07.20.08 Five Middle-Aged Ladies Threaten Civilization as We Know It (or “Finally a Column that Isn’t About Obama”)

If it weren’t for intrepid Maryland State Police officials willing to put their lives on the line, there might not be a State of Maryland today.

This we learn as a result of inappropriate prying by the ACLU, the infamous pro-terrorism group, which revealed on Wednesday the State’s heretofore secret and heroic efforts to protect citizens from other citizens who dared to bake cookies.

(Note to all you humorless Obama supporters: the preceding has been SATIRE.  Note to everyone: the following may at times be SARDONIC, but it is NOT satire.)

That’s right, our own State Police, the very ones whose salaries we pay, spent at least 288 hours in 2005-2006 making up cool fake names, joining listservs under false pretenses, and sitting in on meetings, where such outrages as plans to distribute flyers and give cookies to NSA guards were discussed by scary operatives such as, “an activist named Bernie” and “five middle-aged women.”

The potential criminals being spied on belonged to groups opposed to the death penalty and the Iraq War.

Give me a break.  We expect our hyper-right-wing federal government to spy on anyone and everyone who does not own and properly display an American flag or who questions the right of Halliburton and Wal-Mart to rule the world.


How wrong is this?  Let me count the ways.  (Actually there aren’t that many ways, but I like that cliché enough that I absolutely had to use it.)

· Well, one little problem is that disagreeing with government policy IS NOT A CRIME in this country.  (Remember that pesky little Bill of Rights, with its [supposed] protections for freedom of speech and assembly?)

· There’s the minor detail that THE GROUPS BEING SPIED ON ARE COMPLETELY NON-VIOLENT.  The only threat they pose to anyone is that they might actually shake up the brain cells of one or two know-nothings.

· And there’s the fact that 288 HOURS OF POLICE WORK AREN’T FREE.

(Time out for a review of freshman economics:  “Opportunity cost” refers to the physical reality that we humans are unable to be in two places at once doing two different things.  That’s true of tractors and fax machines, too.  In fact, it’s true of EVERYTHING.

Previously, your blogger has pointed out two examples of opportunity costs: that money landing in Hillary Clinton’s tin cup ain’t landing in anyone else’s tin cup and that Post reporters spending time on celebrity scandal aren’t spending time on anything that MATTERS. Ok – class dismissed!)

This police time cost a lot of money.  Money that came out of your pockets and mine.  Those are the direct costs.  The opportunity costs are about all the other things those police could have been doing, LIKE CATCHING ACTUAL CRIMINALS.

Not everyone is sufficiently upset about this.

· Then-state police superintendent (now [big surprise] a defense contractor), Tim Hutchins, said this week of the spying exercise: “You do what you think is best to protect the general populace of the state.”  It sure don’t sound like ol’ Timmy has any regrets.

· Maryland State Police chief Col. Terrence Sheridan said in a statement that the agency “does not inappropriately curtail the expression or demonstration of the civil liberties of protesters or organizations acting lawfully.”  He’s technically correct: those spies didn’t curtail anything.  But his statement is not exactly remorseful, either.

· And our current Democratic governor, Martin O’Malley (who took office after the spying apparently ceased), says, “In retrospect, they should not have done it for the duration of time they did.”  DURATION?!  HOW ABOUT NOT DOING IT AT ALL?  (With Democrats like this, not to mention all the scoundrels who voted for FISA, who needs Republicans?)

We’re lucky to have the ACLU to uncover travesties of justice and irresponsible government.  If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t know a thing about this. If you are not already a member of the ACLU, join now – they are our only protection against a right-wing government run amok.

Of course, uncovering what happened is only the beginning.  The next step, as suggested by US Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), is to demand a full accounting of the surveillance to determine whether the state police crossed the line in infiltrating activist groups.

And, let’s not stop there.  Let’s see some heads roll.  Even if not outright illegal, the gross misuse of state money must have consequences for those who ordered it and enthusiastically carried it out.

Finally, let’s make this kind of nonsense illegal in Maryland.  Now is the time to get our lawmakers on board in an effort to assure that law-abiding citizens suspected of nothing more than disagreeing with public policy are never again subject to harassment at the hands of our state government.

For District 20 (Silver Spring/Takoma Park) your legislators are:

Other Marylanders can find their legislators here.

©2008 Keith Berner

Explore posts in the same categories: Civil Liberties, Maryland

3 Comments on “07.20.08 Five Middle-Aged Ladies Threaten Civilization as We Know It (or “Finally a Column that Isn’t About Obama”)”

  1. Kathy Parrent Says:

    Uh, I’d just like to point out that five middle-aged women may indeed be a potent force for social change. But I get the point.


  2. Leon Morse Says:

    I have mixed feelings on this.

    On the “OK” side is the fact that you do want to be protected from fringe loonies, preferably before they strike. On the “OOKEY” side is the fact that clearly these groups weren’t really anywhere near the line that would make you consider them a threat in the first place. Question is, where is that line? Does some criminal act need to take place first? What constitutes probable cause to think it might? Since most serious trouble doesn’t come from established organizations, what if they were just doing this to see if there was some subgroup with their own criminal agenda?

    On the OOKEY side, there didn’t seem to be balance: why wasn’t a local NRA chapter or right to life group or Opus Dei infiltrated (unless we don’t know something)? Would it be on the OK side if they had, too?

    The amount of time seems OOKEY. 36 person days (overtime not mentioned) seems to be a lot just to monitor, but I suppose you have to show up in person and spend time getting your backstory straight and maybe growing out a wild-ass beard to be believed. I wonder if this wasn’t some scam for billing time and really some Stateys were off fishing (or shuttling mistresses or some other slush fund activity)?


  3. Keith Berner Says:

    Leon: I love the OK/OOOKEY typology!


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