Surveillance state run amok

SURVEILLANCE STATE RUN AMOK…. In July, the Washington Post reported on undercover Maryland State Police officers conducting surveillance on war protesters and death penalty opponents. Today, we learn that the monitoring was worse, and more pervasive, than first believed.

The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored — and labeled as terrorists — activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes.

Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling the group a “security threat” because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation.

One of the possible “crimes” in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: “civil rights.”

And people wonder why “civil-liberties types” worry about government abuse when it comes to surveillance of Americans.

Under the administration of then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), Maryland law enforcement infiltrated law-abiding protest groups and labeled 53 Americans, who had done nothing wrong, as “terrorists” in a state database shared with federal authorities. (It turns out, their law enforcement database didn’t have categories for anti-war activists. Police created “terrorism” categories to make filing easier. How reassuring.)

How many Maryland State Police officials have been punished as a result of this project? To date, none. An undercover trooper who infiltrated peace groups has instead been promoted twice.

The Maryland State Police is “preparing to purge files and say they are expecting lawsuits.” It seems like a safe bet.

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