Am I Kryptonite to the NSA? My federal charges were once again dismissed!
On December 13, I was back in court with my co-defendant Ellen Barfield facing two charges after a May 6 arrest at the National Security Agency, located at Fort Meade, Maryland. A few days before, I started to experience email problems. This is not unusual for me when I have been involved in such activities like the Plowshares and similar resistance actions. And actually, I am still having difficulty sending out emails.
As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Catonsville Nine draft board action, the organizers decided to include a protest at the NSA. The very first protest at the NSA was organized by Philip Berrigan, Elizabeth McAlister and other members of the Jonah House. Phil’s last protest took place at the NSA.
Our intent on May 6 was to deliver a letter for the new director of the Agency, Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, which asked for a meeting to discuss what the group felt were examples of unconstitutional behavior, including illegal surveillance and the selection of people to be killed by killer drone strikes. NSA police, however, refused to allow anyone to cross a phalanx of police officers, and when Ellen and I made a mere move forward. We were handcuffed, and charged with “Failure to comply with the lawful direction of an NSA Police officer” and “Attempting to enter protected property without proper authorization.”
We were first scheduled to appear in US District Court on Lombard Street in Baltimore on August 9. It was an odd procedure, as we never met a judge or a prosecutor. Instead we were taken into a room where police officers offered us a plea. We declined, and asked to meet with a prosecutor as we were seeking discovery in our case. Such a meeting was denied, but we were given a trial date of December 13.
In an attempt to obtain discovery prior to trial, I emailed the prosecutor handling Fort Meade cases. However, she never responded. Surprisingly, a few days before our December 13 appearance in court, another prosecutor called Ellen. This proved inconsequential.
Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who witnessed the May 6 arrests, and I met my co-defendant in a courtroom on December 13. All seats were taken, so some of us stood. Individuals were called up one at a time, and some of them went into a back room to meet with police officers. Ellen called it a cattle call, and I saw it as a dog and pony show. The police at Fort Meade must have a quota system of arrests to fulfill.
Out of the thicket of all those cases, a prosecutor appeared and met with us outside the courtroom. He presented us with discovery, which is usually creative fiction as written by the police. For example, my police report made this claim: “Obuszewski attempted to get past our position by shoving and pushing himself into multiple officers and was placed in handcuffs for failure to obey a lawful order.” In actuality, neither of us engaged in such behavior. Nevertheless, a macho male police officer prevented us from exercising our First Amendment right to petition the government for a redress of our grievances. We were not shy about making this point with the prosecutor. Janice also chimed in on how our rights were violated on May 6.
We informed the prosecutor that we intended to file a Motion for Extended Discovery, and to request a motions hearing. He said if we waited around until after the courtroom was cleared, we could meet with a judge. The judge may or may not grant us a Motions Hearing. We would wait to meet with a judge.
Out of all of the arrests which have happened at the Puzzle Palace since 1996, generally the cases are dismissed. For example, despite my many arrests at Fort Meade, I have never been to trial. In October 2003, five of us were arrested trying to deliver a letter. The prosecutor, for whatever reason, dropped the charges against three of us. Marilyn Carlisle and Cindy Farquhar however did go to trial in August 2004. They were the first NSA arrestees to go to trial, and remarkably through discovery obtained documents which confirmed the NSA and other police agencies were spying on us. In October 2014, the only other trial of NSA arrestees took place. Ellen was one of the three defendants on trial, and she and the other two defendants were found guilty of two of the three charges.
Nevertheless, in all protest cases, defendants should file a Motion for Extended Discovery. An activist might be pleasantly surprised to find out through discovery that the police involved in these political arrests were involved in illegal and surreptitious surveillance.
Ellen and I were looking forward to going to trial to challenge what we considered bogus charges. She called what happened on May 6 a false arrest. Surprisingly, though, after about fifteen minutes, the prosecutor re-appeared to inform us that he was dismissing the charges. He claimed it was his decision. We followed up with many questions for him, but he was disinclined to share any further comments.
I suspect he made a phone call. To his superior? To someone at the National Security Agency? Did someone tell him to dismiss the charges? Or possibly he did some research on previous court cases relating to protests against the Agency. This might have indicated that we were ready to pursue with vigor in court exculpatory information from an Agency which likes to keep its business classified. Of course, we will never have an answer. Sometime in the future, I may yet get my day in court to put the NSA on trial.
James Bamford wrote this in The Intercept on October 2, 2014: “Not only did the classified file from the Justice Department accuse the NSA of systematically breaking the law by eavesdropping on American citizens, it concluded that it was impossible to prosecute those running the agency because of the enormous secrecy that enveloped it. Worse, the file made clear that the NSA itself was effectively beyond the law—allowed to bypass statutes passed by Congress and follow its own super-classified charter, what the agency called a ‘top-secret birth certificate’ drawn up by the White House decades earlier.”
The Nuremberg Tribunals taught us that when a government is involved in war crimes, citizens must speak out. We are not citizen activists who see the Nuremberg Tribunals as mere historical documents. We instead take the lessons from the Tribunals seriously to mean we have to take on a government engaged in illegal and immoral activities. And that is why we are a constant thorn in the side of the National Security Agency.
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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] comcast.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs