The Baltimore-based chapter of the national Iraq Pledge of Resistance is an anti-war organization working for peace by challenging people in power, educating the public and getting citizens to take action. In the interview below, Maria Allwine of the Pledge, describes how the National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on them. These allegations, which have not been reported in the media despite attempts to get coverage, are based on documents received by the pledge in litigation with the government.
KEVIN ZEESE: Describe your background, history and current work.
Maria Allwine: I’ve engaged in nonviolent civil resistance since 2002, grew up in Baltimore City, have been a city resident since 1985, have lived in many places in the US as well as in Japan. I am 52, a wife, mother and legal secretary.
KZ: What is the “Pledge of Resistance?”
MA: The Pledge is a national group committed to nonviolent civil resistance to stop the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. We are often arrested in the exercise of our First Amendment rights. We are dedicated to educating the American public about what our government is doing to Iraq and to petitioning our government and Congresspersons to take action to stop the occupation. The Pledge lobbies Maryland Congresspersons and Senators via letters, phone calls, faxes, emails, and face-to-face meetings.
KZ: What type of activities has the Pledge organized and participated in?
The Pledge has sponsored and participated in many demonstrations and actions since 2002, including the January 19, 2003 action at Lafayette Park in DC, the March 1, 2003 mall leafleting event in Baltimore County (which resulted in arrests), the marches prior to the invasion, the actions, resulting in arrests, the day prior to and of the invasion, the Dover to DC Memorial March in March 2004, several other memorial marches, including attempts to deliver the names of US and Iraqi dead to the White House, the October 2, 2004 attempt to deliver names again to the White House, also resulting in arrests, and too many other actions to describe here. The latest was the September 26 action at the White House–where names of the dead were hung on the White House fence and which resulted in 374 arrests, including Cindy Sheehan. The Pledge also demonstrates every July at the NSA, which usually result in arrests as well.
As mentioned above, the Pledge is heavily involved in ongoing lobbying, including meetings with Sens. Mikulski and Sarbanes, including a sit-in in Sen. Mikulski’s office in November 2003 resulting in arrests, meetings with Rep. Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. Ruppersberger (R-MD). The Pledge is currently involved in the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR)–a national campaign from January 16, 2006 through March 20, 2006–focusing on lobbying Congress to stop war funding and occupation as well as many other actions and events. If any readers would like information on this campaign, go to www.iraqpledge.org.
KZ: Do you have any indications that the federal government has been monitoring the meetings and other activities of the Pledge?
MA: During a trial for arrests at NSA on October 4, 2003, an internal NSA email was given to the defendants from the Pledge by an NSA witness. The email showed that the NSA had been physically spying on the Pledge as it prepared to depart on July 3, 2004 (the trial for the 10/04/03 arrest was in 8/04) from the American Friends Service Committee on York Rd. in Baltimore to the NSA. The email is time chronological and details the Pledge’s activities as it assembled in the parking lot of the AFSC, number of people, who is going in which vehicles, what vehicles were being used, their make and license plate numbers, what signs we were carrying, the helium tanks (for balloons) we were bringing and also recognizes and names Max Obuszewski as one of the protesters. The email then details, with specific times, our progress on the road from Baltimore to the NSA. It goes on to describe our demonstration and subsequent arrests. The email begins at 9:40am, prior to our arrival at the NSA at around 12 noon, and proceeds through the day.
We were also given during the same trial, an “NSA Police Action Plan” to “effectively respond to the threat of a demonstration hosted by a group known as Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore on October 4, 2003. It goes on in GREAT detail to outline the NSA response to the protest. It mentions counter-surveillance by the NSA during the demo, obviously different from being spying upon at the AFSC in Baltimore.
The Pledge believes the NSA must be spying on us from the federal post office right across a small street from the AFSC. It’s the only place that gives them enough of a view to see our cars/license plate numbers. They are, no doubt, using sophisticated equipment to do so. It’s entirely possible this spying occurs via satellite or some other such instrument. But spying on us they are.
Also–during the March 20, 2003 demonstration in downtown Baltimore, a provocateur (whom we had identified at our planning meeting the previous night) joined us. We’d never seen him before. He was obviously talking, meeting really, with the police across the street and then later during the die-in at the federal courthouse, taunting the police in a violent manner. We had to quiet him down, he then disappeared and we never saw him again–and, of course, he wasn’t arrested with the other 49 of us.
KZ: Have you told the media about this? Has it been reported anywhere? If not, have you been told why not?
I have twice called the Marc Steiner Show on WYPR to discuss Mr. Steiner indicated some interest in this as a news story so I promptly hand-delivered the email and plan to one of the producers at WYPR, but have had no response. I wrote a letter to the Sun. The letters editor called me and said he couldn’t just publish my “allegations” without proof. I hand-delivered the items to him as well but have had no response. I have followed up with both with no success. The New York Times called Max Obuszewski of the Pledge, after hearing what I said on my call to the Steiner show–but indicated it was not interested because it’s not wiretapping. I called in to Steiner again on 1/5/06 to discuss this during his show on the NSA spying and FISA. One of his guests, a government apologist, told me that if I had proof of this spying, I should contact the media as she was sure they would be interested! I was unable to reply as the producer had already disconnected me.
More information about the Iraq Pledge of Resistance can be found at http://www.iraqpledge.org/
KEVIN ZEESE is Director of Democracy Rising and a candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland.