“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.