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ACLU Will Push For Police Surveillance Limits

Not surprisingly, the centerpiece of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland's legislative agenda in Annapolis is a ban on the kind of police surveillance of peaceful activists that led to last year's controversy over the Maryland State Police.

The ACLU cracked open the story last July after a state police lawyer turned over surveillance logs of an undercover trooper who spied on opponents of the death penalty and Iraq War over 14 months. The monitoring, under Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Jr. (R), expanded to dozens of individuals and protest groups who were labeled terrorists in a state police database. Police have pledged to purge those files.

The ACLU's proposed First Amendment Protection Act of 2009 would "protect our most basic First Amendment rights to organize, to peacefully assemble and to petition our government," says a statement from the civil liberties group. The bill would prohibit police from conducting covert criminal intelligence probes of groups or individuals without "articulable suspicion" of criminal activity.

Several lawmakers are drafting similar legislation. The police oppose putting such limits in state law, and have pushed for an internal regulation instead.

The ACLU plans a lobby night and rally in the state capitol on Feb. 9 to call for passage of the bill.

By Lisa Rein  |  January 13, 2009; 3:19 PM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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