The Washington Post continues to track the story of the Maryland state police’s monitoring of peaceful activists and designation of them as terrorists in federal and state databases. State officials have admitted they spied on the activists in 2005 and 2006. Now, the Post reveals that the US Department of Homeland Security aided in the wrongful surveillance and targeting of peaceful activists. (Check out my previous post about attempts by the FBI to infiltrate Republican National Convention protesters and the publicly condemned domestic surveillance program, COINTELPRO.)
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security tracked the protest plans of a peaceful Washington area antiwar group and passed the information to the Maryland State Police, which had previously labeled the activists as terrorists in an intelligence file.
The federal agency obtained two e-mails containing plans for upcoming demonstrations at a military recruiting center in Silver Spring in 2005, the first indication that DHS might have worked with the police to monitor advocacy groups. The notification by DHS appears in a state police file on the DC Anti-War Network, or DAWN, provided to The Washington Post under the Public Information Act.
The file is one of five created by the state police on the antiwar group in 2005 and 2006. Along with 53 individuals and about two dozen other protest groups, including Amnesty International and CASA of Maryland, the network was labeled a terrorist group in an internal police database. Police have said the names were not put on federal anti-terrorism lists.[…]
The DHS intelligence work has alarmed civil liberties groups and Maryland’s U.S. senators, who are concerned that police shared with federal authorities personal details about the activists swept into their widely criticized spying operation. In a letter two weeks ago responding to their inquiry about the spying, DHS told Maryland Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) and Barbara A. Mikulski (D) and Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) that an “exhaustive review” of the agency’s records and databases found that none of the activists’ names were shared with Maryland’s intelligence fusion center.
Senators Mikulski and Feingold wrote to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano demanding an investigation into the federal agency’s actions, reports the Post. “The information reportedly received from DHS describes only First-Amendment protected activity,” reads the letter, which is to be released today. “This evidence raises several questions, particularly in light of your inability to locate records in response to our previous inquiry.”
A DHS spokesman said there was nothing unsual in the exchange of information between the federal agency and state law enforcement officials. “It happens every day,” he said.