Sunday, January 04, 2009
Washington Post Refuses to Disclose Identity of Maryland Police Spy
The Washington Post has conducted some strong reporting on the Maryland State Police’s campaign to spy on activists from 2005 to 2007. But in its latest report on how the scandal was more expansive than originally thought, the Post decided not to identify one of the police officers who worked undercover to spy on various individuals and activist groups in the state.
According to a front-page article in the Jan. 4 Post, the reporters covering the scandal, Lisa Rein and Josh White, indicated that they are aware of the actual identity of this particular state police offer but are declining to disclose her name because the newspaper claims it might compromise her efforts to conduct future undercover operations for the Maryland State Police. Of course, these future operations could include spying on activists, similar to the surveillance work she previously conducted.
This Maryland State Police spying campaign is an extremely unsavory and nefarious episode because it represents another huge step by a police agency in the United States, with vast financial resources at its disposal, to monitor, follow and track individual citizens. In this particular case, dozens of individuals were labeled as “terrorists” in the state police’s database for engaging in nonviolent activities, including opposing the death penalty, opposing the U.S. war on Iraq, campaigning to establish bicycle lanes along highways in the state, promoting human rights, advocating for animal rights, and protesting weapons manufacturers.
By not identifying the real name of the undercover police officer, the Post becomes an accessory to future transgressions and misdeeds committed by the Maryland State police officer who used the aliases Lucy Shoup and Lucy McDonald as she masqueraded as an activist opposed to the death penalty and the U.S. war on Iraq.
In their Jan. 4 article, Rein and White wrote: “The trooper provided weekly reports to her bosses, logging at least 288 hours of investigative time. She did not return phone calls seeking comment, and The Post is not identifying her because of concerns about compromising her cover in other possible operations.”
In Europe, Communist regimes conducted similar secret police operations. For example, East Germany’s Ministry for State Security, commonly referred to as the Stasi, deeply penetrated most segments of East German society, including unofficial political groups. Like the Maryland State Police, the Stasi monitored political behavior among East German citizens.
As with the Post’s decision not to publish the name of the Maryland State Police officer, publishers in East Germany did not disclose information that they deemed harmful to the regime. While the government-operated press in East Germany was subject to pre-publication censorship, the news media in the United States and other Western states practice self-censorship in order to remain in the good graces of government authorities, especially police, military and intelligence agencies that may be engaging in abusive and insidious activities.
But with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, East German citizens demanded access to the files kept by the Stasi, similar to the campaign in recent months by U.S. activists to obtain the secret files kept by the Maryland State Police. In 1992, following a declassification ruling by the new reunified German government, the Stasi files were opened, leading people to look for their files. In Maryland, the state police have made available heavily redacted versions of the files for some of the people upon whom the agency spied starting in 2005.
The Post article indicates the surveillance activity continued until late 2007, long after Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley took office in January 2007. Previous reports placed the blame for the abuse on state police officials associated with the administration of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a right-wing politician who served one term as governor.
The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union notes that “despite the clear infringement of First Amendment rights, no Maryland law prohibits this outrageous law enforcement conduct or provides remedies for wrongful targets.”
The ACLU says it knows that the Maryland State Police “has not acknowledged the full scope of their wrongful spying program: there are more targets than have been acknowledged, the spying occurred over a longer period of time than has been acknowledged, the MSP as of this writing continues to illegally deny wrongful targets copies of their files.”
The group says it will be lobbying during the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly for legislation, dubbed the The First Amendment Protection Act of 2009. The legislation [pdf] would:
* Prohibit covert criminal intelligence investigations and dossier compilation of individuals and groups based solely upon political, social or religious activities and beliefs, absent articulable suspicion of criminal activity.
* Establish oversight and accountability to ensure law enforcement activities are related to legitimate law enforcement purposes; ensure that criminal intelligence files contain only accurate and relevant information; and ensure that only accurate and relevant criminal intelligence information is disseminated to national security and other law enforcement agencies.
* Provide remedies for wrongful targets of objectionable law enforcement spying and First Amendment violations.Share