Senators Want Proof That Activists' Names Are Not in Databases

Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin, top, Russell Feingold and Barbara A. Mikulski want names purged.
Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin, top, Russell Feingold and Barbara A. Mikulski want names purged. (Melina Mara/twp - Twp)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Three U.S. senators yesterday renewed pressure on federal officials to purge the names of any peaceful protesters the Maryland State Police might have entered into databases that track suspected terrorists.

In a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and other national security agencies, Maryland's two Democratic senators, Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, and Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) demanded a list of federal databases that might contain the names of at least 53 activists who were listed as terrorists by the state police.

"We want to make sure the individuals that are impacted are cleared," Cardin said in an interview. "We're not sure what has been done with the federal data bank. And we're not sure what procedures are in place to make sure this doesn't happen again."

The state police have said they intend to purge the activists' names from their internal files and from a federal drug-trafficking database, but officials say the names did not reach federal no-fly lists or other databases.

State police spokesman Greg Shipley repeated that "at no time was any individual placed on a terrorism watch list, as the senators' letter implies." He said the state police superintendent, Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, is working to notify the activists and eventually purge their names from the database.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura C. Keehner said in an e-mail that the agency believes the decision to conduct surveillance "was made at the discretion of Maryland State Police."

An audit of the state police to be issued today by the inspector general for the Homeland Security Department concluded that the agency complied with federal regulations on the use of preparedness grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The office of Inspector General Richard L. Skinner undertook the audit in August to "determine whether the Maryland State Police used state DHS grant funds to conduct surveillance" on death penalty and antiwar activists whose group e-mail lists, rallies and organizational meetings were infiltrated by undercover troopers, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post.

The audit reviewed personnel records and labor charges, time sheets and overtime records of the officers involved in the surveillance of death penalty and antiwar activists from fiscal years 2003 to 2005. Auditors concluded that $4.9 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants was spent properly on emergency management equipment and training.

The audit was limited to emergency management grants. "Had we conducted additional audit procedures, other issues might have come to our attention," it concludes.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company