I am just as concerned about the overreach of the Maryland State Police surveillance as anyone. MSP needs to have an intelligence service to properly perform its public safety duties. Solid intelligence, in the form of undercover agents and informants, forms the backbone of any police agency worth its own salt. However, it is pretty clear that the groups and individuals under surveillance were not a threat. Having said that, the intelligence reports relate instances, which probably gave the agents pause, providing the impetus for continuing the surveillance as long as they did. The shady past of the American Friends Service Committee AFSC, (ties to Harold Ware’s Soviet spy ring, support for the Khmer Rouge and acting as pre-war lickspittles for Saddam Hussein) which is featured prominently in the reports could well have been a factor in MSP’s decision to initiate an investigation. In the intelligence field, a lot of decisions come down to judgment calls. In retrospect the MSP should have ended the surveillance much earlier than it did. Quite clearly, continuing the operation was a bad call. If only those involved in deciding the matter had the benefit of hindsight.
Over at the History Examiner I talk about why their ideological forbears were targeted in the past.
I understand and sympathize with the individuals who were targeted and the groups who were infiltrated, and those on the other side of the political spectrum who are understandably upset over this. However, in all their caterwauling over this, the shrieking harpies of the so called “reality-based community” have themselves, overreached in claiming Ehrlich ordered the operation. They also conveniently leave out the fact that the Baltimore City Police Intelligence Division was involved as well.
Paul Gordon, of Maryland Politics Watch said:
The Post carries news that the administration of former Governor Robert Ehrlich had the Maryland State Police conduct surveillance on "local peace activists and groups opposed to the death penalty." Do you know what this means?
Gordon repeats the claim here.
Adam Pagnucco calls it “Ehrlich’s Secret Police”
Luedtke labels it “positively Nixonian.”
Gordon and Pagnucco should at least read the Washington Post article they cite, which states that Ehrlich was not aware of the operation. How can a governor order the state police to do something and not be aware of it?
Isaac Smith at least points out the fact that Ehrlich was not aware of the MSP operations. And—in a sure sign that hell hath frozen over—I agree with his point that MSP conducting this particular intelligence operation without Ehrlich’s knowledge is indeed disturbing. I am apprehensive about any new laws that would inject politics into what operations MSP conducts. However, a special legislative oversight committee similar to congressional oversight committees would be good start to ensure that the MSP is following both federal and state guidelines.
If people are so concerned about a governor using the state police for political purposes then Governor O’Malley and Nat Exum should be under indictment right now.
After reviewing the documents two things stand out:
1. Despite the non-violent/non-criminal, yet clearly radical, nature of the groups under surveillance there are a few of instances in the reports where I can understand why MSP would want to keep the investigation open.
2. The intelligence reports make clear that the Baltimore City Police Intelligence Unit was aware of and in one instance assisted MSP in monitoring an ant-death penalty protest. MSP also supplied the Baltimore County Police Intelligence Division with intelligence about professional protester Max Obuszewski.
On October 20, 2005 an agent reports:
Also discussed at the meeting was a rumor going around among activists that there was some type of toxin/hazard picked up by air monitors in Washington, DC during the September 24th, 2005 anti-war protests there. Activists are saying some people are getting sick and they believed that the government could be behind the release of something in the air [redacted] passed this information along to analysts within the MSP and also to a military intelligence officer. This officer said government officers are saying that they believe the protestors may have released something into the air. No further information could be obtained about what was found in the air or if anyone really got sick. Due to the above facts I request that this case remain open and updated as events warrant.
November 17, 2005 an agent reports:
…Emotions were high at the meeting with increasing inflammatory rhetoric about“making noise” to try and stop the executions.
November 26, 2005:
A large scale demonstration is being planned to “disrupt” Governor Ehrlich’s schedule…the group had originally planned to protest outside of the Arbutus home of Ehrlich’s parents, but the idea was dismissed by the majority of the group.
Clearly, any report of a toxin released into the air and talk of disrupting an execution is cause for concern and I can understand why the agent felt this warranted further monitoring.
December 21, 2005:
On December 3, 2005 [redacted] also attended an anti-death penalty protest outside Supermax Prison in Baltimore City. [Redacted] attended in a covert capacity and were covered by two covert officers from Baltimore City Police’s Intelligence Division.
Several other reports show that the MSP agent provided the Baltimore City Police Intelligence Division with information they had obtained.
June 23, 2005 reporting about Max Obuszewski’s attempt to meet with Baltimore County State’s Attorney Sandra O’Connor:
[Redacted contacted Baltimore County Police Intelligence Division [redacted] on June 22, 2005 to inform [redacted] of the above intelligence.
Even Obuszewski himself, believed that Baltimore City Police were monitoring him, as this July 13, 2005 report says:
Obuszewski said that the Baltimore City Police Department spies on Pledge [Pledge of Resistance] members from a nearby parking lot and also monitors the Internet to try and find out where they are planning to protest.
I may have my dates wrong, but Martin O’Malley was Mayor of Baltimore and Jim Smith Baltimore County Executive during the time in question, and Smith’s chief of Police in 2005 was current MSP Superintendent, Terrance Sheridan. If Ehrlich is responsible for the MSP operations then by that logic O’Malley, Smith and Sheridan are just as culpable.
As for Eric Luedtke, he again displays his historical ignorance, but that is nothing new.
This is not Nixonian, as that implies Ehrlich ordered the surveillance, which as we know, he did not. Furthermore, if the Nixonian analogy were to hold true, Ehrlich would have to have created his own intelligence outfit as Nixon did with the plumbers.
If Luedtke wanted to use an accurate historical analogy, he would have said this was downright Wilsonian, as in progressive icon Woodrow Wilson. Forget the Palmer Raids for the moment let’s concentrate on Wilson’s own band of brown shirts: the American Protective League (APL). The APL was a Wilson Justice Department entity, which spied on their co-workers and friends. The APL had its own intelligence arm, and read their neighbors mail and listened to their phone conversations. The APL took to the streets to physically harass draft dodgers and round them up. Of course, all of this was done in lockstep with the decidedly progressive march into World War I. As Jonah Goldberg notes in Liberal Fascism, progressive dashboard saint John Dewey was ecstatic over all of this. Dewey saw the war, as other progressives did, as means to coerce Americans to “give up much of their economic freedom” and “lay by our good natured individualism and march in step.” Dewey’s ultimate goal, as with Wilson and the other progressives wasn’t victory over the Kaiser so much as it was enshrining “the supremacy of the public need over private possessions.”
Furthermore, I find such progressive outrage to be very selective. Where is their concern over Barack Obama’s call for a civilian national security force? Surely, this fascistic type of paramilitary organization should arouse the civil liberty passions of the left? Oh I forgot it is Obama’s idea so it springs forth from the well of all good things.