- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2008

BALTIMORE | Gov. Martin O’Malley said Friday that state police are obligated to investigate threats to public safety, but his administration will not use public resources to monitor the peaceful exercise of free speech.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, meanwhile, called for a “full accounting” of federal, state and local surveillance following the release of state police documents showing undercover officers infiltrated meetings of peace and anti-death penalty groups for more than a year, spending nearly 300 hours on surveillance.

“Our nation cannot allow police activity that is intended to discourage dissent by Americans who may disagree with certain government policies,” said Mr. Cardin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The governor noted state police are obligated to investigate threats to public safety, “but where there is no evidence of a potential public threat, illegal activity or criminal wrongdoing, all investigatory or intelligence gathering activities shall cease.”

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, released his statement a day after the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union released state police documents it obtained after filing suit against the department.

The documents show undercover officers spent nearly 300 hours on surveillance. Police also included the name of at least one prominent peace activist in a federal database for tracking terrorists and drug dealers.

Mr. Cardin noted that federal anti-terrorism guidelines and regulations expressly prohibit the collection or maintenance of criminal intelligence information about the political, religious or social views, associations, or activities of any individual or any group unless it directly relates to criminal activity.

One database entry in the documents describes a peace group’s preparation for 2005 meetings on Iraqi war policy in Washington and Baltimore with Mr. Cardin, who was a member of the House of Representatives at the time.

Maryland state police Col. Terrence B. Sheridan said Thursday that his agency has never taken illegal action against citizens or groups that have lawfully exercised their right to free speech and assembly.

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