Nancy Polikoff

Equality Maryland -- A Threat to Public Safety????

Filed By Nancy Polikoff | January 26, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Equality Maryland, Jamie Raskin

Last year the news broke that Maryland Police were spying on anti-death penalty and anti-war groups. State Senator (and my colleague at American University Washington College of Law) Jamie Raskin vowed to introduce legislation to block the practice. But now it turns out that LGBT advocacy group Equality Maryland was also the target of surveillance. The organization was on a list of "political protest groups thought to be a threat to public safety." In other words, a terrorist watch list.

Apparently, the Equality Maryland executive director until the end of last year, Dan Furmansky, did not originally believe the group was on the list. Nonetheless, he authorized the Maryland ACLU to file a request for information from the state. The response showed, among other things, that someone used a fake name to find out details about a rally. And that Dan's photo was part of the police files.

I cut my political teeth in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Government surveillance of protest groups was the norm. It was the era of J Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO. In the late 1970's, one of the garbage collectors at my DC home told me that the "police" were having him deliver my garbage to them; I never figured out whether it was my legal representation of politically controversial individuals or the fact that one of my roommates had once gone to jail in another city for refusing to answer questions about her radical feminist community. Or something else entirely.

Since 9/11, it's been easy to think that the only "terrorist" surveillance around was of Islamic or Arab-American groups. LGBT people who don't fall into those groups might have thought that the issue had nothing to do with them.

It shouldn't take something so close to home for all of us to defend civil liberties -- across the board. Are we going to find that surveillance like this happened in other states?

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People just think Maryland is a blue state. Ever seen one of our State Trooper cars? Like something out of a Gestapo movie. Outside of Baltimore City, Prince George, and parts of Montgomery counties Maryland is no different than 1950's Mississippi except with better education and more money. Check out the reader forums of our paper of record (The Baltimore Sun) if you don't believe me.

This is outrageous. Thanks for publicizing this. Keith Olberman of MSNBC has been airing the first post-Bush revelations of how the Bush administration targeted journalists for NSA surveillance. You should make sure that MSNBC knows about this. I'm sure that other civil-rights organizations were targeted as well.

So we are the enemies of America?
I sat in on a conservative chat last night and they obviously think so.
But spying on us?
What did they find out, how many pre and non ops use ladies rooms without anyone ever knowing?
What is the preferred brand of power tools for Lesbians?

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 26, 2009 10:46 PM

I've kind of assumed that, if nothing else, volunteering for a political campaign against Shell Oil in Ireland--a campaign that Sinn Fein was prominently involved in--would be enough to mean my phone calls home were listened to. One time, I appeared (barely visible) in a photo behind Gerry Adams that was published in the Irish Times.

Whether or not they continued to listen to my calls once it became clear how boring my life is...who knows?!

This is only the tip of the iceberg. We're going to find out, one way or another, all the groups who were spied on. I'm guessing the Democratic Party's going to eventually show up on a list too.

It'll get sparse coverage, people won't care, no one will be prosecuted, and the next Republican who gets elected will do all the same things.

Thanks for posting about this, Nancy!

The Bill was introduced on Monday. SB-256, HB-182 Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act of 2009.