Revolution Online, October 10, 2010
In Wake of FBI Raids
Activists Exercise "Right Not to Participate" In "Fishing Expedition"
At 7 am on Friday, September 24, 2010, scores of FBI agents conducted coordinated raids on homes in Chicago and Minneapolis, as well as the office of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee and one other organization (see "FBI Raids Anti-War Activists' Homes in Midwest," Revolution #213, September 27, 2010). While there were no arrests or charges, activists had their homes and offices ransacked, in some cases for hours, and had their personal and political effects seized by the FBI. In addition, subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury in Chicago were issued to 14 activists. The FBI also attempted to question activists the same day in San Jose, California, Durham, North Carolina, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Latest reports from Minneapolis are that FBI agents went to several more activists' homes on October 6 and 7.
Besides immediate protests and press conferences in Chicago and Minneapolis the week following the raids, there were political protests in 60+ cities across the country. (See "Snapshot of rally in support of anti-war/Solidarity activists in Chicago" and "Round Up: Protests in 60 Cities Against FBI Raids")
The first activists subpoenaed were scheduled to appear before the Grand Jury on October 5. At a press conference in front of the federal courthouse in Chicago, one of those subpoenaed read a statement that said, "those with grand jury dates for October 5 and those whose subpoenas are pending have declared that we intend to exercise our right not to participate in this fishing expedition." The statement described how the grand jury works and shed light on it as an instrument of political repression in the past. The full statement is available at stopfbi.net/2010/10/05/statement-on-grand-juries-from-committee-to-stop-fbi-repression.
This statement goes on to explain, "The next legal step is in the hands of the Department of Justice. They could cancel the grand jury. They could carry on, but leave us alone. They could send subpoenas again giving us the option to talk or go to jail. We don't know when they will take the next step, or what it will be." The statement concludes, "We do know what our next steps will be. We will not be silent. We will not allow the harassment of activists to quiet our opposition to immoral policies."
At the time of the raids, an FBI spokesman told the Chicago Tribune, "The warrants are seeking evidence in support of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism." This was an accusation that activists immediately dismissed as illegitimate and unjustified. The warrants and subpoenas reference travel to a number of countries and alleged unspecified interaction with the U.S. government's designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
According to the October 5 statement made on behalf of those subpoenaed: "The activists targeted in the raids are people who have been very involved in the anti-war and international solidarity movements for many years. They all worked together to organize an anti-war protest attended by tens of thousands at the Republican National Convention in 2008. Some of those targeted have traveled to other countries to understand our government's role in places like Palestine and Colombia. While there, they met with people to learn about their experience facing brutal repression from U.S. sponsored regimes, and brought their stories back to people in the U.S. Hearing about the reality of U.S. military aid is not a crime, and yet this appears to be the target of this investigation."
The attacks on the individuals and the organizations targeted so far are very serious and should be vigorously opposed politically and legally. The initial raids, and now the grand jury subpoenas, are a very sinister move by the government, one that should alarm and concern anyone who thinks the government should not be allowed to trample on people's rights, and who thinks it is important that there be opposition, and the freedom to oppose, what the government is doing here and around the world. This is a major escalation against the anti-war movements in particular.
Paul Craig Roberts, a former assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal and an official in the Reagan administration, who has extensive academic credentials, wrote in a blog piece titled "It is Official, the US is A Police State," "Now we know what Homeland Security (sic) secretary Janet Napolitano meant when she said on September 10: 'The old view that "if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won't have to fight them here" is just that—the old view.' The new view, Napolitano said, is 'to counter violent extremism right here at home.'
"'Violent extremism' is one of those undefined police state terms that will mean whatever the government wants it to mean. In this morning's FBI foray into the homes of American citizens of conscience, it means antiwar activists, whose activities are equated with 'the material support of terrorism,' just as conservatives equated Vietnam era anti-war protesters with giving material support to communism. My conservative friends were disappointed that the National Guard didn't kill more of the Kent State University students."
A Fishing Expedition
"It appears to be a fishing expedition," said attorney Ted Dooley, who represents an activist whose house was raided. "It seems like they're casting a huge seine or net into the political sea and see what they can drag up on shore and dry out. There's no rhyme or reason to it in a free society." ("FBI serves terrorism warrants in Minn., Chicago," The Associated Press, September 25, 2010)
In a piece posted at Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford posed, "The scope of information demanded of some of last week's FBI victims—demands with which no one can fully comply, such as all records of domestic as well as foreign travel since the year 2000, or a list of all 'contacts' that might somehow have bearing on the conflict in Colombia or the Mideast—is naked proof that the intent is to smother, entangle and utterly demobilize the target. The Obama administration is constructing a legal minefield in which any honest activist can be charged with lying to federal officers or a grand jury by commission or omission—each count of which is punishable by years in prison."
One of the homes raided in Minneapolis was that of Mick Kelly, identified as the editor of Fight Back on its website. As reported in a previous article in Revolution:
The warrant for the raid and the subpoena to appear before the federal grand jury issued to Kelly were released to the media by his attorney. Both documents are stunning in the extensive scope of what is being sought by the government, blatantly trampling on basic constitutional rights. For instance, the search warrant weaves Kelly's alleged affiliation to Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) into the information sought; the warrant gives carte blanche to seize financial records both personal and of FRSO as an organization, ostensibly to look into sources of funding for all travel to Palestine, Colombia and within the U.S. for the last 10 years!
The warrant goes further, alleging that there are open-ended "potential co-conspirators" in order to justify the seizure of all address books and information regarding all contacts of Kelly (including emails, MySpace and Facebook or other social networking sites). In an extraordinary reach, the warrant authorizes seizure of materials regarding recruitment and "indoctrination" of others into FRSO, a political activity which is supposed to be completely lawful in the U.S.
(The FBI's warrant to search Mick Kelly's home is available at tc.indymedia.org/files/kelly-warrant-92210.pdf. The grand jury subpoena is available at tc.indymedia.org/files/kelly-subpoena-chicago-92210.pdf.)
The October 5 statement on behalf of those subpoenaed says, "We fear the government may be seeking to use the recent Supreme Court decision in Holder vs Humanitarian Law Project to attack conduct that clearly falls under the realm of freedom of speech and that we never imagined could be construed as 'material support for terrorism.'"
According to David Cole, the attorney who argued on behalf of the Humanitarian Law Project before the U.S. Supreme Court, "At issue was a federal law banning 'material support' to 'foreign terrorist organizations' even when the 'support' consists only of speech advocating peace and human rights. The lower courts had repeatedly declared the provisions that prohibit speech unconstitutional, but the Obama administration...appealed to the Supreme Court" ("The Roberts Court vs. Free Speech," New York Review of Books, August 19, 2010)
While we are not in a position in this article to analyze the June 21 Supreme Court's ruling in the Humanitarian Law Project and its implications, the Center for Constitutional Rights reported that the Court's decision upheld sections of the law challenged by the Humanitarian Law Project. Constitutional scholars have described the ruling as threatening a wide scope of free speech and political dissent. Speaking of the impact on his Carter Center, former President Jimmy Carter said, "The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom."
Opposing the Attack
This FBI raids and the grand jury subpoenas are a dramatic escalation in the U.S. government's repression carried out by Obama's Justice Department which must be vigorously opposed and defeated. An important, if still beginning, array of people have been speaking out against this attack (See for instance the Statement by Organizations and People of Faith Against the FBI Raids; Cindy Sheehan's "Dissent in the Age of Obama"; and Glen Ford's "President Barack 'Midnight Raid' Obama: End Your Wars at Home and Abroad."
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