Civil Liberties

Cookies, Photographs, and Other Tools of Terror

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From today's Baltimore Sun:

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, newly released documents show.

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. The activists contend that the authorities were trying to determine whether they posed a security threat to the United States. But 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….

The only potentially unlawful activity mentioned anywhere in the documents, [Maryland ACLU director Susan Goering] said, were two instances of nonviolent civil disobedience. In one, activists refused to leave a guard station during a protest at the National Security Agency after bringing cookies and drinks for the guards, and in the other, they hatched a plan to place photographs of soldiers who died in Iraq on the fence surrounding the White House.

My favorite detail: One of the groups infiltrated was the Committee to Save Vernon Evans. Because nothing says security threat like a bunch of Quakers trying to get a local prisoner off death row.

During the years in question, incidentally, Maryland's governor was Bob Ehrlich, a Republican occasionally rumored to be a libertarian.

Elsewhere in Reason: a similar scandal in Colorado.

Elsewhere not in Reason: The ACLU posts the Maryland documents.

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  1. Ehrlich a libertarian? lol

  2. Well, let’s be fair.

    If the government of the United States or of individual states is starting to assume that anyone interested in liberty or human dignity is a potential terrorist, they might be on to something there.

    Remember that Twilight Zone episode where Colombo played a dictator who saw potential assassins in the mirror? When you’re a tyrant, people like the people in this story are in fact a potential danger to you. You can never know when one of them will blow.

  3. I am so goddamn sick of those liberal pansies at the ACLU trying to get people worked up about nonsense like this. How else can teh government do its job if they aren’t allowed to infiltrate possibly harmful groups?

  4. Ehrlich a libertarian? lol

    You have to look the measuring stick. Using O’Malley, for example….

  5. activists refused to leave a guard station during a protest at the National Security Agency after bringing cookies and drinks for the guards

    Well, that changes everything. They brought cookies!

  6. You have to look the measuring stick. Using O’Malley, for example….

    I used the chicken to measure it and have conclusively concluded that Ehrlich is not a libertarian.

  7. Because nothing says security threat like a bunch of Quakers trying to get a local prisoner off death row.

    If the group was Muslim instead of Quaker it would be OK? Why should Quakers get a free pass?

    Of course, in my world the DEA is a religion and should be just as suspect.

  8. NY is morally superior because there, the state police follow the governor’s political rivals around and leave the peasants alone.

  9. Anybody who wears a “Question Authority” t-shirt is a terrorist; they terrify The Authorities.

    ooh- how about “Interrogate Authority”?

  10. You have to look the measuring stick. Using O’Malley, for example….
    I used the chicken to measure it and have conclusively concluded that Ehrlich is not a libertarian.

    Precisely. Using a chicken, he is not a libertarian. Using O’Mally, he’s a fair bit of one. Using Glendening, he’s about further still, approaching using joe but that’s kind of a given due to joe’s dimuntive stature befitting his intellect.

    Basically everyone in govt has an authoritarian streak or they wouldn’t go to “serve” in govt. MD just has them worse than most. The official govt motto is “If you can dream it, we can tax it”, but it’s very closely followed by “Sit down and shut up, as we’re from the government and we know what’s best for you”

  11. Why should Quakers get a free pass?

    No one has ever harmed anyone else with Quaker ideals as a justification.

  12. Name a Quaker suicide-bomber. Just one.

  13. Interrogate Authority
    George Bush style

    I bet that T-shirt would get you in trouble.

  14. the quakers weren’t too popular when they ruled pennsylvania.

    something about not letting people have fun

  15. Huh? The Quakers had great fun! You must be thinking of the Massachussets-style Congregationalism.

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