Friday, 12 December 2008

Maryland State Police: Spying on pacifists, environmentalists and nuns.

LA Times

By Bob Drogin
December 7, 2008
Reporting from Takoma Park, Md. -- To friends in the protest movement, Lucy was an eager 20-something who attended their events and sent encouraging e-mails to support their causes.

Only one thing seemed strange.

"At one demonstration, I remember her showing up with a laptop computer and typing away," said Mike Stark, who helped lead the anti-death-penalty march in Baltimore that day. "We all thought that was odd."

Not really. The woman was an undercover Maryland State Police trooper who between 2005 and 2007 infiltrated more than two dozen rallies and meetings of nonviolent groups.

Maryland officials now concede that, based on information gathered by "Lucy" and others, state police wrongly listed at least 53 Americans as terrorists in a criminal intelligence database -- and shared some information about them with half a dozen state and federal agencies, including the National Security Agency.

Among those labeled as terrorists: two Catholic nuns, a former Democratic congressional candidate, a lifelong pacifist and a registered lobbyist. One suspect's file warned that she was "involved in puppet making and allows anarchists to utilize her property for meetings."

"There wasn't a scintilla of illegal activity" going on, said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit and in July obtained the first surveillance files. State police have released other heavily redacted documents.

Investigators, the files show, targeted groups that advocated against abortion, global warming, nuclear arms, military recruiting in high schools and biodefense research, among other issues.

"It was unconscionable conduct," said Democratic state Sen. Brian Frosh, who is backing legislation to ban similar spying in Maryland unless the police superintendent can document a "reasonable, articulable suspicion" of criminal activity.

The case is the latest to emerge since the Sept. 11 attacks spurred a sharp increase in state and federal surveillance of Americans. Critics say such investigations violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly, and serve to inhibit lawful dissent.

In the largest known effort, the Pentagon monitored at least 186 lawful protests and meetings -- including church services and silent vigils -- in California and other states.

The military also compiled more than 2,800 reports on Americans in a database of supposed terrorist threats. That program, known as TALON, was ordered closed in 2007 after it was exposed in news reports.

The Maryland operation also has ended, but critics still question why police spent hundreds of hours spying on Quakers and other peace groups in a state that reported more than 36,000 violent crimes last year.

Stephen Sachs, a former state attorney general, investigated the scandal for Gov. Martin O'Malley -- a Democrat elected in 2006. He concluded that state police had violated federal regulations and "significantly overreached."

According to Sachs' 93-page report and other documents, state police launched the operation in March 2005 out of concern that the planned execution of a convicted murderer might lead to violent protests.

They sent Lucy to join local activists at Takoma Park's Electrik Maid, a funky community center popular with punk rockers and slam poets. Ten people attended the gathering, including a local representative from Amnesty International.

"The meeting was primarily concerned with getting people to put up fliers and getting information out to local businesses and churches about the upcoming events," the undercover officer reported later. "No other pertinent intelligence information was obtained."

That proved true for all 29 meetings, rallies and protests that Lucy ultimately attended. Most drew only a handful of people, and none involved illegal or disruptive actions.

Using the aliases Lucy Shoup and Lucy McDonald, she befriended activists. "I want to get involved in different causes," she wrote in an e-mail, citing her interest in "anti-death penalty, antiwar and pro-animal actions!!!"

Max Obuszewski, a Baltimore pacifist who leads antiwar protests, said Lucy asked about civil disobedience, but didn't instigate any. "She never volunteered to do anything, not even hand out leaflets," he said. "She was not an agent provocateur."

Updated 12/12/08 - SOS Madeleine McCann 6/12/08 - the Tapas 7 interviews in the UK - Volume 1

All seven Britons were interviewed in early 2008, before the Portuguese investigation was put on hold for lack of impartial and brave justice.

In the interests of the public, remembering that justice is always the conquest of civilisation over violence, of appeasement over endless revenge, of stability over chaos, the conversations (yes, it was more like conversations than real interviews) were recorded on video and the transcriptions will be available for download, only in English, at the end of each article. The videos will be opportunely disclosed.

Jane Tanner: selective memory, contradictions and other things....

After 11 months of the investigation, in spite of all that could have been said or done about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, Jane Tanner, one of the Tapas 9, admitted to officer Ferguson of the Leicestershire police that she was mistaken about the arrangement in which the group were seated at the table. An apparently minor detail, but which is now more revealing: "Russell said he was sitting between Rachael and Diane. So, I think, I had Diane there, Russell was there. And I think Dave, I think that Dave could have been there and Fiona there."

Jane Tanner's interview, in April 2008, was recorded on video, to which I have had access and which will be disclosed at the right time in a documentary about Maddie's disappearance.

According to the new seating plan, Jane was sitting "in an anti-clockwise direction," next to Kate, followed by Matthew, Fiona, David Payne, Gerry McCann, Dianne, Russell and finally Rachael.

According to Jane Tanner, in her interview with the British police, Kate McCann was more anxious than usual during dinner on May 3rd 2007, the night of Madeleine's disappearance: "There is something I haven't mentioned (...) she had said that Madeleine had said something strange about where were you last night when I woke up.
And as I said, I can't remember at what point in the meal she said that (...) I think she said "when Sean and me woke up," I can't remember if it wasn't when two of them woke up."

"I wondered, if there wasn't another reason, you know, why the checks were more frequent," Jane Tanner then stressed, indicating that Kate was wondering if Maddie might wake up.

Questioned about the length of time that Gerry was absent from the dinner table, Jane explains: "that would have been at least five minutes, if not more, because, I wonder, because he had left before I actually left there were conversations about whether he had stopped on the way. So, I mean, if, I think it must have been something like five or ten minutes, five or ten minutes after he had left. I can't say for sure though."

"(...) I went back up the road and I can't remember exactly, I know this, I know, I think that Gerry thinks he was in a different place from where I think he was standing, but I was quite sure, as I walked back up the road, they were standing, one of them was on the road and the other was just on the edge of the pavement, but I thought that it was at the side of the road where I was walking, but I know that Gerry thinks they were on the other side. But I think they were closer, because as I passed, I nearly went to greet them in some way and I thought at that moment Oh "they're chatting chatting chatting" and I thought, you know, I didn't, I didn't know if they had seen me or not, but I actually went to greet them and I think if they had been so far away I don't know if I would somehow have almost gone to say hello to them," states Jane Tanner admitting that she and Gerry don't agree about where they found themselves.

"I thought that they were, when you go up here, I thought they were more, euh, once again I know that this is where me and Gerry disagree, but I thought they were kind of closer to the alleyway. I think kind of (...) I think that one of them was on the road and I think, I thought that it was Jez on the road because he had the pram. And towards, I don't know, I can't remember in which direction he was facing. No, I mean, I think I remember that in my statement I said it, but I can't remember now in which direction he was facing.

"And I thought that Gerry was almost on the edge of the pavement or just, just kind of on the road, but certainly kind of alongside it, kind of closer to that alleyway. I don't think they were near the apartment gate, I thought they were kind of a bit further down, further down the road than that," Jane admits to the police, demonstrating - according to one of the British investigators, a quite strange memory.

"Madame Tanner gave a witness statement before the television cameras, she was interviewed by our Portuguese she is incapable of remembering most of the details - the Leicestershire police, however, got her to read her previous statements -, but curiously, she happens to clarify certain key points that agree with the story recounted by the other members of this group," states an officer from the British police after having viewed the videos of the interviews.

The Tanner

This British police officer, who no longer has contact with this case, is meanwhile one of the direct witnesses of the most important moments in the investigation by the Portuguese authorities. Bitter and deeply disappointed with the behaviour of the British government in this case, the man, from a legal point of view, no longer has the right to speak about Madeleine McCann's disappearance. A ban which he has not respected for reasons "of professionalism and moral conscience" in spite of the heavy consequences to come.

"Oh, it's someone taking their child to bed."

Jane Tanner Suspects 235 web.jpgJane Tanner, one of the key witnesses, whom the McCanns have not left much space for manoeuvre, explains once again the layout of the premises and her movements: according to her witness statement, going out through the door of the Tapas Bar, she walked up the hill, passed by Gerry and Jez who were on her right.

"(...) Right, yeah, So, I went past them, um, going up the hill, and then getting to the top of the road, as I arrived at the top, this person, someone crossed the top of the road with a child. And obviously at that time - I just thought 'oh it's somebody taking his child to bed,' as they say. "

"I think it was starting to get dark (...) there wasn't, apart from Gerry and Jez, there wasn't anyone else. (...) I really saw no one at all. I said, I think, that this made me think that it was even more strange, I think that when I had gone to check on other evenings at that time I probably didn't see anyone at all, it was earlier that you would see people here and there, carrying their children," Jane Tanner said, confirming that it all happened, " roughly, around ten past nine."

"(....) I was kind of jogging along, because obviously I was trying to do the check and get back as quickly as possible too, so I just thought 'Oh I'm just going to do the check as quickly as possible.."
In answer to officer Fergusson, Tanner states that her intention was just to "check on Ella and Evie," because no one else had done it: "Gerry was there, so I thought he had just checked (his children). Matt had checked when he had, um, been (...). And we never checked Dave and Fi because they had their monitor, which they were quite happy with, so they didn't check at all, like that."

"Oh, a poor parent like us..."


"(...) just as I got to the top, someone crossed over. And the thing that really hit me was, um, the bare feet. And the thought that came to mind was, I was saying, that when we were in Leicester (...) we had the habit of walking to David and Fi's house for, um, the children, for dinner with the children, the children would play, we put them into travel cots there and we would sometimes stay a bit late and then carry the children to the house (...) We wrap them in a blanket or something, but their feet always stick out, and you think 'Oh, they're going to get cold feet' because they would always wriggle about. So, one thing I thought was 'Oh, a poor parent like us, you know, that child is obviously being taken home (...)

(...) That was the only reason that I looked at him really, I think. Because at that moment I thought it's somebody picking their child up from the crèche or, you know, just a father carrying his own child..."

Questioned by the officer, Tanner explains that the route followed by the suspect she claims to have seen doesn't match with the idea of someone fetching his child from the crèche: (...) In fact I thought 'Oh, a bit odd,' but not in a million years would I have thought 'It's Madeleine.' (...) And well, yeah, if I had though, yeah, you know, if I had seen that it was Madeleine you would have, you know, I wasn't going to go 'Oh there's Madeleine,' you know, I would have shouted, but. But, yeah, I know that the police think I am an interested witness and whatever, but I don't know what I can do about it.

After a brief moment of emotion - visible only on the video recording - Jane Tanner continues: "No, but the best thing that could happen for me, apart from Madeleine being found, it's somebody coming forward and saying 'It was me,' you know, 'It was me going along there', because, you know, you know, I don't want it to be Madeleine, but you know, there's none, but I am convinced that it was and, you know, people have to, so I don't know what I can do to make them believe it. I'm sorry."

"(...) I really want to assure myself that I am believed, because I haven't lied here. I don't really do that and I just think it's important..."

According to her own witness statement, Jane Tanner noted three details about the man whom she claims to have noticed crossing over the road with the child in his arms, amongst those his feet, because "he wasn't running, but walking at a steady pace."

The man - Jane Tanner explains to the British police officer - was walking along the pavement on the same side where she was.

"(...) I think I'd just prefer to stick to what I said in my original statement, in terms of, because even, I mean, this goes back to the sketch, even when I did the sketch, before that, you know, things were, were unclear. I needed to do that sketch.

According to Jane Tanner, the man had long hair, quite dark and shiny. He was wearing dark clothes, "not big, but quite baggy."

"Dark colours, but then again it was, I think that it was quite dark, so dark, kind of a dark sort of jacket, but on the other hand, lighter trousers in a horrible colour, again this is, kind of a dark yellowish-brown, horrible, but not, not a good colour for trousers, but on the other hand, I wonder if it was the light that made them appear, made them appear more of a sort of mustard. It wasn't a mustard because it was too light, but it was just like one, as I said they weren't attractive. They weren't the kind of clothes I would expect of someone on holiday at Mark Warner. They were, I can't think of the material. I tried to describe it before, but as some sort of cottony material, but baggy," Tanner states.

If Jane Tanner admits a few inconsistencies in the description of the man she swears having seen on the night of Madeleine McCann's disappearance, admitting notably that she "wasn't totally in agreement" with several details of the latest identikit image, such as the length of hair.

"(...) I tried to do it, though, from my original description which we noted (...) we tried to write down all our thoughts and I tried to do it as much as I could from that..."

The individual's height is also challenged by Jane Tanner because, according to her, there was allegedly an error in translation, which did not seem to surprise the Leicestershire police officer, but which was strongly contested by several Portuguese and British police officers who participated in the investigation: all the translations were done or checked later by properly accredited professional translators, which does not leave the least doubt about the quality of their work.

"(...) But I think that was confused in the translation because I don't know what it was in metres and they, kind of, converted that into metres from my statement (...) But I think that it was kind of in the region of five feet nine, five feet ten.."

Questioned about the build of the man she allegedly saw, Tanner explains that it was "Medium, but just rather a normal build. As I said, I think the clothes were quite baggy, so I think they made him look bigger than he probably was, though. And also, he was, his shoulders were poking out, you know, kind of. So, I think, umm, yeah, roughly medium, a roughly medium build.

To be continued.

(Jane Tanner's statements in English can be downloaded from the SOS Madeleine McCann web site, in pdf format. To date - 12/12/08 - there are five downloads available.)