Environmental Activists Put on Terrorist List in Maryland

  • Published on October 25th, 2008

News broke this week that 53 people were listed in a Maryland State Police database as “suspected terrorists.” The listing was the result of an extensive surveillance program that infiltrated several activist organizations and gathered intelligence about the individuals and activities in them.

Among those receiving a letter from the Maryland State Police last week was Josh Tulkin, of the Energy Action Coalition. Apparently, during a thirteen month period from 2005-2006 when Tulkin worked at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, State Police gathered intelligence and created a file for the young environmental activist.

The most striking about the revelation is that Tulkin has never been arrested, has no criminal record, and has never done anything to warrant his investigation—or subsequent listing—as a suspected terrorist.

Tulkin wrote an email to Andy Revkin at the New York Times in response to the surprising news:

My name is Josh Tulkin. I am currently the Field Director of the Energy Action Coalition and Power Vote. And I am a suspected terrorist.

On October 21st, I received a letter from the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police. The letter informed me that from March of 2005 to May of 2006, I was under surveillance under suspicion of terrorist activities. The letter further explains that the program is no longer under operation, and that I am among a list of people whom they have “no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime.”

The letter goes on to explain that I have the option of viewing my record once, without a camera or lawyer present, before it is purged permanently. So what was I up to? During this time, i worked as Deputy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. I helped pass the Maryland Healthy Air Act, which is reducing dangerous pollution from Maryland’s coal-fired power plants.

I served as a youth delegate to the United Nations. I organized a coalition of faith leaders, students, nurses, doctors, and every day citizens to clean up Maryland’s air and protect her shores from sea level rise and global warming.

I have never been arrested. I have no police record. I am standing with the A.C.L.U. of Maryland to defend my rights. I deserve to know why I was being monitored and what is in my file. And we need legislation passed so that this type of infringement of privacy will not happen again.

But I won’t be intimidated. Like so many young people, I understand that global warming will have severe impacts on my future, and we are working together to address this problem. I am proud of the action of my peers, and we should be supported, not suspected.

This gives us all more cause to defend our rights and our future by voting this November 4th for candidates that will help fight global warming and will honor the importance of civic engagement, rather than fear it.

Tulkin also posted a video on YouTube:


About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.


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