- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Maryland State Police documents show that the Baltimore Police Department knew of the state’s spying on groups opposed to war and the death penalty and once offered backup assistance at a protest. The American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained the documents earlier this month, said Wednesday that it is broadening its investigation into the matter to include more activist groups and more state and federal agencies.

A Baltimore police spokesman said city police were not involved in the spying, although the documents show that State Police frequently alerted city police when undercover troopers would be at protests. Baltimore police said in one case that they would keep a team of officers ready.

A spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore at the time, said Mr. O’Malley was unaware of any involvement by city police in spying on activists.

It is not unusual that Baltimore police were aware of the troopers’ activities, a department spokesman said.

“We always know what other law enforcement agencies are doing in Baltimore, but that’s not the same as participating,” spokesman Sterling Clifford said.

Max Obuszewski, a peace activist whose name was entered into a federal database of drug traffickers and terrorists, said he thinks Baltimore police officers were involved in the spying along with the State Police. He is a member of Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, a group that was monitored by troopers.

“Martin O’Malley was mayor at the time. Did he know about any of this?” Mr. Obuszewski asked. “If he doesn’t, I’d be very surprised.”

Baltimore police were notified that State Police would be sending undercover troopers to a December 2005 protest of the planned execution of Vernon Lee Evans Jr.

“Baltimore city intelligence officers have been notified there will be several covert troopers in the protest groups starting Monday, December 5th [2005] to monitor for any problem spots or potential problems,” an unidentified state trooper wrote in the documents.

The ACLU filed a Public Information Act request with Baltimore police in August 2006, seeking information about surveillance of activist groups, but the city said it had no information.

David Rocah, a lawyer with the Maryland ACLU, said the documents released by State Police suggest that the city was withholding information.

“To say that [Baltimore’s] response has been called into question would be putting it mildly,” he said Wednesday.

In one exchange in April 2005, an unidentified state trooper alerted a member of the city police intelligence unit that State Police personnel would attend a protest outside of Baltimore’s maximum-security prison.

The Baltimore officer, whose name is redacted, said the agency would not provide covert officers “but that a tactical team” from that department “would be on standby” for the protest, according to the documents.

The Maryland chapter of the ACLU revealed two weeks ago, through the documents, that troopers spied on certain protest groups from 2005 to 2006.

Mr. O’Malley and State Police Col. Terrence B. Sheridan denounced the practice and said the spying would not continue under their watch.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, criticized his predecessor, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, for not knowing about the spying when it was happening. Yet an O’Malley spokesman said Wednesday that Mr. O’Malley, while mayor, was unaware that city police knew of it.

Col. Sheridan said Friday that federal and state inquiries into the matter were unnecessary.

The O’Malley administration’s condemnation of the surveillance has not halted a drive by state and federal lawmakers for an investigation, nor mollified civil liberties groups.

“It should not take lawsuits and document requests from the ACLU,” Mr. Rocah said. “They have an obligation to the people of Maryland to provide answers. It’s sort of disgusting the way they’re stonewalling and refusing to come clean.”

Mr. Rocah said his group will file public records requests soon with “anybody and everybody” and will continue to pepper state and federal agencies until they release all the information regarding spying on activist groups throughout Maryland.

A state police spokesman deferred questions about the extent of the spying and any role Baltimore police might have played back to Mr. Sheridan’s previous statements.

“I think [Col. Sheridan] made his statements very clear on Friday,” said Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman. “Beyond that I can’t comment.”

Plans by the ACLU to file additional public records requests mark the continuation of a two-year legal battle in which the group has engaged with federal and state agencies to determine whether law enforcement officers were spying on Baltimore activist groups.

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