BALTIMORE - April 27 - WHO: The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore was formed for individuals willing to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to protest an invasion of Iraq. It is part of a national network organized by long-time peace groups such as the American Friends Service Committee.
On Sept. 24, 2003, the Pledge sent a letter to Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the National Security Agency, requesting a meeting. The letter raised three major concerns: 1] the agencys involvement in Justice Department plans to monitor and gather data about US citizens; 2] its role in the war against Iraq; and 3] the eavesdropping on the diplomatic delegations from several United Nations Security Council nations [first reported March 2, 2003 in the London-based Observer]. Since there was no response to the letter, fourteen Pledge members went to the spy agency on Oct. 4, 2003 to seek a meeting with the director. Some forty security operatives blocked access to the visitors parking lot. After some dialogue about the Constitutional right of
citizens to petition government officials, Marilyn Carlisle, Cindy Farquhar, Jay Gillen, Max Obuszewski and Levanah Ruthschild were arrested and charged with trespass. Later the antiwar activists were also charged with a failure to obey a lawful order.
WHAT: Prior to a preliminary hearing on Feb. 20, 2004, the Department of Army prosecutor offered the defendants a plea bargain. This offer to plead guilty to trespass and pay a $100 fine was rejected by the defendants, as they were not guilty, having been arrested on a public access road. Appearing before SUSAN K. GAUVEY, U.S. Magistrate Judge, the activists filed a motion for discovery, seeking all audiotapes, documents, files, transcripts of electronic transmissions and videotapes relevant to the actions of the Pledge of Resistance and other peace and justice groups who have rallied outside the National Security Agency since 1996. This motion also requested all information relating to the NSAs illegal eavesdropping on members of the Security Council. A second motion filed called for the preservation of all evidence held by the government.
As part of discovery, the prosecutor released a videotape taken by NSA security. After he viewed the video, he dropped charges against Gillen, Obuszewski and Ruthschild. Presumably, he agrees that those three activists were falsely arrested and denied First Amendment rights. The video does not show the arrest of Carlisle and Farquhar. But they did nothing different then the three whose cases were dismissed. Nevertheless, the prosecutor is refusing to provide the information requested by the two pledge members, so arguments will be heard at a motions hearing
WHEN: Friday, April 30, 2004 at 9 AM
WHERE: U.S. District Court, Room 7C, 101 W. Lombard St., Baltimore, Maryland
A support rally will be held outside the courthouse at 8 AM.
WHY: The Baltimore Emergency Response Network and Baltimore's Jonah House have been requesting meetings with the director of the National Security Agency since 1996. According to James Bamford in his book BODY OF SECRETS, when BERN first started to challenge the spy agency's illegal eavesdropping in 1996, the NSA mobilized the FBI and other government agencies to deal with the "threat." "Members of the SSOC [Support Services Operations Center], Facilities Security, Public and Media Affairs, and Protective Services convened to enact an NSA Emergency Management Plan to address the threat," which Bamford found in an internal document.
Thus the Agency perceives Constitutionally-protected speech as some kind of threat. It is believed the NSA is monitoring the activities of the Pledge, which would explain the massive police presence on Oct. 4. This may be an attempt to intimidate those who question Agency operations.
Katherine Gun, a translator at a British codebreaking agency, released an NSA memo calling for increased spying against Security Council members prior to the war with Iraq. She was arrested last year and charged with violating state secrecy laws. But on Feb. 25, 2004, the Bush and Blair governments decided not to prosecute her. The Pledge activists salute her courage, stand in solidarity with her and intend to raise her case at their trial.
The defendants recognize that citizens have a Constitutional right to petition government officials. It seems the prosecutor agrees. But why is he still prosecuting Marilyn Carlisle and Cindy Farquhar? The other unanswered question is why the NSA used an estimated forty security officials to prevent nonviolent activists from exercising their First Amendment rights.
At trial, scheduled for May 27, the defendants intend to bring out the NSAs intimate involvement in the duplicitous efforts to promote war with Iraq. They expect to be found not guilty of both charges. All five Pledge members who were arrested at the NSA on Oct. 4, 2003 continue to be involved in risk-arrest actions protesting the war and the occupation.