Maryland State Police “over-reached” and disregarded civil rights when they spied on anti-death penalty and peace activists in 2005 and 2006, says a report commissioned by Gov. Martin O’Malley and quoted by the Baltimore Sun. Undercover troopers and their bosses were not justified in their surveillance of peaceful protesters and ignored the free-speech implications of their actions, concluded former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs in a 93-page report. Police may have violated federal law when they labeled activists as possible terrorists in a multistate database, he said.
While Sachs found that the police’s public-safety rationale for their spying was “sincere,” he also called it “misguided” and said that the agency under the administration of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. operated under “systemic obliviousness” to the potential harm caused by spying. “Though the report offers the first independent account of a 14-month surveillance operation that has sparked outrage among Maryland activists across the political spectrum, it does not answer key questions, including when the state police began monitoring political groups, and who ordered the undercover tactics.