Abortion

If You Aren't Doing Anything Wrong, You Have Nothing To Worry About. Oh, and Excercising Your Rights. Probably Shouldn't Do That, Either

|

Appalling:

The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.

Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.

The department started sending letters of notification Saturday to the activists, inviting them to review their files before they are purged from the databases, Sheridan said.

"The names don't belong in there," he told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. "It's as simple as that."

The surveillance took place over 14 months in 2005 and 2006, under the administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). The former state police superintendent who authorized the operation, Thomas E. Hutchins, defended the program in testimony yesterday. Hutchins said the program was a bulwark against potential violence and called the activists "fringe people."

Sheridan said protest groups were also entered as terrorist organizations in the databases, but his staff has not identified which ones.

Stunned senators pressed Sheridan to apologize to the activists for the spying, assailed in an independent review last week as "overreaching" by law enforcement officials who were oblivious to their violation of the activists' rights of free expression and association. The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, does not apologize but admits that the state police have "no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime" by those classified as terrorists.

That this joke could rise to the level of state police superintendent is a pretty damning indictment of the Maryland's State Police.  Here's what he thinks of the First Amendment:

Hutchins told the committee it was not accurate to describe the program as spying. "I doubt anyone who has used that term has ever met a spy," he told the committee.

"What John Walker did is spying," Hutchins said, referring to John Walker Jr., a communications specialist for the U.S. Navy convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Hutchins said the intelligence agents, whose logs were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland as part of a lawsuit, were monitoring "open public meetings." His officers sought a "situational awareness" of the potential for disruption as death penalty opponents prepared to protest the executions of two men on death row, Hutchins said.

"I don't believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government," he said.

 "Disrupting the government" apparently now includes no more than expressing your disagreement with it.

(Via Conor Friedersdorf)

NEXT: Hitchens on Afghanistan's Poppies: Buy Them, Don't Burn Them!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I read this over at the Daily Dish a few hours ago, and I have to say, I just stared at the screen slackjawed for the better part of a minute.

    What a fucking ass.

  2. And my paranoia is up another notch.

  3. I knew it! Obama is a terrorist. After all, “change” is just another name for government disruption…

  4. Anyone who thinks the police have any idea what your rights are beyond what they might get in trouble for is dreaming.

  5. So I’ve gone from thinking we’re in a recession, to depression, (I know I’m depressed) and now I’m thinking maybe dark age, in another couple of weeks I might just sell all my worldly goods and prepare for the apocalypse.

    So if you see me standing on the corner proclaiming “The End is Near”, that’s gonna be your best indicator that we’ve reached a bottom. That will be the exact moment to invest everything in bio-tech.

  6. “Disrupting the government” apparently now includes no more than expressing your disagreement with it.

    “Spying” apparently now includes no more than attending open meetings without disclosing your reasons for attending.

  7. Just fucking splendid.

    Time to get to work building the family compound.

  8. That last line of the quote is probably at the same level as Giuliani’s “freedom is submission to authority”.

    Give me a government-approved existence or give me death!

  9. Giuliani said that? Link please.

  10. Look at this (and tell me they’re not up to something):

    http://www.nationalterroralert.com/updates/2008/09/30/us-army-brigade-deploys-for-homeland-mission/#comment-25436

    Fascism (and I use that word conservatively), here we come!

  11. Why didn’t Giuliani just say “Freedom is Slavery”? Would have been more direct.

  12. I assume all of you worry warts are prepared for your upcoming obligation.

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    CB

  13. The former state police superintendent who authorized the operation, Thomas E. Hutchins, defended the program in testimony yesterday. Hutchins said the program was a bulwark against potential violence and called the activists “fringe people.”

    If I were one of those filthy hippe leftist commie types, I’d be suing. Big fucking time. And I’d be in the right.

    Is anyone foolish enough to think this (I’m being charitable) authoritarian anti-American asshole, Thomas E. Hutchins, will ever face repurcussions for this shit?

    Attending the meeting, I’ll easily allow.
    However, the fact that the state

    classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects,

    is beyond the pale.

  14. “I don’t believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government,” he said.

    This statement is pretty stupid, in or out of context.

    But, at the risk of being called an apologetic, the first amendment does not guarantee that the govt can’t take notes when you are speaking.* Just as long as they ain’t keeping you from speaking.

    *there’s the right to privacy penumbras, and good (but debatable) policy reasons, but no explicit constitutional guarantee.

  15. Bingo,

    My memory is always behind the curve.

    SugarFree,

    Holy shit! Someone needs to call Orwell’s estate and tell em’ Giuliani is ripping off his works.

  16. @Kolohe

    But, at the risk of being called an apologetic, the first amendment does not guarantee that the govt can’t take notes when you are speaking.* Just as long as they ain’t keeping you from speaking.

    Strictly correct.

    But does “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” (plus the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th) leave room for the government to impose penalties (such as being put on an offical list of terrorists) for speaking.

    I can’t see how it does in a rational world.

    Surely a negative consequence for speech per speech—as here—is abridging. Right. Right?

  17. Naga,

    You have to amazed at the person who could say something that contradictory and stay conscious. (I was similarly amazed just moments ago on another thread.)

  18. speech per speech

    Should be “speech per se” or perhaps “speech qua speech” or something.

    But its not my fault. I’m hard of typing.

  19. leave room for the government to impose penalties (such as being put on an offical list of terrorists)

    Well, the devil is in the details. That is, if there are actual ‘penalties’. If being on an ‘official list’ means you can’t fly, for instance, I would call that an abridgement.

    But in this specific case, I see nothing that the State of Maryland (‘the Free State’ natch) did to anybody on ‘the list’. Other than put them on the list and watch them more closely. But AFACT, no state actors interfered with anybody’s organizational nor their day to day activities.

  20. “Spying” apparently now includes no more than attending open meetings without disclosing your reasons for attending.

    Sending clandestine operatives who pretend to be people they are not, and lying about their intentions in order to gain the trust and information of the group they are survailling (sp?) isn’t a form of spying? REALLY?

  21. Well, the devil is in the details. That is, if there are actual ‘penalties’. If being on an ‘official list’ means you can’t fly, for instance, I would call that an abridgement.

    I would posit that that putting someone on a terrorist watch list for exercising their 1st amendment right is in fact a penalty.

    It also would have a pretty obvious chilling effect on the exercise of free speech.

  22. @Kolohe

    But in this specific case, I see nothing that the State of Maryland (‘the Free State’ natch) did to anybody on ‘the list’. Other than put them on the list and watch them more closely. But AFACT, no state actors interfered with anybody’s organizational nor their day to day activities.

    Do you believe that having anyone whose name is/was on these lists can feel safe from consequences?

    Do you really trust that those names that are removed are really removed? That there is no shadow version of the list that isn’t pruged?

    I’d like to believe these things.

    I’d like to think of this as a case of governmental over-reach receiving a well deserved slap down, and rejoice that the system works.

    So why am I not happy?

  23. @ChicagoTom

    Word up.

  24. I wanted to add I believe Lamont v. Postmaster General talked about a deterrent effect on freedom of expression – even when there is no law explicitly prohibiting it.

    I think the relevant part of that decision is:

    Thus, the government argued, the statute involved only inconvenience, and not an abridgmentof the right to free speech. The Court rejected this argument, reasoning thatthe statute requires an affirmative act on the part of the addressee in order to receive the prohibited materials. The Court also reasoned that people would be deterred from sending back the reply card, for fear that the government or others would label them communists. In his concurring opinion, Justice Brennan expressed the Court’s view thusly: “[I]nhibition as well as prohibition against the exercise of precious First Amendment rights is a power denied to government . . . [W]e cannot sustain an intrusion on First Amendment rightson the ground that the intrusion is only a minor one.” Thus, the Court foundthat the statute was unconstitutional.

  25. “I don’t believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government,” he said.

    Bill of Rights List of nice things to have if they don’t get in the government’s way.

    But, at the risk of being called an apologetic, the first amendment does not guarantee that the govt can’t take notes when you are speaking.* Just as long as they ain’t keeping you from speaking.

    “Taking notes” != entering your name in “state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects,” which does keep you from doing a lot of things. Is this not the TSA list that sets up the people entered and anyone with the same name for special harassment at airports and borders, and which some Congresscritters want to add to the list of people barred from purchasing firearms?

    It’s not just freedom of speech, folks.

    First Amendment
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  26. I have no intention of defending any of the police officers listed, however I do feel compelled to point out that attending open meetings is within the boundaries of allowable police activity. Especially if the police officers do not attempt to intimidate the other members present and are just there to keep an eye on a group they believe may become radical. It becomes a problem if they attend a meeting in uniform without justification.

    On the other hand, classifying people as terrorists, which implies they have committed terrorism, is obviously a violation of their freedom of association rights should the group they associate with not be openly terroristic. Even if that doesn’t stick (which it would), they’re still sitting ducks for a very nasty libel lawsuit.

    I’m just hoping, for the police departments sake that none of the people on their list are millionares. Of course with the ACLU interested, I’m not sure it’s going to matter much.

  27. wow, what a surprise!!! this is the fault of congress and the almost unfettered power of the ‘patriot act’. and remember the next president ain’t gunna give up this power, he will want more. where will it end?it ends with the local, state,and federal government with total control over all of us.

  28. I went back to read the article carefully to be sure I had all the speakers straight and pinned my admiration on the current Police Superintendent, who didn’t just eliminate the program but testified about it plainly and dissolved it with total openness.

    Good for you, Superintendent Sheridan. I hope that come next January there will be a job for you in the Justice Department.

  29. These sorts of behaviors are already being instituted in the United States. It’s becoming commonplace to see our liberties erased ever so slowly under the guise of “Homeland Security.” But they have gon a step further if you were already aware. October of 07 saw the passing of the thought crime prevention bill named “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” It just gets more frightening from there.

    http://www.roguegovernment.com/news.php?id=4682

  30. “Taking notes” != entering your name in “state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects,” which does keep you from doing a lot of things. Is this not the TSA list that sets up the people entered and anyone with the same name for special harassment at airports and borders, and which some Congresscritters want to add to the list of people barred from purchasing firearms?

    But when you take notes, for it to be useful to other people, you need to put that ‘data’ into some sort of ‘base.’

    I specifically cited the TSA no-fly as what *not* to do.

    Yes, DHS is poorly run and was poorly conceived. Gitmo, invading Iraq, and the proverbial ‘bombing from 50K ft’ are all, to say the least, counterproductive

    But, here’s the thing. There are people, from all parts of the political and ethno-cultural spectrum that want to do real harm. It is not an ‘existential’ threat, but as evidenced by OK city and the WTC, it is nonetheless real.

    So I see ‘observe and record, but do not interfere’ as the best comprimise between Chancellor Adam Sulter’s policies, and doing nothing and letting the chips (or buildings) fall as they may.

    “but ordinary crime is more of a threat”. Yep sure is. which is why i wish police emphasized intelligence more and force less. Just about all of Balko’s stories would have different outcome if that was the case.

  31. As far as Guiliani ripping off Orwell, I would bet a six pack of craft-brew that Orwell, who also wrote the insightful “Politics and the English Language” (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm) encountered any number of quotations like Giuliani’s before he, a master of the English language and a believer in brevity, sat down to distill them all into “Freedom is Slavery.” So rather than ripping Orwell off, I prefer to think that Giuliani independently re-composed an example of rhetoric that inspired Orwell in the first place. Call it an unconscious homage to Orwell’s muse.

  32. The kind of garbage the authorities perpetrated this time was exactly the kind of “semantic creep” that many of us warned about when USA PATRIOT was so-briefly contemplated, years ago. Once you establish “terrorist” a catch-all bogeyman, it won’t be long before it … catches all. We see that process in progress here. Is anyone surprised? Does this change any PATRIOT supporter’s mind about whether the odious act ought to be repealed altogether?

  33. I don’t object to a cop attending any sort of open meeting in his capacity as a citizen of a free country interested in attending open meetings. But when you send him there and tell him to keep his activities secret, and when the people he meets wind up on lists, and those lists have consequences, that’s scary as all hell.

  34. Quick … before it’s too late, refresh yourselves with your comments about the Mary Fate/NRA-spy story!

  35. (Granted, the LIST makes all the difference, but be sure not to slide too far into the anti-spying side of things.)

  36. There’s only one c in “exercise”.

  37. There’s nothing wrong with them observing the meeting, even as so called “spies.” It’s an open meeting. They’re free, as we are, to go in, record the information given at the meeting and do what they will with it. The only illegal act here is the gross mischaracterization of those peaceful men and women as terrorists. Well, that and the ridiculous waste of tax dollars.

  38. Low-Key-

    No, they are not. Tell me what constitutional grant of power enables these slimy parasites to do what they did. They did this in the capacity as Caesar’s hired hands and not as private citizens.

    Futhermore, have you ever heard of freeedom of association?

  39. 1) The Ideal Platonic Cop who merely shows up and listens may never do anything that violates the rights of a non-violent person. The Real Actual Police Infiltrator is rarely of that sort, and often does things ranging from putting names on lists to acting as an Agent Provocateur.

    2) Because the Real Actual Police Infiltrator often misbehaves, knowing that a Real Actual Police Infiltrator (even a well-behaved one) might be out there can have a chilling effect on speech.

    And they are well aware of the chilling effect. Yet they do it anyway.

  40. they are well aware of the chilling effect. Yet they do it anyway for that reason also

  41. And in the ideal platonic world, all groups are composed of people who peacable assemble to petition the government for redress of grievences.

    And in the real actual world, a minority of groups* are interested in deliberate pre-meditated violence against others exercising their own 1st amendment rights.

    *yes super-duper biased source.** But unless the FBI is just making stuff up out of thin air, there was something there.

    **I mean, ‘global terrorism’?. A bunch of spoiled stupid punk 20 somethings? gimme a break.

  42. This is very, very sick, and very, very frightening. Maybe there is a place at Gitmo for this guy.

  43. …to acting as an Agent Provocateur.

    Which, ceteris paribus, is the coolest job title ever.

    Not that this makes it any less scary.

  44. First they came for the terrorists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a terrorist;
    Then they came for the enemy combatants, and I did not speak out-
    Because I was not an enemy combatant;
    Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out-
    Because I was not a Muslim;
    Then they came for the activists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not an activist;
    Then they came for me-
    And there was no one left to speak out for me.

  45. Precisely. People who think that being put on a “terrorist” watchlist for speaking their minds does not violate important rights, are too young to know about (or do not remember) Nazi Germany, and haven’t paid attention to their history lessons.

    This is real and it is nasty, folks. Very, very nasty. It deserves the harshest possible response.

  46. It deserves the harshest possible response.

    Excuse me, Ma’am. One of our agents just heard you making a threat. I’ll need you to step over here…

  47. This cocksucker should be be-fucking-headed!!! Piece of shit asshole mother-fucker is what he is. Dead is what he and his ideals should be.

  48. “I don’t believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government,” he said.

    What the hell? That’s exactly what it’s for.

  49. Unbelievable…
    OWN/NWO/NOW
    Peace and love
    All~ways with intent
    PTTP

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.