Please do not believe that the surveillance begin in March 2005 or ended in November 2006. That’s the official story. We are still seeking answers. Kagiso, Max
State lawmakers propose anti-spying legislation
Move is response to state police covert watch on peaceful activists
By Julie Bykowicz | firstname.lastname@example.org
7:00 PM EST, January 22, 2009
Lawmakers who want to prohibit the
The proposal would require police to have "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity before using covert tactics to investigate political activists. It also would ban the state from keeping files and dossiers on activists unless the information is part of a criminal investigation.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, said he will propose similar legislation, but the lawmakers who drafted the bill unveiled today say theirs will be more expansive. The American Civil Liberties
The ACLU of
State troopers also went undercover to infiltrate anti-death penalty and anti-war groups.
Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat and lead sponsor of the Senate anti-spying bill, called the police tactics "Orwellian" and said he and other lawmakers wanted to send a strong message to the police that
The operation began in 2005 and lasted about 14 months under former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and his state police superintendent, Col. Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins. Ehrlich has said he knew nothing about the tactics.
At O'Malley's request, former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs investigated the operation and concluded in a 93-page report that it was "misguided" and dismissive of civil rights.
Lawmakers said they intend to use legislative hearings to ferret out more information about the extent -- and intent -- of the surveillance operation. Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, said the state police have been "lawyerly" so far in responding to questions about the operation and he would like to learn more.
Other groups named in police documents provided to the ACLU were People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Amnesty International, a group fighting BGE utility bill increases and the DC Anti-War Network. Several of the activists monitored by state police were in
Del. Sheila E. Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat and lead sponsor of the House anti-spying bill, said it is clear to her, based on the liberal-leaning groups that were monitored, that someone in the Ehrlich administration ordered the state police to spy.
"State police get their orders from the executive department," she said. "They don't just decide on their own to spy on a group because they have nothing else to do."
Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, the current police superintendent, has called the operation "disconcerting" and said similar activities have not occurred under his watch. State police said they began the operation out of concern about the possibility of violent protests around two planned executions in 2005, although no evidence of potential violence emerged.
O'Malley's legislation could be introduced Monday and is expected to codify Sachs' recommendations.
Sachs suggested that police be able to show reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before launching covert tactics, but he did not say the agency should stop keeping files on activists. That could be a key difference between the two anti-spying bills.
Copyright © 2009, The Baltimore Sun
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"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