Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cardin to pursue data shared from state police spy operation/Let Vanunu go,0,6416901.story

Cardin to pursue data shared from state police spy operation

By Paul West |

April 22, 2009


U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have not fully responded to requests about data shared from a Maryland State Police spying operation into anti-death penalty and anti-war activists, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said Tuesday.


Cardin said he remains committed to seeking more information amid concerns that the Maryland data were "potentially made available" to U.S. agencies. He added that the Senate may hold a hearing on the matter this year.


The Maryland Democrat made the remarks in a brief interview after the first session of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism and homeland security, which he chairs. The hearing, devoted to anti-terrorism and civil liberties, touched on the Maryland State Police spying and infiltration of protest groups in 2005 and 2006.


Zoe Baird, who co-chaired a Markle Foundation task force on national security information policy, said, "Unfortunately, this nation still cannot connect the dots." More than seven years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, authorities at different levels of government are still not sharing information adequately, she said.


Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union, which exposed the Maryland spying operation, told Cardin and Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, the only senators at the hearing, that state police had "uploaded the activists' personal information into a federal drug enforcement and terrorism database." She said that, in recent years, her group had found other examples of alleged illegal surveillance by law enforcement in the name of fighting terrorism that targeted peace activists in California, Pennsylvania and Georgia, and environmental activists in Colorado.


A report last year by former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs found that the state police had transmitted information on activists to a federal database of suspected terrorists or drug traffickers. The state police superintendent at the time has since defended his department's infiltration of protest groups as necessary to prevent potentially violent demonstrations against the executions of death row inmates.


State police have since adopted new rules on when surveillance operations can take place, and the Maryland General Assembly put those policies into law this year.


Copyright © 2009, The Baltimore Sun


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Last update - 01:36 22/04/2009

Let Vanunu go

By Yossi Melman


Like a modern-day Cain, Mordechai Vanunu walks the streets of East Jerusalem in search of a place to spend the night. He has no permanent address, and because of a cash shortage he moves from one cheap hostel to the next. He is forbidden to talk with foreigners. With Israelis he does not wish to speak. The Arabs in East Jerusalem do not try to befriend him, fearing trouble. He is a difficult and complicated man. His belief in his principles is stern and dogmatic, but is also cause for bewilderment. Even his family and most of his few supporters abroad have cut off contact.


His financial situation as well as his physical and mental health is deteriorating. But Israel, to paraphrase Gene Pitney, is "a state without mercy." The security authorities and the courts, which back them almost automatically, are time and again after him. This is a vindictive, closed system that intends to apply the law as severely as possible. This week Home Front Command, one of the authorities dealing with Vanunu's case, called in his attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard to tell them that the warrants restricting Vanunu's freedom of movement and speech will remain unchanged. A similar announcement will be made by the Interior Ministry. Moreover, Vanunu still faces a four-month prison term for violating the restrictions - because he tried to enter Bethlehem on Christmas and spoke with foreign reporters. He has appealed to the Supreme Court.


Thus Vanunu, who was released from prison in 2004, entered his sixth year as a "Prisoner of Zion." During that time we have had three prime ministers, four justice ministers and three defense ministers; Israel exchanged prisoners with Hezbollah; spies were released from prison and murderers' sentences were shortened. But the state is adamant that Vanunu be punished repeatedly for his original sin.


The authorities consider him a traitor, even though he did not betray secrets to enemy countries, a terrorist organization or foreign security organizations. He exposed Israel's nuclear secrets to the British Sunday Times. Even if we accept the state's stance that this makes him a spy and a traitor, he was neither the worst nor the most dangerous. There have been and there are worse traitors than Vanunu.


Indeed, he violated the law and he deserved his punishment. But he already served his 18 years in jail, partially under cruel solitary confinement. Nonetheless, the state refuses to allow him to leave the country and start life anew. He may still have time to start a family. After all, it is an accepted legal norm that a person not be punished twice for the same crime.


It used to be that the state's vengeful treatment of Vanunu was attributed to the chief of state security, Yehiel Horev. I thought so, too. I admit I was wrong. Horev has been gone for nearly two years. And still, his replacement Amir Kain holds the same view: None of the restrictions imposed on Vanunu should be lifted, and he must not be allowed to leave Israel.


The justifications are weak and exaggerated. The claim is that Vanunu holds more secret information about Israel's nuclear program. The entire world assumes Israel has nuclear weapons, so what further damage can he cause to the security of the state? Based on this logic, he may never leave Israel.


Every person, regardless of his views, with a conscience, ethics and a sense of justice must tell the state, enough. No more. After 23 years of suffering, let Mordechai Vanunu become a free man.


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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