- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

Maryland State Police Chief Col. Thomas B. Sheridan has ordered an internal review of the agency’s intelligence-gathering policies and operations a week after documents released by court order showed undercover officers infiltrated war and death-penalty protest groups.

The review will cover the agency’s policies, procedures and training programs for intelligence gathering and the use of federal anti-drug and anti-terrorism databases, said agency spokesman Greg Shipley.

He said Col. Sheridan wanted to know “what do we have” regarding policies and “what is going on now.”

Mr. Shipley said Col. Sheridan also wanted to “ensure that the policies are in compliance with state and federal law, but also with the policies of the … current governor.”

The surveillance and infiltration was conducted by two officers over 14 months in 2005 and 2006, before Col. Sheridan was hired to run the agency. The officers spent at least 288 hours attending meetings of three groups during the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

Mr. Ehrlich said this week on WBAL-AM radio that “governors do not get involved in those operations.”

He also said assistant attorneys general, who provide legal counsel to every state agency, would have likely have known about the spying.

Mr. Ehrlich said if Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who defeated him in 2006, has an issue with the attorney general’s actions during his administration, “he should probably talk to his father-in-law.”

Mr. O’Malley’s father-in-law is J. Joseph Curran Jr., who was Maryland’s attorney general when the spying occurred.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Attorney General´s Office, said Thursday the agency did not authorize the surveillance.

“We were never asked for an opinion, and we never issued any opinion or advice about it,” she said. “We were not aware of it.”

Also Thursday, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, who heads the committee overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, asked for a review of the agency’s involvement in the state police surveillance.

The 43 pages of state police documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through a Maryland Public Information Act lawsuit show the officers entered the name of at least one protester into the federally funded computer system known as the High-Intensity Drug-Trafficking Area database, or HIDTA.

The entries for Max Obuszewski, a member of the anti-war group Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, listed his primary crime as “terrorism-anti govern(ment)” and his secondary crime as “terrorism-anti-war protester.”

Federal regulations for databases state that agencies “shall not collect or maintain criminal intelligence information about the political, religious or social views, associations, or activities of any individual or any group … unless such information directly relates to criminal conduct or activity.”

However, several dozen pages of intelligence reports, including entries into the HIDTA database, show no evidence of violent or illegal activity, or plans for it.

Thomas Carr, director of HIDTA, said agencies that use the database are responsible for making entries and ensuring they are in compliance with regulations.

He also said 134 local and state police agencies have access to the system, which opens with a message that entries must be in compliance with the federal regulation 28 CFR Part 23.

“The agencies have to make a determination as to whether the data they are submitting” complies, Mr. Carr said.

David Rocah, a Maryland ACLU staff attorney, called Mr. Carr’s statement “buck-passing.”

He said the impact such data entries might have on the people named “is being multiplied by these database aggregators,” referring to the burgeoning national network of federally supported intelligence fusion centers.

The centers bring together state and local police forces with federal law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. They are part of the Information Sharing Environment created after the Sept. 11 attacks to ensure agencies are “connecting the dots” about possible terrorists and other threats.

Though Maryland’s fusion operation, the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, or MCAC, does not maintain its own databases, documents on its Web site show that officers working there have access to HIDTA.

“Now any law-enforcement agency in the country that calls the fusion center can learn that Mr. Obuszewski is listed as a terrorist,” Mr. Rocah said.

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