Cardin To Pursue Data From Police Spy Effort

April 22, 2009|By Paul West | Paul West,paul.west@baltsun.com

WASHINGTON -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.

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