Activists Challenge NSA Surveillance

Nov 18, 4:20 AM EST

Activists to Question NSA Surveillance

Associated Press Writer

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Thirteen anti-war activists cited in July for protesting outside the National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade plan to use their trial to question the agency's monitoring of nonviolent groups.

The activists are charged with entering a military installation for illegal purposes, which carries a maximum six-month sentence and a $5,000 fine.

Six were arraigned Friday at U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The other seven were granted waivers that excuse them from appearing in court until their trial, which is scheduled for Feb. 9, said Max Obuszewski, one of the activists who was arraigned.

"We're going to try to turn this into a political trial," Obuszewski said.

Internal NSA e-mails posted on the Internet in January revealed the agency used local law enforcement to monitor a previous protest by the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, to which Obuszewski belongs. The e-mails appeared to show that the protesters were closely watched as they assembled in Baltimore and traveled to the agency's headquarters for a previous protest in 2004.

An NSA spokesman said the monitoring was done to protect agency employees and denied that the agency was eavesdropping or spying on peace groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has submitted freedom of information requests for any documents relating to the surveillance of peace activists. The rights group has not received any documents in response, staff attorney David Rocah said Friday.

Obuszewski said the defendants filed a motion Friday asking prosecutors to turn over any such documents.

"We're nonviolent, we're pacifists," he said. "Why is this agency expending all this time and energy on us?"

NSA officials said in July that the activists were arrested because they did not submit a required written request for a permit to protest, making it illegal. The activists carried a banner reading "NSA Crime Scene" and other signs protesting the agency's
involvement in the war in Iraq.
© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.