NSA fails to take four peace activists to court

12 October 2002

Contact: Max Obuszewski
410-323-7200 or 410-377-7987 or mobuszewski@afsc.org


Baltimore Emergency Response Network,
325 E. 25th Street, 2nd Floor,
Baltimore, MD 21218

PHONE: [410] 377-7987

WHO: The Baltimore Emergency Response Network and Baltimore's Jonah House have been organizing demonstrations at the National Security Agency since 1996. See James Bamford's book BODY OF SECRETS, which details the spy agency's response to these nonviolent protests.

October 12, 2001, BERN members Ellen Barfield and Max Obuszewski and Jonah House activists Sister Carol Gilbert, O.P. and Sister Ardeth Platte, O.P. went to the National Security Agency [9800 Savage Road, Fort Meade, Maryland], despite the fact the area was on highest alert. At 7 AM, they walked through an open gate to try to deliver a letter to Lt. General Michael V. Hayden, head of the National Security Agency, demanding a meeting. BERN has tried to obtain a meeting with the director of the NSA each year since 1996.

WHAT: A security breach alert was sounded, and at least nine vehicles, soldiers with drawn weapons and dogs soon arrived. The NSA officials would not permit a meeting with Gen. Hayden, so Gilbert and Platte poured their own blood on the asphalt to represent all victims of the NSA's work. Obuszewski held a sign "Unmask the Body of Secrets...No Star Wars...Nonviolence Now...International Day of Protest - Oct. 12-13, 2001," while Barfield's banner read "No War  On Afghanistan, Iraq, Whomever; No Spying, No Star Wars, Work for Peace, Please!"

Each demonstrator was arrested and charged with trespass [six months/$2500 fine], destruction of government property [one year] and conspiracy [1 to 5 years]. The protesters were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on March 22, 2002 but the government never scheduled a trial. So today, one year after the arrest, it can be stated that the case is officially dismissed

WHEN: Saturday, October 12, 2002

WHERE: It can only be speculated as to who made the decision not to prosecute.

WHY: The best guess would be that the National Security Agency recognized that the activists relished the chance to go to court in order to highlight the immoral and illegal activities of the agency. Of course, the NSA failed miserably in preventing the September 11 terror attack. So why give the activists a forum from which to speak out?

All four activists are continuing to risk arrest to protest the so-called "war on terror" and the upcoming invasion of Iraq. Obuszewski and Barfield, for example, were arrested on October 1, 2002 at the Fallon Federal building in Baltimore as they attempted to meet with Louis Crocetti, the director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, to seek information about the treatment of the 9-11 detainees. However, after being incarcerated for about nine hours, they were released without charge.

Gilbert and Platte were arrested on October 6, 2002 after entering the N-8 missile silo in northern Colorado as members of THE SACRED EARTH AND SPACE PLOWSHARES II. They are currently incarcerated in a county jail in Greeley, Colo., charged with state felonies for trespass and criminal mischief, but are expecting additional federal felony charges.

Barfield was arrested with eleven others, including Susan Crane of the Jonah House, on October 9 at the U.S. Capitol to protest the House & Senate votes for war. As it seems an invasion of Iraq is inevitable, the Baltimore Emergency Response Network is organizing civil resistance actions.

Over 400 Marylanders have signed an Iraq Peace Pledge, organized by the American Friends Service Committee and others, to take action to prevent an invasion of Iraq. Many of the signers are from Baltimore. So local peace activists are gearing up to engage in risk-arrest direct action to speak out against a bloody invasion of Iraq.



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