Growing Demand For Answers Over Possible Surveillance Of Maine Gun Owners, Others

In the wake of a whistleblower’s accusations that the Maine Information and Analysis Center illegally collected and maintained information on several groups of people, including gun owners in the state, there’s been a growing bipartisan group of public officials and organizations that are calling for a complete investigation into the allegations.

George Loder, who worked for the Maine State Police for decades, filed a whistleblower lawsuit in federal court recently, alleging that he was demoted after alerting his superiors to the illegal practices.

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. Loder expressed his concerns to supervisors in November 2017.

Loder alleges that staff at the center illegally gathered and kept information gleaned from social media about people who legally protested in September 2018 against Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed transmission corridor stretching from the Quebec border to Lewiston.

State police maintain a database that can be searched to determine if a person is prohibited from purchasing a gun. Applications to purchase firearms are supposed to be destroyed after the sale is approved but the center stored that information in the database, the suit claims.

The Bangor Daily News reports that former Gov. Paul LePage has denied any knowledge of the alleged surveillance, while current Gov. Janet Mills, who was previously the state’s Attorney General, has to date made no comment. On Thursday of this week, a pair of senior Republican lawmakers did speak out and demanded answers.

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, and Assistant House Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said in a Wednesday statement that they want an investigation into alleged illegal and improper collection by the Maine Information and Analysis Center.

“If true, (these allegations) would mean that the state police have been collecting information about Mainers for years without the authorization of the legislative branch,” Timberlake said in the statement. “Such a significant policy decision by the chief executive merits legislative oversight and a check on this power.”

If the state kept background check records on gun owners, that amounts to a backdoor gun registry, which would violate both federal and state law. Maine’s current attorney general says the state is prepared to dispute Loder’s allegations in court, but with legislators on both sides of the aisle and groups from the ACLU to the United Sportsmen of Maine calling for an investigation, the best thing that Mills and the Democrats in control of the state legislature could do would be to create a bipartisan legislative committee to get to the bottom of Loder’s claims. Maybe he’s making it all up, but the people of Maine deserve real answers, and if Loder’s telling the truth, then the guilty need to face real consequences for their illegal surveillance of Americans exercising their rights.