Leaders of Chesapeake Climate Action Network Wrongfully Named As Terrorists, Tracked in Maryland State Police Criminal Database

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
October 23, 2008 12:00 am

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Md. Environmental Groups Join Call for Justice and Reform

CONTACT: media@aclu-md.org

SILVER SPRING, MD – Deeply troubled at learning that leaders of a large environmental advocacy organization in Maryland have received letters from the Maryland State Police (MSP) informing them that they have been named as terrorists in MSP’s database, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland today joined with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and the leaders of several other environmental organizations and state legislative leaders dedicated to fighting for the environment in rallying for justice and passage of legislation to ensure such spying never again happens in Maryland.

“This revelation raises even more questions about the true scope and targets of State Police spying,” said David Rocah, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Maryland. “Clearly, the State Police’s surveillance went well beyond infiltrating the meetings and communications of anti-death penalty activists ahead of an upcoming execution, as has been cited by MSP as the impetus for their surveillance. It is striking that no one significantly involved in anti-death penalty activism has received a letter indicating that they are listed in the MSP’s database. Whatever criteria the State Police had for placing activists in the database had nothing to do with the rationale offered thus far. The full story must come out, and legislation must be passed to protect the First Amendment rights of Marylanders for the future.”

At the press conference, it was revealed that Mike Tidwell, the founder and executive director of CCAN, and Joshua Tulkin, a former deputy director of CCAN, were among the 53 activists who have received letters from MSP informing them that they had been wrongly named and tracked as terrorists in MSP’s Case Explorer criminal intelligence database. Among its myriad organizing, educational, and lobbying activities, CCAN has organized two acts of peaceful civil disobedience to highlight the dangers of global climate change. In 2004 (prior to when the MSP has stated any surveillance began), several CCAN protestors, including Mr. Tidwell, were arrested for briefly sitting in the road blocking the entrance to a coal-fired power plant in Dickerson, Maryland. In October 2006 (after the date by which the MSP has asserted that surveillance ended), two CCAN protestors hung a banner from a ledge at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While he was present during the NOAA demonstration, as a media relations officer who remained outside the protest area, Mr. Tulkin has never been arrested or detained in his life.

Significantly, the leaders of several other Maryland environmental organizations today stood united with the CCAN leaders in expressing outrage at their being named as terrorists and tracked as criminals in MSP’s database, including the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, 1,000 Friends of Maryland, and Environment Maryland. Also speaking out in support were State Senators Jamie Raskin and Paul Pinsky.

Ironically, former Vice President Al Gore recently called on young people around the world to engage in the precise activity that appears to have brought the CCAN staff to the MSP’s attention. In his remarks on September 24, 2008 during the opening plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York, Mr. Gore said: “And if you’re a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now and not done, I believe we’ve reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration.” Click here to read an official transcript: www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=2953&srcid=2827

“As an innocent citizen, it is terrorizing for me to think of the Maryland police watching me,” said Mr. Tidwell, who in addition to leading CCAN is also an author and filmmaker who received the Audubon Naturalist Society’s prestigious “Conservation Award” in 2003. “What a waste of government resources when the biggest threat in Maryland is the terror of 20 feet of sea-level rise from global warming. And the real violence in our state is the combustion of dirty coal that creates global warming.”

“Young people understand that global warming and the destruction of our national resources are serious threats to our future, and I see my work in this fight as a moral obligation, not a crime,” said Mr. Tulkin. He continued: “It is wholly unacceptable for the Maryland State Police to monitor activists and enter their names into databases for doing what our Constitution calls and empowers us to do in engaging in the political process. I am proud to work with thousands of students across the country who are working to fight global warming. They deserve our support, not suspicion, and I encourage young people to use their voices to vote this November 4th for a President and Congress who understand the critical role youth play in protecting the moral compass of society.”

Go online to learn more about Maryland ACLU’s challenge to MSP spying: www.aclu-md.org/Index%20content/NoSpying/NoSpying.html

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