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14 NSA Protesters Have Charges Dismissed


WHO:The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore is a part of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR], and Pledge members were active with Occupation Baltimore and the occupation of Freedom Square in Washington, D.C.  As part of the Freedom Square occupation, NCNR decided to try to obtain a meeting with Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, to discuss perceived illegal and unconstitutional activities by his operatives.

NCNR sent a letter, signed by thirty people from around the country, to Lt. Gen. Alexander requesting a meeting, but there was no response.  So on October 9, 2011, approximately 25 people, most of them from the occupation of Freedom Square, went to the NSA, at Fort Meade, Maryland, with a copy of the letter which raised such concerns as NSA spying, its involvement in the extra-judicial killing of U.S. citizens and the firing of Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower.  However, instead of getting a meeting with a person of some authority, fourteen citizen-activists were arrested on the road heading towards the guard station.  Each of the arrested received three citations: “entering a military, naval or Coast Guard property,” “disturbances on protected property, “ and “control of activities on protected property.” 

WHAT:There was an arraignment in federal court on February 24, 2012.  Three of the defendants were indigent, and the court assigned each one an attorney.  A trial was set for May 29, 2012, but later re-scheduled for October 25, 2012.

However, assistant federal public defender Carrie Corcoran, representing defendant Max Obuszewski, filed several documents, including a Motion for Dismissal.  The motion argued that the U.S. government failed to post permit regulations about Fort Meade in the Federal Register, and that the arrests infringed upon the defendants’ First Amendment rights. As Corcoran pointed out in the brief, how would Obuszewski know what was permitted?  Fort Meade is an open base, and there is a visitor’s parking lot, two museums and a gas station, all are open to the public. 

After some dialogue between Corcoran and James Pyne, the prosecutor, the government decided to dismiss all charges without prejudice.  However, should any defendants get arrested at the NSA through October 14, 2013, the charges will be renewed.  Presumably, the government dismissed the charges as it as fearful that the defendants would air the NSA’s dirty laundry in court during the trial.

WHEN:Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WHERE:U.S District Court, Courtroom 7C, 101 Lombard St., Baltimore, Maryland 21201

WHY: The citizen activists who went to Fort Meade on October 9, 2011 believe they have the right and a Nuremberg responsibility to meet with National Security Agency officials to prevent further illegal activity.  Those arrested have many years of doing direct action in dissent of our government’s illegal operations.  Several were from Massachusetts, Beth Adams, Ellen Graves, John Langford and Paki Wieland; Tim Chadwick came from Pennsylvania; Joy First, Wisconsin; Chris Gaunt, Iowa; three from New Jersey--Carol Gay, Jules Orkin and Manijeh Saba; Malachy Kilbride, Virginia; and there were three Baltimore resisters--Ellen Barfield, Marilyn Carlisle and Obuszewski.  The defendants were looking forward to airing their grievances during a trial in a federal courtroom.

A great concern is the NSA’s involvement in the illegal war and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. This would include the illegal use of drones in Afghanistan and other countries and the assassination of U.S. citizens.  Also there have been alarming revelations about the illegal wiretapping and wholesale collection of U.S. citizens’ phone records.  When this was revealed by Russell Tice, he was fired. When Thomas Drake revealed an expensive boondoggle of a computer system, he was targeted for being a whistleblower.  In July, 2011, though, the legal case brought against him by the government collapsed. 

A number of activists, including Bruce Gagnon,  international peace organizer, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, and author of “Come Together Right Now: Organizing Stories From a Fading Empire,” plan to vigil at the National Security Agency, on October 9, 2012 at 5:30 PM as part of the Keep Space for Peace Week.  It is appropriate that the protests of the NSA will continue on the one-year anniversary of the Freedom Square action.

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