Thursday, July 17, 2008

Anti-Death Penalty Groups Under Covert Police Surveillance

Maryland State Police officers conducted surveillance on local peace activists and groups opposed to the death penalty, including some in Takoma Park, for more than a year during the administration of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), documents released this morning show.


No evidence of criminal behavior was reported during almost 300 hours of undercover surveillance. It was doubtful that the investigation originated because of any illegal activity. So? Being opposed to capital punishment has rarely been viewed in a positive light by the government. I speak from experience when local prosecutors and sheriff's joined together to complain to the university about my research and testimony as an expert witness.

Here are a few examples of the "intelligence" gathered.

This event is a new low. The use of public funds and resources that were supposed to be expended on crime control activities to conduct covert surveillance on a legal and peaceful group of people should make rational individuals afraid - very afraid. Why was this investigation launched? Why did it continue after its was clear that no criminal activity was occurring? Will there be any accountability for this outrageous abuse of power and public resources?

If the police cannot distinguish lawful dissent from true criminal activity, then the U.S. criminal justice system is indeed in dire straits.

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