Misclassifying Terrorists

 Posted by on 9 October 2008 at 10:18 am  Law
Oct 092008

The October 7, 2008 Washington Post reports that:

The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects…

The article also notes:

Both [former state Police Superintendent Thomas] Hutchins and [current Police Superintendent Terrence] Sheridan said the activists’ names were entered into the state police database as terrorists partly because the software offered limited options for classifying entries.

I guess that the old 1940′s excuse of “I was just following orders!” has now apparently now been upgraded into “The software left me with no other choices!”

On a more serious note, this sort of misclassification is wrong in two ways.

First, it’s obviously unjust to any peaceful protestors who are exercising their legitimate rights to free speech and to oppose government policies. Second, it clutters up the terrorist database with non-terrorist names, thus hampering law enforcment operations against genuinely violent terrorists and criminals.

Of course, violent protestors should be dealt by the police with an appropriately forceful response, in order to protect individual rights. But the conflation of “protestor = terrorist” in the minds of the police is a dangerous one.

Unless this mindset is challenged, the semi-joking attitude expressed today on this t-shirt from the Denver Police Union may become the norm in tomorrow’s real-life police state:

(Via IPList.)

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