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Senators Seek Answers from DHS on Spying

Sen Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wi.) yesterday called on the federal Department of Homeland Security to reexamine claims that they did not share information about nonviolent protest groups with the Maryland State Police.

Their letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano comes after The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that agency officials in Atlanta obtained two emails about the protest plans of a DC-area anti-war group and sent them to the state police. The police then created another file on the DC Anti-War Network, one of five files that classified the group as terrorists in an internal database.

DAWN held a series of protests outside a military recruiting center in downtown Silver Spring in 2005 at the height of the Iraq War.

DHS officials, in a letter to Mikulski, Feingold and Sen. Ben Cardin (D) on Jan 29, stated that they "found no indication of ever receiving information from the subject efforts of the Maryland State Police."

A DHS official told the Post this week that the agency was conducting routine police work by tracking DAWN's plans, especially since the group was planning protests outside a federal building.

Among the questions in yesterday's letter: "How is it possible that an "exhaustive review" of DHS records and databases did not locate records of this episode?"

As the senators wrangle with DHS, action to avoid a recurrence of the widely criticized state police monitoring of peaceful activists is expected in the Maryland General Assembly, where lawmakers and Gov. Martin O'Malley have submitted different bills. Stay tuned.

By Lisa Rein  |  February 20, 2009; 11:28 AM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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