ACLU raises concerns over homeland security appointee

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland raised concerns Wednesday about Gov.-elect Larry Hogan's choice of former Maryland State Police Superintendent Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins to head the state's homeland security office, pointing to the surveillance and infiltration of protest groups when he led the agency.

In a letter to Hogan, ACLU Executive Director Susan Goering urged Hogan to reconsider the appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, because of Hutchins' involvement in the Ehrlich administration program of monitoring such groups.


Goering pointed to a 2008 investigation by former Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs that found that the state police's Homeland Security and Intelligence Bureau had improperly targeted peaceful protest groups -- including death penalty opponents and anti-war advocates -- and falsely described their members as terrorists in state data bases.

The ACLU leader pointed out that Hutchins had defended the 14-month program, describing the activists in testimony to a General Assembly committee as "fringe people" and "those who wish to disrupt the government."

Hutchins, backed by former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., contended such surveillance was necessary to monitor potentially "volatile" demonstrations. But the program was later repudiated by Hutchins' successor, Col. Terernce B. Sheridan. an appointee of Gov. Martin O'Malley.
"It would be bad enough had the conduct simply occurred on Hutchins' watch, and he had disavowed what happened, but here he not only failed to repudiate it he actively defended it," Goering wrote.

Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Hogan, rejected the ACLU's criticism and said the governor-elect has "the utmost confidence that Tim is the perfect pick" for the job.

"Tim Hutchins has a distinguished 39-year military career, fought for our country in Vietnam, served in the Maryland State Police, and knows what is required to protect our state from all potential threats. The fact is this story is nearly a decade old and never amounted to more than accusations," Montgomery said.

In addition to being Ehrlich's state police superintendent in 2004-2007, Hutchins was a Republican delegate representing Charles County from 1995 to 2003. Hutchins also served under Ehrlich as Maryland secretary of veterans affairs and acting state police superintendent.