Friday, October 10, 2008

Targets of police surveillance blast limited database access/Citizen Terrorists Deleted Targets of police surveillance blast limited database access

By Carolyn Peirce
Examiner Staff Writer 10/10/08

Max Obuszewski doesn’t take drugs — not even aspirin.

As a former Peace Corps member, he’s a lifelong activist against violence.

But Maryland State Police tarnished Obuszewski’s good name — he fears irrevocably — by labeling him a suspected drug trafficker and terrorist in a law enforcement database.

Obuszewski, who civilly protests the war in Iraq, is one of 53 law-abiding activists whom the state police spied on for 14 months and wrongfully listed in an intelligence database of security threats.

State police are allowing those victims to view their files before agents delete them from the database, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland was alarmed to learn Thursday that the victims can’t make copies of their files or bring a lawyer with them.

“To say that I’m shocked would put it mildly,” ACLU lawyer David Rocah said. 

“It’s completely unacceptable, and it’s not the actions of a police force that is truly seeking to put this behind them.”

Rocah, who represents the victims, is calling on Gov. Martin O’Malley “to reverse this wrong-headed and unlawful policy,” saying citizens are legally and morally entitled to government files wrongfully being kept on them, and police can’t dictate who can have a lawyer.

“After wrongfully spying on them, infiltrating their organizations and listing them as terrorists, it would be foolhardy for the activists to be expected to take it on faith that the state police will forever and everywhere purge their records,” Rocah said.

Obuszewski said preventing the victims from copying their files is a further infringement on their civil rights.

“It’s ignoring due process. Anyone has a right to an attorney, and I want [Rocah] there with me and I want a copy,” he said.

“The only suspicion I can have is that they still have things to hide, and they’re going to continue hiding it.”

Obuszewski said he wants a copy of his file to ensure state police are held accountable for any negative effects on his future.

He said he worries the information will never fully disappear and could affect his ability to obtain a loan, rent an apartment or get a job.

“It’s very possible that employers would have that information and say I’m not qualified,” he said. “If I had a copy of my file, then I could prove I’m not a drug trafficker and I’m not a terrorist.”

State police Superintendent Col. Terrence Sheridan said the files weren’t shared with agencies beyond the Washington Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, but Rocah said the victims no longer trust the state police.

A state police spokesman was unavailable Thursday for comment.

October 10, 2008


Citizen Terrorists Deleted

The homeland security mania has invited some startling abuses of police power, but we have yet to hear of any more knuckle-headed than one in Maryland. There, the State Police are sheepishly tracking down 53 innocent people to let them know they were entered as suspected terrorists on state and federal databases — for the Orwellian offense of engaging in peaceful protest.

The citizens had merely joined gatherings opposed to the Iraq war and capital punishment. Yet they were listed as terrorists three years ago on criminal intelligence rolls. “On the contrary, the groups were determined not to violate the law,” Stephen Sachs, the former Maryland attorney general, took pains to point out in a blistering report concluding that the runaway program violated constitutional rights and federal regulations.

Legislative hearings this week added insult to injury. Thomas Hutchins, a former State Police superintendent, insisted that the program was a legitimate surveillance of “fringe people” he somehow divined as “those who wish to disrupt the government.” This is a chilling free-speech distinction not found in the Constitution. It should make any American wonder what else is out there in the way of misbegotten police programs.

The 300 hours of surveillance devoted to data-smearing outspoken citizens was aptly described in the report as “an instructive example of the abuses that can result when the mere invocation of ‘terrorism’ is understood to override constitutional protections.”

Promising reform to angry legislators, the Maryland police are scrambling not so much to apologize as to notify the 53 that they were falsely deemed terrorists and can inspect their files before the files are purged. The databases were originally intended for anti-drug intelligence, but were misused, officials explained, by zealous, “technologically challenged” commanders.

Constitutionally challenged, as well.



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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