Maine officials clash over investigation of police surveillance

Following a lawsuit by a state trooper, some state officials want an investigation, while others dispute the suit

David Sharp
Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine — The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine called Friday for an investigation into allegations of illegal surveillance made in a federal whistleblower lawsuit, while the state’s public safety commissioner and police chief went on the defense.

A trooper claims in his federal lawsuit filed last week that a Maine State Police unit illegally gathered and stored intelligence on gun buyers, power line protesters, and employees of a camp for Israeli and Arab teens. It also alleges the state illegally stored license plate data.

The head of a gun rights group and several lawmakers joined the ACLU in expressing concern about the allegations raised about the Maine Intelligence Analysis Center, a division of the State Police.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck and State Police Col. John Cote declined to comment on specific allegations in the lawsuit but defended the practices of the so-called “fusion center” created to collect, analyze and share intelligence between the state and federal government after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Both expressed confidence “that our fusion center is operating in accordance with applicable laws, policies, procedures and best practices that safeguard people’s privacy, civil rights and civil liberties,” they said in a written statement.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey disputed the lawsuit’s allegations but had nothing else to say, a spokesperson said.

Lindsay Crete, a spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, said the allegations “will be heard through the court system, which the governor hopes will provide a full airing of the facts.”

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