Undercover Maryland State Police officers repeatedly spied on peace activists and anti-death penalty groups in recent years and entered the names of some in a law-enforcement database of people thought to be terrorists or drug traffickers, say documents quoted by the Baltimore Sun. The files, made public yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, depict a pattern of infiltration of the activists’ organizations in 2005 and 2006. None of the 43 pages of summaries and computer logs – some with agents’ names and whole paragraphs blacked out – mention criminal or even potentially criminal acts, the legal standard for initiating such surveillance.
State police officials said they did not curtail the protesters’ freedoms. ACLU attorney David Rocah said he found it “stupefying” that the government is still targeting people who do nothing more than express dissent. “Everything noted in these logs is a lawful, First Amendment activity,” Rocah said. “For undercover police officers to spend hundreds of hours entering information about lawful political protest activities into a criminal database is an unconscionable waste of taxpayer dollars and does nothing to make us safer from actual terrorists or drug dealers.” Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, Maryland State Police superintendent, said the agency “does not inappropriately curtail the expression or demonstration of the civil liberties of protesters or organizations acting lawfully.”