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Md. Police Put Activists' Names On Terror Lists

Maryland State Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan said the department is sending letters to activists, inviting them to review their files.
Maryland State Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan said the department is sending letters to activists, inviting them to review their files. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)
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Some activists said yesterday that they have received letters; others said they were waiting with anticipation to see whether they were on the state police watch list.

Laura Lising of Catonsville, a member of the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty, received her notification yesterday. She said she wants a hard copy of her file, because she does not trust the police to purge it. "We need as much protection as possible," she said.

Both Hutchins and Sheridan said the activists' names were entered into the state police database as terrorists partly because the software offered limited options for classifying entries.

The police also entered the activists' names into the federal Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area database, which tracks suspected terrorists. One well-known antiwar activist from Baltimore, Max Obuszewski, was singled out in the intelligence logs released by the ACLU, which described a "primary crime" of "terrorism-anti-government" and a "secondary crime" of "terrorism-anti-war protesters."

Sheridan said that he did not think the names were circulated to other agencies in the federal system and that they are not on the federal government's terrorist watch list. Hutchins said some names might have been shared with the National Security Agency.

Although the independent report on the surveillance released last week said that it was part of a broad effort by the state police to gather information on protest groups across the state, Sheridan said the department is not aware of any surveillance as "intrusive" as the spying on death penalty and war opponents.

The police notified the protesters at the recommendation of former U.S. attorney and state attorney general Stephen H. Sachs, who was appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to review the covert monitoring. In a report last week, Sachs also recommended regulations that forbid such spying on protest groups unless the state police chief believes it is justified.

"I can't imagine getting a letter that says, 'You've been classified as a terrorist; come in and we'll tell about it,'" said Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel). Two senators noted that they had been arrested years ago for civil disobedience. Sen. Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery) asked Sheridan, "Do you have any legislators on your list?" The answer was no.


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