Saying "I don't believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government," former Maryland state police superintendent Thomas E. Hutchins authorized the infiltration of several anti-war and anti-death-penalty nonviolent protest groups, then added their members to the national terrorism database and the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area database. In all, 53 citizens were thus included (that we know of — it'd be naive to think that Maryland is the only state where the police abuse their powers). The police admit that there was "no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime" by those classified as terrorists.
Stunned senators pressed Sheridan to apologize to the activists for the spying, assailed in an independent review last week as "overreaching" by law enforcement officials who were oblivious to their violation of the activists' rights of free expression and association. The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, does not apologize but admits that the state police have "no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime" by those classified as terrorists.
Hutchins told the committee it was not accurate to describe the program as spying. "I doubt anyone who has used that term has ever met a spy," he told the committee.
"What John Walker did is spying," Hutchins said, referring to John Walker Jr., a communications specialist for the U.S. Navy convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union. 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. Hutchins said he did not notify Ehrlich about the surveillance. Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said the governor had no comment.