- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | New details emerged Thursday in the probe of police agencies that spied on Maryland activist groups as Gov. Martin O’Malley called for a special investigation of the matter Thursday.

Covert Baltimore police officers assisted undercover state troopers who were spying on groups opposed to the death penalty in December 2005 outside a Baltimore prison, according to Maryland State Police documents.

But Mr. O’Malley, who was mayor at the time, denied that the Baltimore Police Department participated in the spying at a press conference on Thursday. He could not say for sure, however, whether city police had notified him at the time of the state operation.

“The insinuation that somehow the city police were involved in this in an undercover capacity, there’s no evidence of that, there’s no factual basis for that,” Mr. O’Malley said.

“Which doesn’t mean that some people aren’t free to make those insinuations anyway, which is why we love America,” he said.

Mr. O’Malley announced the appointment of a special committee to investigate the troopers’ actions.

Undercover state police officers attended a rally against the planned execution of Wesley Baker in December 2005 “and were covered by two covert officers from Baltimore City Police’s Intelligence Division. Baltimore Police also had a command van nearby,” according to the documents.

WATCH VIDEO: O’Malley: ‘No evidence’ of city police involvement (Flash required)

The Maryland branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which won a court order for access to the documents last month, said Baltimore police need to stop denying involvement.

“These documents certainly call that [assertion] into question,” said David Rocah, staff attorney for the Maryland ACLU. “I think the Baltimore police need to make a full accounting, as well. Why were there undercover agents at this rally?”

The two officers mentioned in the documents were most likely providing protection, or “cover,” for the undercover troopers in case of violence, said Baltimore police spokesman Sterling Clifford.

Mr. Clifford said he did not know why the state police documents used the term “covert” to describe the Baltimore intelligence unit officers who backed up the troopers at the rally. City officers did not spy on the groups, he said.

The documents obtained by the Maryland ACLU show that state police infiltrated activist groups opposed to the Iraq war and the death penalty from 2005 to 2006. The ACLU fought for two years to get the documents on behalf of Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore and other groups targeted by state police.

The civil rights organization said it plans to file additional public records requests and has a number of outstanding requests to state and federal agencies. The Baltimore police department received a request for information regarding any spying on peace groups in 2006 but told the ACLU that it had no information in a response letter.

Mr. O’Malley initially denied knowledge of the spying while he was mayor but backtracked when a reporter asked him whether Baltimore police had told him about the operation.

“No. Mmm, or they might have,” Mr. O’Malley said.

Mr. O’Malley appointed former Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, a Democrat, to lead a special review of state police procedures and investigate any spying on peaceful groups.

Mr. Sachs, who was attorney general from 1979 to 1987, said his goal is “to discover the unvarnished truth about what happened and what didn’t happen.”

Mr. Sachs is expected to complete his report in 30 to 60 days. He does not have full subpoena power, although he will have two investigators on loan from the attorney general’s office.

The Maryland ACLU praised the move.

“It’s hard to imagine that anyone better could have been picked to do an independent investigation,” Mr. Rocah said. “That’s a positive step.”

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