On July 16, after returning to Baltimore from a status hearing in Superior Court of the District of Columbia, I received a call from the American Civil Liberties Union that the Maryland State Police [MSP] had infiltrated antiwar and death penalty meetings. I was also told my name was in a terrorist database.
The status hearing was for an arrest which took place in the U.S. Senate gallery on March 12, 2008. Ten of us from the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, the Ghosts of the Iraq War, were charged with "Unlawful conduct," after we spoke out for an end to the funding of the war.
As a member of the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, I was aware, because of our protests against the National Security Agency, that police surveillance was taking place. But why was I placed in a terrorist database? Later it was revealed that the MSP declared 53 activists as "terrorists."
On March 13, during an arraignment of the Ghosts, I saw in the arrest report that the Capitol Police knew of our plan for the gallery action. So I filed a motion in September for additional discovery. U.S. Attorney Andrew Warren, though, indicated the Capitol Police said there was no additional information.
The trial began on October 20 with the selection of a jury. The following day, Warren informed the defense that he did receive some additional information from the Capitol Police. He turned over two pages from the U.S. Capitol Police Intelligence Report for March 12, 2008. The first page was a table of contents, and the second was a listing of three demonstrations which were being "tracked." There was nothing about the Ghosts of the Iraq War, but the table of contents suggested there may be something elsewhere in the 26-page report. When I tried to raise this issue, Judge Robert Morin would not allow me to pursue the matter.
Warren then brought to the witness stand two gallery doorkeepers and two Capitol Police officers. In cross-examination, the witnesses testified they were told to expect us, but they had not seen any intelligence report. After the prosecution concluded its case, the judge allowed me to revisit my motion for additional discovery. When he examined the entire report, he tagged two more pages. Surprisingly, the report contained a private email I sent out to the NCNR organizing list proposing a gallery action.
The following morning, I argued a motion to dismiss because the defense did not receive all discovery prior to trial. While it was unclear how the police obtained my private email, we saw that someone made an attempt at a cover-up. The source was shown as Baltimore Nonviolence Center. That URL was for a press release I wrote which Common Dreams posted about a hearing in another case. It had nothing to do with the Ghosts of the Iraq War.
Nevertheless, the judge refused to grant my motion for dismissal, though he said it could be re-visited post-verdict. We then presented our case, arguing that we exhausted every means of convincing our legislators to cut off funding of this illegal war. So we had a Nuremberg obligation to go to the gallery and implore as many senators as possible to stop the funding. On October 24, the jury found five defendants innocent, and five guilty. Since I was convicted, I renewed my motion for dismissal.
Again I argued we did not get access to a relevant document until the prosecution's case rested. Furthermore, the U.S Capitol Police obtained, possibly through illegal means, a copy of my private email. And there was a crude attempt at a cover up by misstating the source. Since I was spied on by the Maryland State Police, it is possible some police agency obtained the private email.
In response, Judge Morin ordered the prosecutor to contact the Capitol Police and find witnesses who could testify how this email was obtained. On November 7, Eric Orsini, a civilian employed by the Capitol Police, took the stand.
He testified he found my personal email between 5 and 6 AM on March 12 on Protest.net. However, the prosecutor did not provide any evidence to confirm the testimony. During cross-examination, Orsini admitted getting information from various police agencies. But he was sure that the email was on Protest.net. When the judge brought up Protest.net on his computer, he could not find any archives. Surprisingly, the judge accepted Orsini's testimony and denied my motion.
The five of us who were convicted are now scheduled to be sentenced on December 15, facing a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment and/or a $500 fine. Since the evidentiary hearing, we did research on Protest.net and discovered how to find its archives. My email was not found in the archives for March 12, 2008 or other dates in March or in December, 2007 when I sent out the proposal for a gallery action. I contacted the administrators of Protest.net, and they confirmed my email does not appear in the archives.
If it did appear on Protest.net, whoever posted it could have later deleted it. Yet there are several events still posted in the archives from March 12. One event in the archives is Stop Loss Congress. That protest did appear in the March 12 intelligence report, but it was posted widely on the Internet.
We are seeking a computer expert who is willing to testify at the sentencing hearing, so that we can revisit the motion for dismissal and argue there is no evidence that my email appeared on Protest.net. Judge Morin rejected my testimony, but possibly he would accept that of an expert.
Regardless what happens at the sentencing hearing, it is unlikely we will discover how my private email was obtained. Or who obtained it. Was it someone from the Maryland State Police? The National Security Agency? I may never have the answers. Yet, despite being watched, I intend to continue vigorously with my peace with justice efforts.