The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.
Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July....
[Former MD SP Superintendent] Thomas E. Hutchins said the intelligence agents, whose logs were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland as part of a lawsuit, were monitoring "open public meetings." His officers sought a "situational awareness" of the potential for disruption as death penalty opponents prepared to protest the executions of two men on death row, Hutchins said.
"I don't believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government," he said.
The Delaware connection? Our current Secretary of Homeland Security is David Mitchell, who was Hutchins' predecessor atop the Maryland State Police.
I have met Secretary Mitchell on several occasions, and would not want to attribute his successor's views to him, but in light of the fact that our Congressional delegation has some unique Constitutional ideas about the legitimacy of government surveillance, I think the question needs to be asked:
Secretary Mitchell, where do you stand on free speech and police surveillance of non-violent protestors?