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The Washington Post reported today that Maryland State Police had classified 53 non-violent activists—-anti-Iraq War and anti-death penalty demonstrators—-as terrorists. State police had “entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.”

The news came out of a legislative hearing in which the state’s top cop had given testimony. The Post notes that the disclosure showed that the cops’ surveillance operations of activists were far more extensive than previously known:

“The surveillance took place over 14 months in 2005 and 2006, under the administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). The former state police superintendent who authorized the operation, Thomas E. Hutchins, defended the program in testimony yesterday. Hutchins said the program was a bulwark against potential violence and called the activists ‘fringe people.’

[Superintendent Terrence B.] Sheridan said protest groups were also entered as terrorist organizations in the databases, but his staff has not identified which ones.

Stunned senators pressed Sheridan to apologize to the activists for the spying, assailed in an independent review last week as ‘overreaching’ by law enforcement officials who were oblivious to their violation of the activists’ rights of free expression and association. The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, does not apologize but admits that the state police have ‘no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime’ by those classified as terrorists.”

When are the police going to learn from the mistakes of the past?