The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder, 415-235-6517 Nancy Kricorian, CODEPINK NYC coordinator, 646-234-8529

CODEPINK Women Speak Out Against Illegal Spying by The Maryland State Police

Call for Obama administration to protect free speech, privacy rights of activists


As part of a recently revealed illegal spying program, the Maryland
State Police's Department of Homeland Security erroneously listed three
members of CODEPINK Women for Peace as suspected terrorists in the
agency's criminal intelligence database. The CODEPINK activists are
available for comment today as the American Civil Liberties Union of
Maryland makes the women's MSP database files public.

According to a Report by former Maryland Attorney General
Stephen Sachs, the MSP had illegally spied on and tracked peaceful
political activists-including, we now know, CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin
of California, Nancy Kricorian of New York, and Midge Potts of
Missouri-by covertly infiltrating group meetings and subscribing to
e-mail lists, and compiling dossiers on the activists in the MSP
criminal intelligence database. Most appallingly, the MSP inexplicably
classified the activists as "terrorists" in that database, even though
they were not suspected of or linked to any crimes whatsoever. The MSP
has written letters to the 53 persons they acknowledge were improperly
placed in the database identified as terrorists, stating that the files
would be "purged." After pressure from the ACLU of Maryland, the MSP
agreed to give the 53 copies of their files, but the files were so
heavily redacted as to be almost nonsensical, leaving unanswered many
questions, among them how it was that three CODEPINK activists, none of
whom has ever resided in Maryland, came to be included in the program.

"The sort of spying that this program represents is a chilling
reminder of how under the cover of the War on Terror, American citizens
are being denied their rights to freedom of speech, privacy and
political organizing," Benjamin said. Her inclusion in the MSP database
may explain why Benjamin was barred from entering Canada when her name
appeared on a national database list as a criminal.

Kricorian said, "I'm completely flummoxed by my inclusion on this
list. I've never been arrested, I've never been to Maryland, and I'm
neither an animal rights activist nor an anarchist, which were listed
as my 'crimes' in my file."

With an Obama Administration on the horizon and renewed vigor in
social activism and progressive movement nationwide, the activists have
hopes for change.

"With this new administration and new
Congress, as well as lawsuits filed by groups like ACLU, we hope to get
to bottom of this, stop it, and give peace advocates the kind of
respect we deserve," Benjamin said.

On Monday, U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski
(D-MD) and Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) demanded that police
apologize for the spying and provide a list of federal databases that
might contain the names of those listed as terrorists by the state
police. They also demanded that a process be put in place to ensure
this never happens again.

"Anti-war protesters, environmental protesters, and anyone
exercising their First Amendment right to nonviolent protests should
not be unlawfully spied upon nor should they be grouped together with
criminals and terrorists," said Sen. Cardin in a press release. "The
actions uncovered over the last month are unacceptable and need to be
addressed before they happen again."

For interviews and more information, please call Medea Benjamin
at 415-235-6517 or Nancy Kricorian at 646-234-8529. Visit the American
Civil Liberties Union of Maryland's Web site about the case here.

CODEPINK is a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs.

(818) 275-7232