Revolution #213, September 27, 2010
Some Points on the History of the Grand Jury and Political Repression
Historically the Justice Department and the FBI have used the subpoena power of the federal grand jury, coupled with compulsory immunity, to jail activists who refuse to cooperate with government investigations. In the 1960s and well into the '80s there were many instances of courageous people who refused to testify before grand juries.
According to attorney Michael Deutsch in "The Improper Use of the Federal Grand Jury: An Instrument for the Internment of Political Activists," (1984) " … many subpoenaed witnesses agreed that the only way to respond to the grand jury was to refuse to answer its questions and to persist in such refusal in the face of immunity and contempt. Once a witness began to answer questions, the door was open, leaving no effective way to pick and choose which questions to answer."
Deutsch continues in discussing that history: "The position of 'non-collaboration' with the political grand jury was thereby established. The theory behind non-collaboration was that witnesses could deprive the grand jury witch hunts of the information they sought, thereby subverting their mission only by a unified position of refusal. Numerous witnesses followed the principle of non-collaboration. Some escaped civil contempt citations and jail, but many others spent months in jail without charge, until the life of the grand jury ended."
Deutsch goes on to point out, "A fair reading of the origins and purposes of the fifth amendment, coupled with the rights of political freedom contained in the first amendment, should create a right to 'political silence,' barring any compelled testimony before a grand jury touching a witness' political activity and associations. Political activists should not be forced to choose between providing the government with political intelligence about their movement or going to prison."
See also "Don't Be Bamboozled by Agents of Repression—'Don't Talk,'" Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
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