October 13, 2008
The 53 men and women wrongly classified by the Maryland State Police as terrorists include two Catholic nuns, a Democratic candidate for Congress, a man who campaigns against military recruiting at high schools and one person who has never set foot in the state.
They share a passion for peaceful political protest. But as the activists were invited last week to review their files before they are purged from state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, their identities indicate that the 14-month surveillance operation in 2005 and 2006 targeted not just local opponents of the death penalty and Iraq war, as police claim, but a broader group.
Frederick lawyer Barry Kissin, his wife and two other members of the Frederick Progressive Action Coalition received letters from the police last week notifying them that they were on the list. Since the anthrax attacks in 2001, the group has been devoted to marching peacefully to fight the government’s expansion of biodefense research at Fort Detrick, arguing that the research will pose a health threat.
“That’s what ties the four of us together,” said Kissin, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat in 2006.
Kissin was one of 70 activists who gathered at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church yesterday for a forum sponsored by the Washington Peace Center to discuss a strategy to ensure that their names are erased from any anti-terrorism databases. Among their questions are why some of them were targeted and others spared. Some people named in surveillance logs released in July by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland — which sued for the documents under public records laws — have not been contacted by police.
Some who made the list said they were not in Maryland when the spying took place, prompting them to wonder if the operation went on for longer or if their names were culled from other databases. The activists were furious that they will not be allowed to keep paper copies of their files or review them with attorneys for the ACLU, which is representing many of them.
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