What, you might reasonably ask, are "fringe people?" A wooly-headed Thomas Hutchins, a former Maryland State Police Superintendant, somehow defined this as people who wish to disrupt the government, a chilling distinction not to be found in the United State Constitution.
In yet another misbegotten police misadventure, 300 hours of time was devoted to surveillance of individuals who belonged to peaceful groups opposed to capital punishment, the war in Iraq, military recruiting in high schools, global warming and other cases. These groups were infiltrated by "Lucy," an undercover Maryland State Police trooper. 53 individuals, including two nuns, were subsequently entered on a suspected terrorist list and information about them was shared with state and federal agencies, including the NSA. They were given such designations as "Terrorist - Environmental Extremist" and "Terrorist - Anti-Government."
After a blistering report by Stephen Sachs, a former Maryland Attorney General, and legislative hearings in October, the police promised angry legislators that they would notify the 53 individuals that their names had mistakenly been entered on the terrorist list and give them a chance to review their files before they were destroyed.
One has to wonder who's running the show here, and why a decision was made to illegally monitor peaceful groups in a state that reported 36,000 violent crimes last year. No one, of course, has been disciplined.
The Los Angeles Times' December account of the story, which includes more updated information, may be found at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/middleeast/la-na-cop-spy7-2008dec07,0,1237214.story
In our times, sadly, the very word "terrorist" has become a excuse to violate the Constitutional rights of Americans. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
Thanks to my friend Craig Ball for suggesting that this story would make a good "lightning ride."
And a very happy, healthy and safe new year to one and all!
E-mail: email@example.com Phone: 703-359-0700