By IslamOnline – Cairo
Joining protests against US President George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, two American nuns finally found themselves on the country’s terrorist watch list.
"This term terrorist is a really serious accusation," Sister Ardeth Platte told The Washington Times on Friday, October 10.
Ardeth and Sister Carol Gilbert received letters from the Maryland State Police that they are placed on the terrorist watch list.
"There is no way that we ever want to be identified as terrorists," said Ardeth, a nun for 54 years.
"We are nonviolent. We are faith-based."
The two nuns are known for anti-war activities.
In 2002, they were jailed after breaking into an unmanned missile site in northeastern Colorado in protest over the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"We’re Dominicans; our mission is ‘veritas,’ which is truth," said Sister Carol.
The Bush administration calls its watch list one of the most effective tools in its "war against terrorism."
The list was initially limited to criminals and drug traffickers, but an executive order by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks expanded it to include terror suspects.
The record, compiled and overseen by the FBI, can be used by a wide range of government agencies in security screening.
The names are put on "no-fly" or "selectee" lists in US airports that subject them to travel bans, arrest or additional screening.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the US watch list has ballooned to one million records.
The nuns were among 53 anti-war activists on the watch list, which activists believe is a broader effort to control Maryland’s protest community.
"It is clear to us that the full extent of the MSP’s improper activities have yet to be fully disclosed," said David Rocah, a staff attorney for ACLU, which represented the nuns in the effort to obtain information on the spying.
E-mails released by ACLU show that Baltimore police were coordinating with the National Security Agency in 2003 and 2004 to spy on the protest group Quakers, who routinely protested outside the security agency’s headquarters.
A police spokesman declined to answer questions whether the spying was more expansive or involved many other groups, saying he was unsure why the nuns and other activists were on the list.
"The fact there was a record with their name is the reason we’re in this situation that were in," said spokesman Greg Shipley.
The two nuns said that the O’Malley administration is brushing off questions about broader police surveillance.
"Think they just want to kind of pooh-pooh it away and say it’s no big thing," said Sister Carol, a nun for 43 years.
The nuns said that the government wants to muzzle the anti-war activists.
"Democracy is built on these elements on being able to speak out to speak what we believe is truth," Sister Carol said.
(Originally published in IslamOnline.net)