Politics SD1

Whistleblower Trooper Says Maine State Police Were Collecting, Storing Gun Owners’ Data Illegally

A state trooper in Maine has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court, claiming that his bosses, the Maine State Police were illegally gathering personal data on Maine citizens, including data from gun owners’ background checks.

Officer George Loder, 50, brought a lawsuit against the Maine Intelligence Analysis Center, and included the names of specific members of their management. He claims that he was demoted after telling his superiors that the center was breaking the law regarding information collection on the citizens of the state.

Further, this data was collected and then shared with other law enforcement agencies in violate of state and federal law.

The complaint does not say with which agencies the center may have shared the information other than the state police. It also does not say when the center began collecting it. It does say that Loder voiced his concerns to supervisors in November 2017.

NICS Data Stored

Loder claims in his suit that staff at the Maine Intelligence Analysis Center were illegally gathering and maintaining information. Specifically, they were targeting information about people who protested a proposed transmission corridor that stretched from Quebec to Lewiston, Maine.

Additionally, whenever a gun owner went to purchase a weapon, they were subjected to the federal NICS check.  This background check is run by the FBI’s database, and the information is supposed to be destroyed if the buyer passes the background check.

But Loder claims that when gun owners in Maine were being checked, their data was being stored indefinitely by the MIAC.

On top of protestors and gun owners, the center was also tracking citizens who….travel?   Loder claims that the center has acecss to data from license plate scanners from Portland, ME and other cities.  The center was supposed to have access to that data for 21 days per license place.  They were theoretically using that information to watch for patterns of potential drug traffickers who made frequent trips to New York City or other drug hubs.

But they weren’t deleting it in 21 days.  In fact, they weren’t deleting it at all.  This information, according to Loder, wasn’t targeted at specific license plates of specific suspects.  No, Loder said, “The information is mined from the license plate data of the other agencies by computer without any per-existing suspicion of criminal activity.”

Whistleblowers Don’t Have Friends

Loder’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, makes the claim that the State Police didn’t like Loder’s efforts to bring the Intelligence Analysis Center’s misdeeds to light.  Specifically, his suit names Col. John Cote, the head of the state police, which oversees the center, and supervisors Lt. Scott Ireland and Sgt. Michael Johnston.

Loder worked for the Maine State Police from 1994 to 2014.  It was then that Loder moved to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.  While working for them, he observed the Maine Intelligence Analysis Center repeatedly  violating Maine law and federal Privacy Act law.

Unsure how to proceed, Loder made a phone call to his supervisors, only to be told to drop the complaint.   As time went on, Loder faced increasing pressure from his supervisors to leave the issue alone.  At one point, they even transferred him to an office two hours from his home.  He also went from working directly with the FBI to a desk job.

As the pressure grew, Loder made it clear what was coming next:  “Loder told Ireland and Johnston if his only option was to participate in the MIAC’s illegal activities or face progressive discipline, then they were forcing him out of the state police and would force him to file a grievance,” the complaint said.

Eventually, Loder took an extended medical leave and then returned to his role as a State Trooper.

We can see why.  Honest criminals on the road would be preferable to lying criminals with badges.  And something tells us that Loder’s story isn’t an isolated event; he’s just one of the rare ones with enough integrity to speak out.

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