- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 26, 2008

PIKESVILLE, Md. | State police Secretary Col. Terrence B. Sheridan said Friday that federal and state probes into the agency’s spying on antiwar and anti-death penalty protesters are unnecessary and that the practice would not continue under his tenure.

“These types of inquiries … are not occurring now and will not be a part of the future of the Maryland State Police,” Col. Sheridan said outside the agency’s headquarters in Baltimore County.

Col. Sheridan’s statement at an afternoon press conference followed calls this week for investigations. The first was from Rep. Bennie Thompson, then from state Sen. Brian E. Frosh — a week after the agency released, by court order, 43 pages of documents detailing two officers infiltrating three groups.

Col. Sheridan “has had an opportunity to look at what’s going on, we haven’t,” Mr. Frosh said. “We had police spying on private citizens. I think it’s appropriate for the [General Assembly] to inquire about the ongoing policies of the state police.”

Mr. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff requesting an audit of federal funds because the state police used a federally funded database.

Mr. Frosh, Montgomery Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he would like to hold hearings on the matter, possibly in September, despite Col. Sheridan’s assurances.

The spying occurred over 14 months in 2005 and 2006. Some of the work involved surveillance on anti-death penalty protesters preceding the expected execution in March 2005 of Vernon Lee Evans Jr., Col. Sheridan said Friday.

He also said the spying ended before he took charge of the agency.

The details of the spying were released as a result of the Maryland ACLU filing a Freedom of Information Act request. Included in the documents are details of the officers spending 288 hours attending meetings and protests with members of the groups.

The agency also entered the name of Max Obuszewski, a member of the antiwar group Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, into the federal anti-terrorism tracking network know as High-Intensity Drug-Trafficking Area database, or HIDTA.

His primary crime was entered as “terrorism-anti govern(ment)” and his secondary crime as “terrorism-anti-war protester.”

The surveillance occurred during the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

Mr. Ehrlich said this week “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 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 nor was aware of it.

State police also Friday released a draft operations plan from March 2005 for dealing with the expected execution of Evans. In the draft, the agency states the following objectives: provide assistance “to deal quickly and decisively with acts of civil disturbance;” “provide sufficient resources to handle acts of civil disorder;” “prevent injuries and destruction of property” and “protect the fundamental right of free speech as guaranteed under the United States Constitution.”

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.

State police officials said they did not know at the time whether pro- and anti-death penalty protesters would clash at protests and events leading to Evans’ execution, which is why they began monitoring anti-death penalty groups, said Greg Shipley, state police spokesman.

“This is what they were out there trying to determine,” he said.

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