- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, says he is dissatisfied with the answers he has received from the Department of Homeland Security about the surveillance of Maryland peace activists by state police, and plans to use his new role as chairman of a key security panel to probe the issue.

“Thus far, I have been dissatisfied with the responses we have received from law enforcement and intelligence officials regarding their access to and use of data on dozens of Maryland peace activists,” he told United Press International in a statement.

Mr. Cardin, who last week became chairman of the Senate Judiciary terrorism and homeland security subcommittee, and two other senators wrote last year to the DHS, asking about possible agency involvement in the surveillance of the activists, several of whom were entered into federally funded databases designed to track terrorists and drug traffickers.

According to a copy of a letter obtained by UPI, department officials responded to the senators in January, “… DHS again conducted an exhaustive review of its records and databases, and found no indication of ever receiving information from the subject efforts of [the Maryland State Police].”

But earlier this week, documents came to light that revealed that officials from the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the agency that guards federal buildings and is a part of the department, sent e-mails to the state police about planned demonstrations by one of the groups, the D.C. Anti-War Network.

One e-mail from four years ago stated that a series of small weekly demonstrations were to occur at the Silver Spring Armed Forces Recruitment Center.

“It should not be this difficult to get full and complete answers to our questions in a timely manner,” Mr. Cardin said in his statement.

“An FPS employee in Atlanta forwarded a notice about the forthcoming protest to Maryland State Police,” said department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa. “This was information from a public Web site, and it was shared as they might share information about weather or traffic events,” she said.

“FPS has a responsibility for federal buildings and to be aware of any events that may impact a federal facility … . They shared it with another law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in that area.”

Ms. Kudwa said the department would “continue to work with the senator to get answers to any further questions he might have.”

Mr. Cardin said in his statement he would continue to look into the matter.

“As I assume the chairmanship of the Senate Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, I intend to use the oversight tools available to 1) ensure this type of activity is not repeated, 2) use this as an example to review if counterterrorism data sharing between state and federal officials is working as it should, and 3) [determine whether] federal counterterrorism resources being used appropriately,” he said.

In an earlier interview, Mr. Cardin said he would also use his new role as chairman of the subcommittee to keep a close eye on the way the Obama administration is using the legal authorities granted it by Congress.

In addition to oversight of government eavesdropping and other counterterrorism programs, Mr. Cardin said his agenda would cover plans for the closure of the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the possible renewal of some authorities granted by the Patriot Act, which are due to sunset during this Congress.

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