What can I say? This is McCarthyism pure. All the paranoid leftist talk and un-american labeling, the overblown emphasis on war and its heroes by the Bush era already pointed in that direction. It also reminds me on the Honecker regime in East Germany.
    This is dangerous!

  21. It is critical acknowledge the King Alfred Plan of the 21st Century. America is already a police state. Some advantages, more disadvantages. What ever happened to community policing?

  22. It is this government that is the terrorist — to the People. From dictionary.com under “terrorist” …

    Ter”ror*ist\, n. [F. terroriste.] One who governs by terrorism or intimidation … often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities

    Silly me, I always thought “fringe people” were what true Americans were :)

    Dove

  23. Show caution here. We have a world of hate and violence that has erupted around us. As you can tell by the reactive words in some of the comments people have decided its OK to be vengeful and rude and expect impunity. The police are reacting to this mode of exchange, whether or not it was expressed at the rally. Obviously, we still have tremendous freedom as evidenced by your blog! Now, do I feel safe from YOU because I have moderated your feelings of violation and victimization? Will you allow free speech? It’s easy to pick on the police and call them names. At the same time we must draw attention to the abuse of power to keep the powers in check as servants of the people. I believe these are very interesting, transitional times!

  24. Excellent post Inonebreath! The thing about this is, in my opinion; that it has been going on for quite some time. In Colorado, at around the same time, many people were put onto such lists. It just came to light sooner. Virtually anyone that belonged to the NRA, GOA, Libertarian or Constitution Party were placed on such lists.
    To their (the authorities) credit these people / organizations are being removed from those lists. They never should have been there in the first place, and I seriously doubt that the names of everyone have been removed, and that finding out just who is still on these lists will not be released.

  25. From the time President Bush first pushed Congress to enact the Patriot Act, I felt a chill run down my spine. It would be so easy for anyone with a little bit of power to abuse this law. All someone would have to say is a citizen is suspected of terrorism — Bam! You can be hauled away, no lawyer, no phone calls, and you’re family never knowing what happened to you. Doesn’t that sound like what happened in Nazi Germany, in U.S.S.R., in Argentina — even even to some extent in the McCarthy Era here? Now in Maryland, the police are deciding that anyone who does not agree with their views is a terrorist and has put them under serveillance. This country has been divided so much that even our most basic freedoms are being eroded, and citizens have agreed to it. Why? Because they’ve been told this is how to fight terror. My God. This is terror.

  26. As a Maryland resident I find this disturbing because I meet the criteria of a terrorist and have attended several anti-war protests. I wonder (if) when I will get my notification.

  27. The rate at which we are losing our freedoms is appauling. The founders of this country anticipated this sort of thing, and thats why they gave us the freedoms to begin with. It was not easy fighting for this country’s freedom, and I’m sure they would not have given up those freedoms so easily. Our founding fathers would be activists against the current Bush administrations and all the other old radicals in government like John McCain. Senator Obama taught courses in Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. He knows way more about the constitution than his radical opponent.

  28. First of all, I would like to point out that I am Canadian observing what’s going on in America. Interesting that you point to the last eight years under the Bush regime as why America is as screwed up as it is right now. Well, I suppose that is true. For the better part of a decade, citizens have had to put up with a lot of injustice on both sides of the border.
    For those of you wanting to change the policies of our governments, did you know that if ten percent of the population just sat at home and had a barbecue, we could bring the Northern American governments to their knees? If ten percent of all Americans and Canadians didn’t drive, bought nothing, didn’t go to work, used as little electricity or water as possible, and otherwise didn’t contribute to society in any way, shape or form, within days, society would come to a standstill. At least, this is a hypothesis set out to me a long time ago by someone I don’t remember. it would be an interesting experiment, anyways.

  29. This could be interesting for a lot of people, considering that more than 65% of Canadians are against the death penalty, and a very large percentage are against the war in Iraq too. Guess they had to apologize, huh? Otherwise most of Canada would end up on their lists, including one Prime Minister, several cabinet members as well as a huge number of others in government!
    Geez, seems some think they have the right to peg anyone ‘fringe’ if they don’t agree.

  30. I may support the death penalty bigtime (But NOT the Iraq war!),but I would never label anyone who simply disagrees with me a terrorist!This is SICK that people with simply different opinions instead of these violent criminals are being labeled the terrorists!

  31. Stephaniesam:

    That was from an Economist; and I can’t for the life of me remember who it was. Possibly Murry Rothbard?

    The principle remains the same though. Refuse to produce, and you bring the Authoritarians to their knees.

    Victory through the Fourth. Sit on your butt!

    I myself, am more action oriented. Say… Go fly fishing, and don’t spend, or produce a dime..? :D

  32. “I don’t believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government”

    This quote from the former state police superintendent who authorized the operation, Thomas E. Hutchins, is quite chilling and shows how little this guy understands the rights inherently held by the people and secured by the Constitution. Has he never heard of civil disobedience? What is a protest if not a disruption of some kind?

    The fact that this guy was the state police superintendent is pretty scary and I wonder where he is now and whose rights he’s currently abusing.

    freedomrebel:

    Thanks for posting this. The only way to keep our government in check and preserve our freedoms is to actively engage with our elected officials and tell them what we do or don’t approve of. Otherwise, government officials will act in their own self interest – which usually means having more control over our lives. And we will only have ourselves to blame.

    This is why blogs of this nature are so important – to keep people informed about what is going on so they can do something about it. If we keep silent, the powers that be will continue to erode our civil rights.

    I’m endeavoring to keep my readers informed about these types of things over at my blog The Freedom Minute as well.

    Keep up the good work!

    Jay

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