Friday, November 21, 2008

Maryland's fraudulent terrorism investigatons: a Bush/Cheney legacy

Imagine how miserable it would have been to read this with a President Palin on the way.

We'd all be thinking that the Soviets had won Cold War I.

Now we read it as the waning evil of one of the most wretched and incompetent governments of any democratic nation in the past forty years. Emphases mine.
Police spy on climate activist while global warming goes unarrested | Environment |

I'm not sure what's more shocking: the news that the Maryland State Police wrongfully spied on me for months as a "suspected terrorist," or that, despite surveillance of me, officers apparently wouldn't recognize me if I walked into their police headquarters tomorrow.

I'm a former Peace Corps volunteer, an Eagle Scout, church member, youth baseball coach, and dedicated father. I also happen to be director of one of the largest environmental groups in Maryland, a nonprofit that promotes windmills and solar panels in the fight against global warming. So imagine my shock to get a police letter last month saying I was one of 53 Maryland activists on a terrorist watch list that has been discontinued because — can you believe it? — there's "no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime."...

... The mess all began last summer when astonishing evidence surfaced revealing that the Maryland State Police — under former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich — posed as activists and infiltrated an anti-death-penalty group, attending the organization's meetings and taking secret notes to send back to HQ. But what were they doing to me and my organization — the Chesapeake Climate Action Network — during this surveillance program in 2005 and 2006? Bugging our phones? Reading our emails? Monitoring me as I walked my kid to the bus stop?

I still don't know for sure. Yielding to public pressure, the police finally gave me a printed copy of my "file" on October 29. It raised more questions than it answered. Seven of the 12 pages were withheld without full explanation. And of the pages I did receive, at least half the words were redacted — blacked out with a marker.

There was a photo of me on the last page, lifted from my website. And on the first page, there were these words: "Crime: Terrorism, environmental extremists."

What terrorism would that be? My file — what little of it I have — makes reference to a morning speech given in Bethesda, Md., by then-governor Robert Ehrlich on November 17, 2005. A small audience of invited guests and journalists attended inside a classroom at Walt Whitman High School. Ehrlich wasn't doing enough to fight global warming, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network believed, and several of my staff arrived to peacefully demonstrate and hold up signs that said things like, "It's Getting Hot in Here, Gov!" But troopers with the governor's "Executive Protection Division" believed this was extreme, according to my file. For example, CCAN staffers invited high school students to hold up protest signs during the governor's speech. Pretty extreme, huh?

There was no civil disobedience at this event. No one was arrested. No county, state, or federal laws were breached. The entire affair was utterly peaceful, above board, and appropriate. Political demonstrations exactly like this happen a thousand times a day in America. There were no media reports of anything unusual.

Yet Ehrlich's security team considered this "aggressive protesting." Afterward, the troopers contacted the Maryland State Police's Homeland Security and Investigation Bureau. The result was creation of intelligence files on me and three of my staff under the crime category of "terrorism, environmental extremists." The real motivation, however, appears to be political spying. We were opponents of the governor's policies. We were organized and vocal about it. We wound up on an intelligence list along with dozens of other innocent, nonviolent opponents of the governor's policies...

... the state police say they've released everything to me that's relevant to me, but I don't believe them. Since July, the state police have made numerous public statements related to this spying controversy that have proved to be factually untrue. They initially said, for example, that the entire surveillance program was limited to anti-death-penalty activists. But we now know activists for peace, immigration, and the environment were spied on too. I believe more of the spying story is yet to come out, however. With the help of a heroic Maryland attorney, David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union, and an equally heroic Maryland state senator, Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park, I believe all the facts will soon surface and we'll see legislation in the state General Assembly in 2009 specifically banning police abuses like this....
This insanity involved state Republicans and state police, but the terrorism laws came from Cheney/Bush. They blocked protections that would have prevented this kind of abuse.

We don't deserve to have escaped the dark age of Bush, but somehow, inexplicably, it's receding into history.

No comments: