Here is the press release just out. It indicates that this is actually much more sinister than was thought initially. The Department of Treasury is actually behind the freezing of funds.
On Friday, May 6, the U.S. government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife, Naima. It appears that this is being done by the Department of Treasury (Office of Foreign Assets Control).
Hatem Abudayyeh is one of 23 activists from Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Chicago, and his home was raided by the FBI in September of last year. Neither Hatem Abudayyeh nor Naima Abudayyeh have been charged with any crime. One of the bank accounts frozen was exclusively in Naima Abudayyeh’s name.
Joe Iosbaker of the National Committee to Stop FBI Repression said, “We are appalled at the government’s attempt to restrict the family’s access to its finances. Not only does the government’s action seriously disrupt the lives of the Abudayyehs and their five-year-old daughter, but it represents an attack on Chicago’s Arab community and activist community and the fundamental rights of Americans to freedom of speech.”
Joe added, “Apparently OFAC can block your assets pending an investigation on charges of “material support for a foreign terrorist organization” without a hearing. It’s a bit like a chapter out of George Orwell, they don’t need any evidence to freeze your assets and thus far they won’t even acknowledge that they are the source of the freeze. In the case of these activists, assets means money for food and rent.”
Bill Chambers, of the Chicago Committee Against Political Repression said “The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation. The government’s attempt to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not conform to the administration’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.”
The National Committee to Stop FBI repression is urging activists around the country to take action by calling, The Office of Foreign Assets Control a division of the U.S. Dept of Treasury, Phone numbers 202-622-1649 or 202-622-2420. Demand that they unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family and stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war and international solidarity activists.”
***Original Story including audio interview with Joe Iosbaker appears below.***
Right before Mother’s Day weekend, the US government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh, a long-time Palestinian solidarity activist and organizer, and his wife, Naima. Abudayyeh is one of twenty-three activists from the Midwest in the US, who has been the subject of an FBI Grand Jury investigation since September of last year.
Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh have both been charged with no crimes. Naima Abudayyeh has not been subpoenaed and is not the subject of an investigation. Read the rest of this entry →
On December 6th, Chicagoans came out for an Emergency Response Rally organized by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression to support activists who have been targeted by the FBI in the past months. Those present stood in the cold and condemned U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been directing the FBI to expand its repression of activists in Chicago.
The rally specifically addressed the recent targeting of three young women who had traveled to Palestine last summer. On Friday, December 3rd, they were given subpoenas to appear before a Grand Jury on January 25, 2011. Since then, two more individuals have been subpoenaed. This new wave of repression came a week after subpoenas for three activists in Minneapolis -” Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sarah Martin -” were re-activated and asked to appear before a Grand Jury again after refusing to speak to a Grand Jury in October.
The father of one of the Chicago women subpoenaed, Stan Smith, appeared at the rally and read a statement from her daughter, Sarah Smith, “Friday morning I received a phone call from an FBI agent. He asked if I had about 30 minutes to sit down and speak with him so he could ask me some questions. I asked about what and he said he was not at liberty to discuss it.”
“I felt there was something suspicious about him telling me he wanted to ask me some questions, but he would not tell me what these questions were,” read Smith. “I reiterated that it would be much easier for me to sit down with him if I knew why an FBI agent wanted to sit down with me. He then said it had to deal with a trip I took this last summer. He emphasized I think you know, which one I’m talking about.”
Smith noted, “I don’t think I need to speak in defense of her character. While she was in high school, Crain’s Chicago Business had a special edition called the “100 Most Influential Women in Chicago” and they chose my daughter as being one of Chicago’s six most influential and up-and-coming women high school students. Crain’s Chicago Business chose her partly because they saw she was willing to travel to different parts of the world and see for herself and to make up her own mind about what was happening over there. Evidently, the FBI thinks that there is something criminal in doing that.”
Subpoenaed activist Stephanie Weiner, who had her home raided by the FBI on September 24th of this year, lamented the fact that more activists were being subpoenaed and explained it was being done to put fear, intimidate and divide members of activist movements in the country. She outlined the fact that they are from many different movements: union, immigrant rights, justice, and Latin American and Palestinian solidarity movements.
Matt Brandon of SEIU Local 73 said, “When people can’t get together and peacefully protest without being threatened by arrest or a raid or a subpoena, it’s a sad state of affairs.” He provided a brief history of how dissent has been repressed in America and why it is important for all movements to come together and fight bac
The hunting down of activists began on September 24th when the FBI raided homes and offices of activists from Minneapolis and Chicago. Computers, phones, documents and other personal items were seized and the FBI officially subpoenaed 14 activists to appear before a Grand Jury. The FBI began to contact members of the “peace community” and ask them what they knew about the subpoenaed activists’ “material support for terrorism.”
The attorneys representing the activists have noted “the current definition of “material support’ can cover just about anything, like providing humanitarian aid that ends up in the hands of a group tagged as ‘terrorist’ by the US government, or posting a link to an informational website. The implications of this law, as it is being used, are troubling to anyone who does community organizing, or anyone who does journalistic reporting or academic research on wars, conflicts or controversial movements.”
Months later, the activists in Minneapolis and Chicago have not been charged with a crime, but they continue to face possible jail time if they refuse to go before a Grand Jury and participate in this “witch hunt.” They have yet to have their belongings, which were seized by the FBI, returned.
In the face of repression, activists across the nation have held actions in cities to show solidarity with activists who have been targeted. In Minneapolis, supporters held a protest outside Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office. And, a delegation of people has visited Congress to inform key House and Senate members of the FBI’s targeting of individuals engaged in activism.
In Chicago, those opposed to the FBI raids plan to meet with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Members of the Committee have noted in recent weeks that some in Congress have been briefed on the actions of the FBI but, for the most part, few know what is happening to activists in Chicago and Minneapolis.
The Committee to Stop FBI repression designated December 9th as a “Call-In Day” and urged supporters and those concerned to call U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and demand that he end the “witch hunt” on activists in America.
Here is a video from the rally in Chicago on December 9th:
WikiLeaks pledges to continue to fight government secrecy despite persecution by the U.S. and other countries. by R_SH
Political leaders like the tyrannical Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and complicit authoritarian Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have come out in full support of prosecuting the now-captured and arrested Julian Assange under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. Whether they can do so or not is of no concern to them, and don’t expect that to matter as the press repeats this idea that Assange could be prosecuted.
Sen. Lieberman, Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) and Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) have introduced a bill that would “stop” WikiLeaks and make it “illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.” The bill known as the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act (SHIELD) would amend the Espionage Act. The main problem with the act is, as Dave Weigel of Slate wrote, “the information being leaked, while embarrassing, hasn’t been highly classified. It’s been secret, or marked “NOFORN,” but it’s not classified.” Thus, it appears the act might currently be ineffective in “stopping” WikiLeaks or future releases of information by any individual, group or organization.
What these senators aim to do is guaranteed to further reduce the protections for journalists and members of the media in this country. It’s guaranteed to further create a political climate where journalists are faced with the possibility of coercive measures if they actually exercise the rights and privileges granted to them by the First Amendment. And, it’s that climate that ensures more and more individuals will leak materials to WikiLeaks instead of media outlets in America, who cannot give their sources guarantees they will be protected under the law.
Sen. Lieberman appeared on the Fox News Channel on December 7th to express his support for not only prosecuting Assange but also examining the culpability of media organizations like the New York Times, which have referenced in the leaked secrets in their news articles.
HOST: Julian Assange has written an editorial that points out or characterizes his organization as an underdog in the media world. And he’s saying that he is a journalist and he’s saying that he’s just providing information out there for the world’s citizens to see. He mentions that organizations like the New York Times have published his information, which you’re classifying as state secrets. So, are other media outlets that have posted what WikiLeaks put out there also culpable on this and could be charged with something?
LIEBERMAN: I have said that I believe the question you are raising is a serious legal question that has to be answered. In other words, this is very sensitive stuff because it gets into America’s First Amendment, but if you go from the initial crime–Private Manning charged with a crime of stealing these classified documents, he gives them to WikiLeaks, I certainly believe WikiLeaks has violated the espionage act. But then what about the news organizations, including the NYT, that accepted it and distributed it? I’m not here to make a final judgment on that. But to me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department. [emphasis added]
In his appearance, Sen. Lieberman called the release of documents by Assange and WikiLeaks “the most serious violation of the Espionage Act” in America’s history.
Sen. Feinstein, in her editorial published by the Wall Street Journal , wrote, “When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove–more than 250,000 secret State Department cables–he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”
She claimed the authority to decide whether Assange is or is not a journalist, a power she and nobody in government holds. She promoted the idea that the release has hurt people, when there is absolutely no proof that anyone has been harmed as a result of these leaks. And, she concluded, “As for the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has held that its protections of free speech and freedom of the press are not a green light to abandon the protection of our vital national interests. Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security.”
This is where we get into the real crime that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are guilty of committing. They are guilty of posing a threat to American superpower.
They have made it more difficult to wage a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture false cases for any future wars. They have made it harder to mislead Americans and other citizens of the world to believe a country poses an imminent threat to the United States. They have made it more problematic for America to use illegal detention, torture, and rendition on the world’s citizens when prosecuting the “war on terror.” They have made it more complicated for America to use spying and blackmailing when engaging countries in diplomacy. And, they have made leaders of countries in the world less willing to upset the sensibilities of people whom they govern and lie to them to prevent them from demonstrating their disapproval and outrage for going along with a ruthless superpower.
Political leaders and media pundits are disinforming the public when they talk about prosecuting Assange. Leaders like Sen. Feinstein are cherry-picking portions of a Congressional Research Service report to suit their worldview on what can and cannot be done to “protect” America. Indeed, an October report did claim there exists “ample statutory authority for prosecuting individuals who elicit or disseminate the types of documents at issue, as long as the intent element can be satisfied and potential damage to national security can be demonstrated.” But, as Evan Harper commented on one of Glenn Greenwald’s posts:
“In Feinstein’s WSJ op-ed, she claims “That he is breaking the law and must be stopped from doing more harm is clear. I also believe a prosecution would be successful,” citing a Congressional Research Service report which wrote that “there is ample statutory authority” for such a prosecution. But she very badly cherry-picked the report, which goes on to say:
‘…we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction.’
Essentially, CRS found that a plausible reading of the Espionage Act, by itself, might find some grounds to charge Assange — but that precedent, the Constitution, and jurisdictional issues all weigh against a successful prosecution. Feinstein was grossly dishonest in eliding this.”
It’s quite telling that they would fall back on the Espionage Act as the tool that could prevent Assange and WikiLeaks from causing more damage to America’s image in the world. The Espionage Act was signed into law by Glenn Beck’s least favorite president, Woodrow Wilson, shortly after America entered World War I. The act was intended to only apply during wartime, but, like many expansions of executive power in recent American history, the act continued to be applied to dissidents who were getting in the way of military recruiting or efforts to prosecute wars.
As Neal Rockwell points out on NYC Indymedia, “Its first major test case was with a Socialist named Charles Schenck, who received a six month sentence for passing out leaflets denouncing the draft, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. There have been a number of high profile Individuals prosecuted or threatened with this law over the years. In 1918, the famed Socialist organizer Eugene Debs was given a ten year sentence for delivering an anti-war speech on the grounds that it obstructed recruitment and the war effort. His sentence was later commuted by Warren Harding in 1921, and he was released after spending thirty two months in prison. The poet E E Cummings spent a few months in jail under the Act, for speaking openly about his lack of hatred for the Germans. The Post Office was also instrumental in using this law, in that it refused to deliver materials which were deemed to violated it, thus suppressing many radical newspapers.”
Julian Assange has brought out the true spirit of America. Visa and MasterCard refuse to process donations to WikiLeaks or Assange. PayPal refuses to allow WikiLeaks to use the service for donations. Amazon censors the Wikileaks website. Tableau opts to prohibit WikiLeaks from using its graphics service for data visualizations. The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University warns students to refrain from commenting on the leaked diplomatic cables on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter and not post links to the documents if they hope to ever work for the State Department (while at the same time pledging to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011). And, the Obama Administration and the Department of Defense orders hundreds of thousands of federal workers to not view the once secret cables.
The U.S.-led “war on WikiLeaks” has tacitly endorsed censorship of the Internet and taken steps that will move it further away from being an arena where all citizens of the world can act openly without fear of being met by unchecked political power. The crew of WikiLeaks has demonstrated that America is more interested in being a closed, conspiratorial, inefficient and totalitarian country instead of using the document dumps WikiLeaks have brought to the world to become more open and honest in government operations. And, those who have supported, aided or abetted WikiLeaks should be aware of how this all could steamroll into a situation where Americans are increasingly asked to take “loyalty oaths” in order to take jobs or use services on the Internet and face surveillance that will lead to persecution if found to be engaging in suspect political activity (indeed, a new round of witch hunts aimed at “disloyal” Americans is already being mounted by the FBI in this country).
Ask yourself: Will there be an agent at your door asking you, “Are you or are you not working in cooperation with Julian Assange and others associated with WikiLeaks?” And, if so, do we intend to stand up and mobilize and raise our voices high and defend our right to disseminate now-public information and utilize our First Amendment rights without threat of intimidation or criminalization?
Whether Julian Assange is guilty of rape or sexual molestation allegations is for the Swedish courts to decide. If he did in fact commit a crime, he will suffer the consequences. But, the charges increasingly appear to be part of a campaign of political persecution that is being endorsed and sponsored by a nation that wishes revenge on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for daring to challenge American superpower.
Joe Iosbaker (left) and Stephanie Weiner (right) talk to the press about their subpoenas and the FBI raiding activists’ homes. by Kevin Gosztola
Weeks after the FBI raided their home, two Chicago activists, Stephanie Weiner and Joe Iosbaker, stood before a crowd of about 150 Chicagoans gathered outside the Dirksen Federal Building and declared during a press conference they, and twelve others who were subpoenaed, have no intention to go before any grand juries and participate in a "fishing expedition."
Weiner read a statement on behalf of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, a coalition formed in response to the FBI raids on activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. She recounted, "On September 24, the FBI raided the homes of anti-war and international solidarity activists and delivered grand jury subpoenas to activists across the country. The subpoenas claim that the grand jury is investigating violations of the 1996 law on the issue of "material support" of "designated foreign terrorist organizations."
Weiner, Iosbaker and three other activists had been called to testify before a grand jury on October 5th. He shared that he was outside the Federal Building at a press conference and not inside giving testimony to a grand jury, as he and Weiner had been scheduled to do, because they were given a postponement until October 19th. Three others submitted letters invoking their Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
Iosbaker reported, "Nine others who have dates scheduled for later this month have also submitted letters invoking their right not to testify." And declared, "Today, we are here to state to the press that we too have nothing to say to a grand jury."
The fourteen activists have not been charged with anything. That is why they were called before a grand jury — so the government could find information they could possibly use to press charges. Attics and other parts of activists’ homes have been searched, property has been seized, but none of the activists at the press conference spoke as individuals charged with committing any crimes.
Weiner explained to the crowd and press that were present, "One does not even need to be opposed to U.S. foreign policy to recognize that the government is working here to establish a dangerous precedent in targeting us. This case endangers the right of every person in the U.S. to organize for and express their views."
The statement appeared to encapsulate the reason for the outpouring of support and solidarity the activists have been experiencing. Reverend Dan Dale, senior pastor of United Church of Christ, read an interfaith statement by the Faith-Based Alliance of over thirty Muslim, Jewish and Christian organizations and over eighty religious leaders and clergy.
"We are people of faith and conscience who condemn the recent FBI raids in Chicago as a violation of the constitutional rights of the people in organizations raided. They are a dangerous step to further criminalize dissent," declared Rev. Dale. "The FBI raids chisel and bypass fundamental constitutional rights by hauling activists before grand juries under the guise of national security. An overly broad definition of "material support for terrorism’ in the June 2010 Supreme Court ruling concerns us as people of faith who continue to actively engage in humanitarian work and peacemaking."
Anne Sullivan, an individual who had been involved in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, and Miryam Rashid from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization of people of various faiths committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service both expressed solidarity with the subpoenaed activists. Sullivan reminded people of how Nelson Mandela and the ANC (which Mandela was part of) had been regarded as a "terrorist" organization by the U.S. government at one point. And, Rashid told the crowd and press:
"The AFSC has worked for over 90 years to end the wars and to help give voice to the most vulnerable members of society. This is not the first time that our government has come after Palestinians and the progressive community in Chicago. Recently, the target was Muhamma Salah and it was intended to make Palestinians afraid of helping their families who are struggling for civil rights and equality in Palestine. Now the target is Hatem Abudayyeh, a father and a friend to many of us and to many members of the progressive community in Chicago."
A man from the Michigan Emergency Committee to End War and Injustice was invited to go up to the microphone and give a few words on his organization’s support for the targeted activists.
Weiner shared how those targeted "have been very involved in the anti-war and international solidarity movements for many years" and "all worked together to organize an anti-war protest attended by tens of thousands at the Republican National Convention in 2008." Some even "traveled to other countries to understand [the U.S.] government’s role in places like Palestine and Colombia."
The Committee’s statement outlined the U.S. government’s history of using grand juries as tools of repression:
"The grand jury has been used as a tool of political repression against many movements for social change in this country. From the pre-civil war abolitionist movement to the Civil Rights movements, the movement against the war in Vietnam, the American Indian Movement, the Central America solidarity movement, the Puerto Rican Independence movement, animal rights and environmental movements, there have been many targets of political repression and grand jury inquisition."
In fact, on GreenistheNewRed.com, Will Potter has written regularly about the ongoing criminalization of environmental activism in America. Recent revelations on FBI surveillance of the Thomas Merton Center in Pennsylvania, which the FBI engaged in to connect antiwar activism to terrorism, is another indication of FBI involvement in the suppression of dissent. Finally, all one has to do is look at drafted legislation that was put together years ago (but didn’t pass) the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act to see how government has been growing increasingly interested in obstructing dissent and activism.
Jim Fennerty, a lawyer representing activists subpoenaed, mentioned the government has, in connection to this case, been asking for "documents on how people are indoctrinated. You know, it’s amazing." And, he urged those present to call their congressman and express support for a new Church Committee to be formed to look into routine violations of civil liberties by agencies like the FBI in this country.
Despite the government’s history of political repression of activists, those subjected to raids displayed a sense of empowerment. The knowledge that over 60 demonstrations were held across the country in the past weeks to show solidarity gave them hope that the people will be there to help them through this injustice. It also gave them hope that there will be a groundswell of activism aimed at re-asserting the people’s right to fundamental civil liberties in America.
As Iosbaker said to the press, "I think the government never expected that thousands of people would speak up against repression after their home raids and subpoenas. I think that they are very surprised." And as Stephanie added, "The American people do not want laws that can be rolled out on a whim with no lawyer there, with no judge, and no charges. The American people don’t want America to go there. That’s what this is about."
On Monday, Minneapolis activists protested and declared that they would not be traveling to Chicago to testify before the same grand jury Chicago activists have been called to testify before either. TheUptake.org has coverage of the activists targeted in Minneapolis.
*Here is video of the statement raided activist Stephanie Weiner read at the press conference:
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