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In Court, ACLU Defends US Citizen Detained & Threatened by FBI with Torture

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Amir Meshal (photo: The Public Record)

The ACLU was in court today to defend a US citizen, who was illegally detained and mistreated by US officials in Kenya and Ethiopia. The citizen, Amir Meshal, a man from New Jersey, was in Mogadishu, Somalia, studying Islam in December 2006 when violence erupted. He fled to Kenya in a boat, spent three weeks in a forest looking for shelter and assistance and was arrested by the joint US-Kenyan-Ethiopian task force.

After arrest, he fell victim to rendition and wound up back in Somalia and then Ethiopia. As the ACLU’s filed complaint reads, over four months and three days, “He was detained in three different countries without ever being charged, without ever being granted access to counsel and without ever being presented before a judicial officer.”

The complaint further alleges Meshal was interrogated “more than thirty times by US officials who failed to adhere to the most elementary requirements of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991.” During interrogations, Meshal was threatened with torture, forced disappearance and forms of serious harm in an effort to coerce him to admit to committing a crime. His detention was also at the “behest of US officials,” with their participation and a result of conspiracy with the FBI and other foreign officials.

The lawsuit filed in 2009 charges two Supervising Special Agents of the FBI, Chris Higgenbotham and Steve Hersem, were both involved in “investigating non-Somalis apprehended along the Somali-Kenyan border in a joint US-Kenyan-Ethiopian operation” in December 2006 and violated Meshal’s rights. The lawsuit also charges that ten other individuals, John Does 1-10, were involved in the violation of Meshal’s rights as well.

Meshal was arrested on January 24, 2007, with four other men in a forest in Kenya He was surrounded by “thirty heavily armed Kenyan soldiers” who apprehended him and “stripped him to his underwear” and tightly bound his hands behind his back with a rope. A soldier asked him to identify himself and seized his US passport, social security card and $800 in cash. He was taken to a village called Kiunga, where seven or eight Kenyans interrogated him.
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The Newburgh Four Sentencing: FBI Sting Operation Used the Men as Counterterror Lab Rats

7:31 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: NYC Socialist)

The bombs the Newburgh Four were planning to detonate to blow up three synagogues were fake. The Stinger surface-to-air missile the men were plotting to use to shoot down military aircraft at a National Guard base was not capable of being fired. The weapons were like this because they came from the FBI. And, now three of the four men have each been sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for their involvement in this FBI sting operation.

The men, James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams (no relation to David) had been convicted in October 2010. The defense continued to present a case that the men had been swept up in a scheme of FBI entrapment. They highlighted how an FBI informant had posed as an Islamic extremist to convince them to become involved in a terror plot. They accused prosecutors, according to the Associated Press, of “introducing a Stinger missile into the plot because the charge that went with it carried a minimum 25 years in prison.”

US District Judge Colleen McMahon understood the men were only in her court for sentencing because the FBI “created an act of terrorism.” She understood the FBI scripted the plot from “start to finish.” But, afraid to upset superiors or government officials, she condemned the defendants’ anti-Semitism and their willingness to “kill, maim and destroy for money.”

“What you attempted to do was despicable,” said Judge McMahon. She guaranteed the men would be imprisoned under harsh conditions and said, “I imagine that you will be far from here, and quite isolated…I doubt that you will receive any training or rehabilitative treatment of any sort. Your crimes were terrible. Your punishment will indeed be severe.”

Let’s get this straight: it is despicable that the men, who were set up by the FBI to commit an act of terrorism, actually appeared to be willing to commit an act of terrorism, but the FBI’s operation is not despicable enough to disqualify the sentencing of the men to twenty five harsh years of life in prison.

Here’s some brief background on the case (and you can read more about it and two other similar cases of FBI targeting and entrapment in this Center for Human Rights and Global Justice of the New York University School of Law report published in May) —

David served five years in jail for drug dealing. Early in 2009, David’s younger brother, Lord McWilliams, was diagnosed with liver cancer. David had been a father figure for his younger brother and wanted a way to make money to pay for a liver transplant. He was offered an opportunity to save his brother’s life in April 2009, when an acquaintance, Cromitie said he could get him $250,000, luxury cars and financing for a barbershop if he helped to carry out a terror attack. David thought about the plan and decided he might be able to get the money without carrying out an attack.

On May 13, 2009, Hussain drove Cromitie, David and Onta and fourth man, Laguerre Payen, to the Bronx to conduct surveillance on various synagogues. They went to Connecticut to see the Stinger missile that would be used. A week later, Hussain drove the men to the Bronx again to the proposed targets. The FBI had placed two cars in front of the targets and Cromitie was to put the explosives in the cars’ trunks. David was dropped off and Hussain drove to the first car. Hussain turned off a recording device he had been wearing and the men were arrested.

Alicia McWilliams, David’s aunt, talked with me after the sentencing. She points out the FBI picked an isolated area because they knew there were criminals there. They didn’t go to Riverdale, they came to Newburgh to do their trickery.

“There’s no job training, there’s nothing in Newburgh,” explains McWilliams. “The town is going down because of the drugs and the gangs.”

The FBI is trying to divide a community. That is why they picked the synagogue, McWilliams asserts. Picking Jews as targets will bring attention especially media attention. And, it definitely will, if you are going after Muslims, she says.

Karen Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, likely agrees. In an article for The Guardian, she calls the government-sponsored anti-Semitism revolting. She points out Judge McMahon loathed Cromitie’s anti-Semitism but yet FBI informant Hussain was “caught on tape urging Cromitie to think about acting ‘for the cause’ – by attacking a synagogue – rather than merely lashing out at a few individual Jews. Hussain referred to Jews as “the root of all evil” And, Greenberg points out, Cromitie said he did not want to go that far.

Greenberg concludes:

This case has found headlines on the issue of entrapment. But its true significance lies in a much more disturbing fact. Who, if asked, would want a government agent to spread antisemitism as a means of inciting terrorism – particularly with a defendant who was characterised by his own attorney as the “biggest mouth” in town? Who really thinks that tax dollars are well spent to support utterances of antisemitism as a means of bonding with potential criminals and turning them into attempted terrorists?

Imam Salahuddin Muhammad of Newburgh told Democracy Now! in a report produced by Anjali Kamat and Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films for Democracy Now!, I believe that what we are seeing today with the FBI surveillance and the FBI allowing for agent provocateurs to enter into Muslim communities is the same thing that happened in the ’60s with a lot of the black nationalist organizations. That’s what I see happening today in the Islamic community. The FBI, they are sending these agent provocateurs into the community, and they are cultivating and nurturing and actually creating situations that would never have occured if they didn’t have their man in there to do that.”

McWilliams concludes the FBI is using the community as a “test tube” and asks, “Who holds our government accountable for their unjust deeds? What they did is despicable.”

She uses the phrase “test tube.” The men seem more like laboratory rats. The FBI sends someone into a community, a Pakistani, who doesn’t stick out like an FBI agent might, to enlist individuals in a plot developed by members of the agency. They ask men, who many in society would consider to be disposable, to engage in a scheme that is criminal and terrorist to see if they will actually commit the crime and engage in terrorism. Psychological manipulation through religion and monetary awards is employed. And, when the experiment is over, they are put back in their cages, like lab rats i.e. they are sent to trial and sent to prison because whether the plot was fake or not doesn’t matter.

To McWilliams’ question: who does hold the government accountable for its unjust deeds? They manufactured a crime here. If that isn’t acceptable, than it should be a crime. If a citizen of the United States did a counterterror experiment like this and then claimed he was only seeing if they would actually do it, not only would the men involved go to jail but so too would the person engineering the plot.

Those suspected of CIA torture escape accountability. Attorney General Eric J. Holder agreed to drop ninety-nine out of a hundred cases on CIA interrogators unlawfully torturing detainees.

Top Bush advisers like former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice approved torture of terror suspects. But, as Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald details, President Obama not only shields former Bush administration officials from accountability, he meets with them to gain insight on domestic and foreign policy.

Economically, Wall Street executives were responsible for tanking the US economy, but, as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi points out, “Federal regulators and prosecutors have let the banks and finance companies that tried to burn the world economy to the ground get off with carefully orchestrated settlements.” Small fines are paid and often the bank that defrauded shareholders “use shareholder money to foot the tab of justice.”

BP executives likely commit one of the worst environmental atrocities in the history of the United States. They are criminally negligent before, during and after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon that costs the lives of 11 people and results in massive pollution of the Gulf of Mexico. There are no plans for criminal prosecutions.

Officials engaged in counterterrorism operations, who create terror operations to stop terrorism, are elevated. Wall Street executives like those at Goldman Sachs don’t just escape justice but are influential in economic policymaking decisions. In contrast, Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist who placed fake bids in a public land auction to disrupt drilling by energy companies, is convicted of a crime, even though the federal government admits the auction was illegal. Lt. Dan Choi faces federal charges and not the typical misdemeanor for protesting at the White House fence to call attention to the need to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Supporters of WikiLeaks become embroiled in federal grand juries that create this idea in the minds of Americans that they might have been involved in espionage. And, the US State Department will fine or incarcerate US citizens, who try to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The United States government will seek to hold activists that engage in freedom of association or freedom of speech accountable. It will seek to hold accountable those who have connections to Islam and hail from impoverished and neglected communities. It will look backward to prosecute those who try to call attention to government abuse and misconduct and those whose voice in society is doubted because of race, class and religion. On the contrary, when government officials stand accused of crimes, it will work overtime to move forward and prevent anyone in government from looking backward to hold accountable those in government that should be investigated for crimes.

*

To read more on how the FBI has transformed and expanded into a massive domestic spy agency since the September 11th attacks, here’s a story I recently wrote for AlterNet called, “5 Outrageous Examples of FBI Intimidation & Entrapment.”

Obama DOJ’s War on Free Speech and Activism

7:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A few days ago, rallies were held in cities all over the United States in support of veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes, who had his home raided by the FBI on May 17. The rallies coincided with Montes’ arraignment hearing for felony charges, which were filed against him by the LA County Sheriffs and FBI after the raid.

The target of an ever-expanding government investigation into antiwar and international solidarity activists, Montes demanded that his charges be dropped. The District Attorney denied his request. Montes asked to see the search warrant and police report on the raid of his home. The District Attorney initially refused the request but then agreed to release heavily edited versions of the documents. Montes was also told he would not be allowed to show the documents to the press.

Tom Burke, a spokesperson for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and a subpoenaed activist, explains that Montes allegedly was found to be in possession of a weapon that was not properly registered. Burke believes that if Montes hadn’t been a political activist or organizer he would have been contacted about a problem on the gun permit. But, the LA sheriffs chose to make an example of Montes.

Burke also notes, like twenty-three other activists subpoenaed thus far, Montes has a link to the organizing of marches at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The FBI raided the Antiwar Committee office in the Twin Cities in Minnesota in September 2010. On the warrant for the raid there were seventeen names. Burke says Carlos Montes’ name appears on the warrant.

When Montes’ home was raided by the FBI & SWAT team, they smashed Montes’ front door, rushed in with automatic weapons while Montes was sleeping and proceeded to ransack his home, “taking his computer, cell phones and hundreds of documents, photos, diskettes and mementos of his current political activities in the pro-immigrant rights and Chicano civil rights movement.” They did this at 5 am in the morning.

“For people who have had their homes raided, it’s worse than being robbed because it’s the government coming in and taking the things that are nearest and dearest to you – your own writing, your own diary,” says Burke.

Rallies in eighteen cities were held in support of Montes and against ongoing FBI repression of activists. And because the judge did not drop the felony charges against Montes, another round of rallies will be held July 7 to again call for the charges to be dropped.

Recent articles in news publications like the Washington Post has given the repression against activists greater attention. At the Netroots Nation 2011 conference, a member of the audience asked at a panel session titled, “What the Government Wants to Know About You,” if he could get more information on what he read on the recently published Post article.

Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake, one of the speakers on the panel, described to the audience how the activists are alleged to be “material supporters of terrorism.” She outlined how the grand jury investigation has been opened and recounted how an informant infiltrated the Antiwar Committee. She noted the activists are alleged to have connections to groups in Palestine and Colombia that perhaps have engaged in terrorist activities but concluded, “Chiquita has far closer ties to terrorism than any peace activists but nobody from Chiquita has gone to jail.”

Essentially, the FBI now has all this data and is able to use it to start investigations. The FBI can turn over any rock that they want to turn over and they can seek out whatever they want to find and piece together a case.

With the FBI moving to expand surveillance powers, it is cases like this investigation into activists that the new powers will effectively make legitimate.

Burke reacts to the news that the FBI is claiming new powers, “The FBI has been violating their own guidelines and their own standard operating procedures and instead of saying we violated what we set out ourselves, they decided to expand what they were allowed to do.

Why does the government want these new powers? Why does the Justice Department under Obama support a growing investigation into activists?

Burke suggests with the economy getting worse the American people are getting more frustrated, with the Congress’ approval rating getting lower and lower, the war in Afghanistan failing, stability in Iraq not being maintained and troops not being sent home, the Colombia war stagnating with no defeat of the insurgency—This “cumulation” is leading to more state repression against those fighting for change in the system.

The war on free speech and activism is apparent here at Netroots Nation as people like Lt. Dan Choi and Tim DeChristopher speak on panels and as individuals like David House are discussed during panel sessions.

Lt. Dan Choi, a soldier and gay rights advocate who engaged in an act of civil disobedience at the White House fence last year to push the Obama Administration to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is facing federal charges for exercising his right to demonstrate. While most people receive misdemeanors for protesting, for the first time since 1917, the Department of Justice under Obama is taking him to trial this August for speaking out.

Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist who placed fake bids in a public land auction to disrupt drilling by energy companies, has been convicted of a crime. Although the land auction was ultimately declared illegal, the Obama Administration has gone ahead and pursued a case against DeChristopher. The prosecution pushed the jury in his trial to not consider his conscience but rather that he broke a law. They nudged the jury to obfuscate facts and, in fact, many key details on the auction were kept from the jury. And so, DeChristopher now faces up to ten years in prison.

And, David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, has been embroiled in a grand jury investigation that seeks to embroil him in espionage charges for being linked to WikiLeaks. House has been targeted consistently by the government for the past months. His lawful association with the Bradley Manning Support Network, which was created to raise funds for the legal defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks now being held at Ft. Leavenworth, has led the Department of Homeland Security stop him at airports and seize his laptop, camera and USB drive.

What is at stake with the targeting of activists is an American’s right to protest against the government and sometimes take bold action that could be regarded as adversarial. Those who believe in free speech and support a person’s right to protest must not ignore the cases the Department of Justice is pursuing against individuals in this country, who are being made examples to send a message to others that if they draw inspiration and display courage in the face of power they too might face the same punishment or harassment as these people.

*For video of Montes speaking at the rally on June 16, go here.

Time for Those Subpoenaed in WikiLeaks Grand Jury Investigation to Setup Support Committee?

7:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks has widened. A subpoena has been issued to David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network. Manning’s ex-boyfriend, Tyler Watkins, who recently appeared in PBS Frontline’s “WikiSecrets” documentary, and Nadia Heninger, who has done work with WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum (someone whose Twitter user data has been subpoenaed by the government), have each been served with a subpoena.

The new subpoenas come just over a month after the grand jury began meeting in Alexandria, Virginia on May 11 this year. Then, it was known at least one individual from Cambridge was issued a subpoena seeking to compel him to testify before a Grand Jury. And, Carrie Johnson of NPR, in one of the few articles published on the investigation by a US media organization, suggested “national security experts” could not “remember a time when the Justice Department has pursued so many criminal cases based on leaks of government secrets.”

Glenn Greenwald, who has been following the Grand Jury investigation since its inception, calls attention to the potential for witnesses to refuse to cooperate in this “pernicious investigation.”

One witness who has appeared before the Grand Jury has already refused to answer any questions beyond the most basic biographical ones (name and address), invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to do so, and other witnesses are highly likely to follow suit.

Greenwald illuminates what could happen in the event that a witness refuse to answer questions and suggests that if this happens the federal prosecutor could offer immunity. The offer would then mean anything said could not be used against the witness. But, then the witness would still be compelled to answer questions and, if the witness refused to answer questions, the witness could be found in contempt of court.

An attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, Jim Fennerty, who is representing anti-war and international solidarity activists subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury empanelled in Chicago, described this on the “This Week in WikiLeaks” podcast weeks ago.

…If you’re called for a grand jury, you’re usually given a subpoena to be there. My advice is if you get a subpoena you should call a lawyer immediately and get some legal advice. But, if you go to the grand jury, you then are called into the grand jury to answer questions. You cannot take a lawyer in there to answer questions with you. Your lawyer waits out in the hallway or adjacent room. What you can do then is, before you answer questions, you can say I am going to go back and consult with my attorney before answering…

You can refuse to answer the questions and invoke the Fifth Amendment. But then a witness called to appear must understand:

…If you go to a grand jury and they do say they are going to offer immunity but it’s not total immunity, it’s called use immunity, which means that if you say something they can’t use that against you to prosecute you if they uncover other evidence around the situation. They [can’t] use that evidence to come back and use it to prosecute you or indict you.

If you’re offered immunity, you have to decide if you will speak to the grand jury or not.

If you are given immunity and refuse to speak, then you will be taken before a judge at some time, that day or maybe couple weeks later, and you’ll be presented these questions again by a judge and the judge will order you to answer those questions. If you then refuse to answer those questions, you can then be held in civil contempt of the grand jury. And you can then be incarcerated for the life of the grand jury. People have spent months and months in jail just on civil contempt.

Greenwald notes that one witness is considering going to jail as an act of “civil disobedience” because the witness views “the attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks as such a profound assault on basic freedoms, including press freedoms.

During the podcast interview, Fennerty says the grand jury typically “rubberstamps what the government wants.” The prosecutor is part of the grand jury, the grand jurors get to hear one side of the story and they don’t get information from the other side.

If one considers the government’s war on those linked to WikiLeaks as part of the larger war on whistleblowing, which the Obama Administration is waging, then the use of the grand jury should be especially disturbing because grand juries have a history of being used as a tool of political repression. That this new McCarthyism could strike a blow to freedom of the press in America is even more troubling.

In the event that witnesses refuse to testify and participate in what some characterize as a fishing expedition, federal prosecutors involved in grand juries will typically try to peel off one individual by exploiting their fears or weaknesses. So, for example, someone like Manning’s ex-boyfriend could be considered a “weak link” and be exploited by the grand jury to crack and provide information to the grand jury.

In the case of the twenty-three activists Fennerty is representing, the activists have bound together in solidarity. They have held press conferences, rallies and participated in public speaking events describing the work they do to make the case in the court of public opinion that they are being persecuted for their work.

Fennerty finds this to be the right thing to do because those ensnared in grand juries cannot win in the courts. Those subpoenaed have to work to keep their side of the story in the news so the official story the grand jury tries to craft might be considered suspicious or disingenuous by the public.

Therefore, those subpoenaed might want to start a political support committee and take cues from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, which is a group that has formed to support the activists Fennerty is representing.

It will be up to those subpoenaed to decide how public they want to be about the investigation. The attorneys they have represent them will suggest they keep certain details secret but much of the government’s claims about them should be shared because the less mystery, the better chance the activists have of discrediting the government’s decision to issue subpoenas and launch an investigation into their activities in the first place.

Moreover, a support committee could truly open up a conversation about whether it is a crime to be connected to an organization like WikiLeaks and whether American citizens want to live in a society that criminalizes people who organize or work with this pro-transparency organization that, if one examines the evidence in media coverage and statements from US government officials, is not proven to have committed one single crime.

FBI Documents Show US Citizens Targeted for Interest in US Foreign Policy

9:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Antiwar and international solidarity activists, subjects of a federal grand jury investigation that alleges they may have provided “material support for terrorism,” uncovered documents on FBI guidelines and investigation practices left behind in an activist’s home that was raided in September of last year. The documents illuminate how the FBI has conducted surveillance of the activists being targeted in the investigation and further prove the grand jury is being used as a tool to go after political groups.

On September 24 of last year, the home of Lindon Gawboy and Mick Kelly, an activist who helped to organize a mass demonstration outside the Republican National Convention in 2008, was raided and subpoenaed. Gawboy was awoken by FBI pounding on her door. She came to the door and asked for a search warrant. The FBI ignored her request for a warrant and proceeded to use a battering ram, which took the door off its hinges and shattered a nearby fish tank.

The agents raiding Gawboy and Kelly’s home emptied file cabinets and desks and stacked files around the apartments. They set up and went through individual documents taking files away that were of interest to them. At some point during this process, an agent’s papers on the investigation became mixed in with Kelly’s files. And, presumably by chance, Gawboy found the revealed documents just weeks ago.

The documents show the investigation was “predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their travel to FARC controlled territory.” Bruce Nestor, an attorney advising individuals that have been issued subpoenas in this investigation, explains “predicate” is a word that typically connotes “what’s necessary to begin an investigation into protected First Amendment activity.”

Current FBI guidelines, according to Nestor, actually do not require a predicate to begin a preliminary question. This means the FBI can send agents and law enforcement officers into public meetings undercover to gather publicly available information and store that information about activists in perpetuity.

Sundin, a founding member of the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee, says she traveled to Colombia to witness peace talks between the FARC and the Colombia government. She flew into Colombia on an airplane owned by the Colombia military. Sundin was interested in what it would take to end a decades-long conflict in a country that is the biggest recipient of US military aid in Latin America.

“What I find disturbing about the line of questions is its attempt to stir up a kind of 1950s Red Scare within the antiwar movement,” declares Sundin. In particular, the questions indicate the FBI was interested in information on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

“It’s true some of us are socialists, but that’s not against the law. A lot of us have grievances with capitalism,” explains Sundin. “The government has no right to dictate to the antiwar movement who can and cannot be in our movement.”
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Grand Jury Investigation Into WikiLeaks Just Another Government ‘Fishing Expedition’

7:28 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A federal grand jury was scheduled to meet at 11 am EST in Alexandria, Virginia. The grand jury is being employed to “build” a case against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who just won a gold medal for peace and justice from the Sydney Peace Foundation.

“The WikiLeaks case is part of a much broader campaign by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers,” writes Carrie Johnson of NPR. Johnson is one of a few reporters in the US press who has published a report today on this stirring development in the United States. She finds “national security experts” cannot “remember a time when the Justice Department has pursued so many criminal cases based on leaks of government secrets.”

The number of people subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury is unclear (and not in any of the few news articles published on the grand jury so far). What is known is that at least one individual from Cambridge was issued a subpoena seeking to compel him to testify before a Grand Jury. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com reported the individual served had a public link to the WikiLeaks case and it was “highly likely” the subpoena was connected to the WikiLeaks Grand Jury investigation.

There are two other federal Grand Juries that are ongoing in the country. In San Jose, California, a Grand Jury has been empanelled to investigate the “hacktivist” group, Anonymous. Another Grand Jury in Chicago has been empanelled to target antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists for their political action.

The last news reports on the Grand Jury investigating Anonymous came in the beginning of February. Then the Grand Jury began to review “evidence” in multistate raids that took place on January 27. The “evidence” includes “computers and mobile phones seized from suspected leaders” and was to be used to investigate the “denial-of-service attacks” the group launched in December against MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and the UK-based Moneybookers.com.

There are not many details known. What is evident is those who are serving on the Grand Jury are working to piece together all the information that they have on Anonymous so the government might have a case, which could then lead to indictments.

Much further along in the grand jury process is the Grand Jury in Chicago. In fact, just days ago one of the activists, Hatem Abudayyeh, had his and his wife’s bank accounts frozen by the US Treasury Department. He and twenty-three activists from Chicago, Minneapolis and the greater Midwest have been subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury on suspicions of providing material support to foreign terrorist groups, Abudayyeh and thirteen other activists had their homes raided by the FBI back in September of last year. The activists were called to appear before a Grand Jury in October. More activists were raided and subpoenaed, bringing the total number of activists facing investigation to twenty-three by the end of the year. The activists were called to appear before the Grand Jury in Chicago on January 25 of this year. They all refused to testify.

The activists subpoenaed consider the Grand Jury investigation to be a “fishing expedition.” That, in fact, may be how Julian Assange and staff members of Wikileaks view the WikiLeaks Grand Jury investigation.

A statement on “Grand Juries” posted on the Coalition to Stop FBI Repression website explains the nature and processes of a federal grand jury.

A grand jury is a panel of jurors who hear evidence from a prosecutor and decide whether or not to charge someone with a crime. The grand jury can subpoena pretty much anyone they want and ask about anything, and people can be jailed for contempt if they do not answer questions. The jurors are hand-picked by prosecutors with no screen for bias. All evidence is presented by a prosecutor in a cloak of secrecy. The prosecutor has no responsibility to present evidence that favors those being investigated. Grand jury witnesses have no right to have a lawyer in the room to object to how the prosecutor is conducting the proceedings.

The grand jury process “dates back to the Nixon administration’s attack on the social movements of the 1970s.” One can surmise from the statement that Anonymous, WikiLeaks and antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists have become ensnared in a grand jury process that is “neither fair nor even handed, no matter who is in charge.”

A more detailed explanation of the grand jury process can be found in the archives of Firedoglake.com. User Masoninblue explains typically 17 to 23 citizens serve on the grand jury and meet once per week for about 18 months to hear witness testimony, review evidence and vote on the issuing of indictments. The Fifth Amendment requires all federal felony prosecutions to be by grand jury indictment “unless a defendant waives his right to be prosecuted by indictment and agrees to be prosecuted by information.”

A grand jury’s chief task is to vote on whether the government has “presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that the defendant(s) have committed crime(s) charged. Twelve members vote to approve the indictment. A “foreperson” of the grand jury hands down the indictment to a District Court Clerk’s Office.

Grand juries do not typically decline to issue indictments. All twenty-three of the subpoenaed activists are currently bracing themselves for indictments and have launched a “Pledge of Resistance” campaign to organize support for when they are indicted.

It is likely those subpoenaed in investigations of WikiLeaks and Anonymous will in the end be indicted too.

In case the process does not yet sound unfair or unjust, like something that can be used as “a tool for political repression,” consider the following:

Grand juries meet in secret and its members take an oath never to discuss what happens inside the grand jury room. The only other people present in the room when the grand jury is in session are a court reporter who transcribes the proceedings, a federal prosecutor who presents the government’s case, the case agent who is the law enforcement officer in charge of the investigation, and the witness who is testifying. Witnesses may appear with counsel, but their attorney must wait outside the grand jury room while the witness is testifying. The witness must answer all questions truthfully under penalty of perjury. The witness can request a recess in response to a question in order to consult with counsel outside the grand jury room. The witness may refuse to answer any question on the ground that a truthful answer might tend to incriminate the witness, or lead to the discovery of evidence that might tend to incriminate the witness. Since the Fifth Amendment protects this privilege to refuse to answer, no witness can be punished for refusing to answer a question on the basis of asserting the Fifth Amendment. Properly subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to appear before the grand jury, or who appear but refuse to answer questions without asserting the Fifth Amendment, may be held in contempt of the grand jury and jailed until such time as they agree to answer the question, or the grand jury term expires, whichever happens first.

These details can all be confirmed by Tom Burke, one of the twenty-three activists subpoenaed to appear before the Grand Jury in Chicago:

As an activist or any citizen, you’re called to face a grand jury where there’s no judge in the proceedings. There’s only the US prosecutor. It’s like a preemptive trial. So the US prosecutor gets to pick the 23 jurors. There’s no one from your side in the room. The US prosecutor guides the 23 through the process. They tend to want to help and identify with the prosecutor. They just hear one side of the story. When you enter the room, your lawyer is not allowed to be with you. You have to excuse yourself and go to the hallway to talk. Media is not allowed to watch it and you can’t have your family or friends support you in the room either.

The shady nature of the grand jury process has led all twenty-three activists being investigated to refuse to testify. They stand in solidarity and may face jail time. They know there may be consequences for not providing testimony, but they are convinced the Grand Jury they are being called to appear before is part of a new McCarthyism in America.

This is a choice those subpoenaed to testify in Alexandria can make. Those asked to speak on WikiLeaks’ operations can refuse to give testimony. If individuals subponeaed know the others who are being called before the grand jury, they can stand together united against a “fishing expedition” that seeks to conjure up a case.

It is not obvious or clear that any crime has been committed, but the government feels a burden, perhaps because of the political climate soured by Republican politicians, to prosecute and hold responsible at least someone they can claim was involved in recent WikiLeaks releases.

The government is likely to use information obtained through an order for Twitter user data from the accounts of three individuals linked to WikiLeaks: member of Icelandic Parliament, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Rop Gonggrijp, founder of Internet service provider XS4ALL, and Jacob Appelbaum, a computer programmer. Legal questions surrounding the obtaining of this data for investigating WikiLeaks may be all the more reason for those subpoenaed to testify to refuse to appear before the grand jury.

WikiLeaks has urged those seeking protection to contact the Center for Constitutional Rights.

US Dept of Treasury Freezes Activist’s Bank Accounts

10:15 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

*Scroll down for audio interview

Update – 3:10 PM New York Time

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 →

Standing Up for Bradley Manning, Opposing FBI Witch-Hunts of Activists

11:21 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Coleen Rowley being interviewed at an action at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. by Bill Hughes

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, nearly one week ago, a few hundred activists participated in two protest actions, one at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the other at Quantico Brig, where Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower who leaked the “Collateral Murder” video and possibly other information like the U.S. Embassy Cables to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement. The two actions had a profound connection: Martin Luther King. Jr, who if alive today would be standing up for Bradley Manning and against the FBI witch-hunt being carried out on activists in Chicago and the Twin Cities area.

Coleen Rowley, the former FBI agent and whistleblower, who was awarded TIME’s “Person of the Year” Award in 2002 (along with two other whistleblowers who received the award as well), explains in an interview, “To the extent that Manning seems to be a victim of this much greater official repression, it does hearken back to the days when a civil rights leader could be targeted by the FBI.”

An organizer with the Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF), Sue Udry, reported on the two actions explaining that more than one hundred gathered at the FBI headquarters at noon. About thirty people with Witness Against Torture, who were Washington, D.C., for their twelve days of fasting action to call attention to the Obama Administration’s failure to close Guantanamo, were there in orange jumpsuits. CODEPINK, people with DDF, and others from a local civil liberties organization showed up to call attention to the injustice going on in the Midwest.

On January 25th, twelve anti-war and international solidarity activists will be expected to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. They and eleven others from Chicago and the Twin Cities area in Minnesota in the past months were subpoenaed. Several of the activists had their homes raided. Documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers, and children’s artwork were seized from their home. The subpoenas indicated the FBI was looking for evidence that the activists had provided “material support for terrorism.” And, recently, it was discovered that the FBI had an informant, who went by the name of “Karen Sullivan,” infiltrate an anti-war group in the Twin Cities.

Rowley says of the FBI investigation, “History is repeating itself.” War has produced pressure to find terrorists at home. She said the war that we were told was going to be fought over there so we wouldn’t have to fight it here has now turned inward. She cites as evidence not only the infiltration of antiwar groups by informants but also the Office of Management and Guidance’s plans to looks for “unhappy employees in the government” who might be “disloyal.” Also, she believes the GOP has plans for “McCarthy-like” hearings in the House (perhaps, to be lead by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

The whistleblower, who spent twenty four years in the FBI before unveiling how the FBI had failed to take action on information provided by the Minneapolis, Minnesota Field Office on suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, recounts how the FBI informant “Karen Sullivan” became such a part of the Anti-War Committee:

If you go back to 2008 when this undercover actually came into Minnesota–and I was actually in two groups that she was first spotted at, not the Antiwar Committee, she was first spotted at a CODEPINK meeting where they were discussing that in the march on the [Republican National Convention] they were going to make big pink puppets. I mean, if you think about why would government even be spending its time sitting in a meeting talking about making puppets. That’s how unbelievable this is and I was actually sitting next to her. This was probably late spring of 2008.

Then she came to our banner peace vigils that my group–We had about twenty people and we held a red banner that said “Support the Troops, End the War” over a highway. Totally legal in Minnesota law. When I was sitting next to her, I said come to ours and hold this banner. She came four or five times to our vigil.”

At the US Social Forum in Detroit in June of 2010, she represented the Anti-War Committee. At the School of Americas Watch protest action, she helped lead the protest. At local meetings, she was taking leadership roles. This went on for two and a half years.

Rowley discusses how this happened during Vietnam. Martin Luther King Jr. was a victim of McCarthyism in the late “50s and early “60s. That later turned into COINTELPRO. She recounted how “the COINTELPRO group actually wrote an anonymous letter to MLK”that basically blackmailed him on the eve of his acceptance of his Nobel Peace Prize and suggested that he might want to commit suicide otherwise the FBI might release all this derogatory information they had.” Then the FBI went after feminists, antiwar activists, and advocacy groups like the National Lawyers Guild.

While the Church Committee did work to put strict restrictions on government agencies that would protect civil liberties in the late “70s, 9/11 provided the moment for government agencies to return to the days of COINTELPRO.

According to Rowley, in April of 2008, Attorney General guidelines were “eradicated” reversing the “presumption that you need level of factual justification” or something to show to support infiltrating or closely monitoring an activist group. This to her is largely symptomatic of the world created in the aftermath of 9/11, “Top Secret America,” which William M. Arkin and Dana Priest investigated for the Washington Post.

Part of it is, with 854,000 analysts, agents, consultants, operatives and contractors, 854,000 — Between you and I, the average salary has got to be close to $100,000 for each of these. They have to prove that they’re working. I can talk about the FBI that there are things called “work performance evaluations. And every so often there’s a periodic evaluation where you actually have to show your statistics and these are things like subpoenas served and arrests and convictions. And the emphasis is on “terrorism” because that’s the priority right now. So there’s a strong pressure to categorize many, many things as “terrorism.” And you’ve got to show that you’re doing something. In fact, some of those abuses that the IG were basically a slow work day. So they have to actually keep busy and they have to do things. So you’re going to this create systemic pressure toward opportunistic opening of cases, infiltrating, and even prosecuting.

It’s also quantity of massive data collection over quality, which actually is counterproductive. From the standpoint of law enforcement, what good does it do to collect all of this irrelevant data? All it’s doing is making it hard to focus in on any true terrorist threats.

She highlights how FBI wasting resources on infiltrating antiwar groups just might be why terrorists like Abdulmutallab, Shahzad and Hasan slipped past the FBI. If the FBI wasn’t sending people to infiltrate organizations like the Thomas Merton Center or protecting corporate profits by infiltrating and working to disrupt or stall environmental groups, they would have more of an ability to actually prevent terror attacks.

Following the action, activists traveled thirty miles south to Quantico Brig to support Manning. Udry reported activists were not allowed to hold protest on base property and were asked to hold the protest in a commuter parking lot across a street that led to the gate of the base. About seventy or more began the protest there, but, ultimately, those in this lot decided they had come all this way to deliver a box of humanitarian aid containing blankets, books, candy, etc to Manning and were going to deliver the aid.

Activists marched with banners and signs saying, “Free Bradley Manning,” to the gate of the base and were able to hold the rally there. Udry explained that marine personnel were very respectful and easy to work with. The activists had been told to not protest in this area, but, except for some marines going in and out, who were yelling nasty remarks, the marines operating the gate were “pretty cool about it for marines.”

The marines at the base would not accept the humanitarian aid.


From the action at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on MLK Day. by Bill Hughes

Member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, Kevin Zeese, was one of the leaders of the march to gate of the base. He wrote in an article published on OpEdNews, “On Martin Luther King Day I joined 200 people at the Quantico Marine Base where Bradley Manning, an American citizen not convicted of anything, is being held in solitary confinement, not allowed to exercise in his 6 by 12 foot cell, not given a real pillow or blanket, with no contact with others except guards who make sure he does not sleep during the day after they wake him up at 5 in the morning.”

His treatment is what led Manning’s lawyer, David E. Coombs, to file a formal complaint alleging “the action of holding PFC Manning in Maximum (MAX) custody, under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch for over five months and recently placing him under suicide risk was an abuse of CWO4 James Averhart’s discretion, and a wrong within the meaning of Article 138, UCMJ.” It’s what led former commander of Headquarters Company at Quantico, David C. MacMichael, to object to the treatment of Bradley Manning.

In the letter, MacMichael wrote, “I wonder, in the first place, why an Army enlisted man is being held in a Marine Corps installation. Second, I question the length of confinement prior to conduct of court-martial. The sixth amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing to the accused in all criminal prosecutions the right to a speedy and public trial, extends to those being prosecuted in the military justice system. Third, I seriously doubt that the conditions of his confinement–solitary confinement, sleep interruption, denial of all but minimal physical exercise, etc.–are necessary, customary, or in accordance with law, US or international.”

On Manning and WikiLeaks, Rowley says, being a whistleblower herself, she is sympathetic to the need for releasing information when there is a case of illegal action on the part of the government. If, in fact, Manning leaked materials to WikiLeaks, she believes he did disclose evidence of war crimes so his action would be justified.

Rowley agrees the U.S. military code might provide cover for what Manning did. In the federal government, the government ethics code urges employees to disclose evidence of misconduct or wrongdoing.

Manning was caught “in a rock and a hard place.” The My Lai massacre was very similar. People know they are not supposed to be complicit with a crime but, on the other hand, if crimes are reported, those reporting the crimes will be held responsible. Rowley contends that if photos from Abu Ghraib had not gotten out and members of the military there had just complained to superiors of torture procedures would not have changed. Public disclosure forced the military to refine its operations.

As with FBI activists who are being forced to go before a grand jury in Chicago, a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, has been considering how to pursue criminal charges in the WikiLeaks case. Julian Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, told Al-Jazeera’s David Frost in December of 2010 that they had heard from Swedish authorities that a “secret empaneled grand jury” is investigating how to move forward. Attorneys and lawyers have been developing scenarios for justifying the extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S. from Sweden if Sweden successfully forces Britain to turn him over to Swedish authorities.

The top-down repression of people taking individual action against what they perceive as crimes–the activists being subjected to a witch-hunt by the FBI for mobilizing against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for sending individuals to form relationships with people in Palestine and Colombia, and the detention of Bradley Manning and the entrapment of Julian Assange in a seemingly endless cobweb of legal proceedings–can have the broad-based effect of discouraging independent action. But, people need not be discouraged from marching in the streets. They need not be discouraged from organizing lawful antiwar rallies or marches or trips to other countries or afraid of following their conscience when they witness criminal misconduct.

Activists who are exercising their rights are being subjected to a post-9/11 form of McCarthyism. Bradley Manning is being held as a “maximum security detainee.” The government is abusing its power and the only check on this power, especially when political leaders in democracy fail to object, are we the people, standing up to support the right for truth to win out and the rights of all people to be upheld no matter what people think about government and society.

FBI Continues to Target Activists in Chicago and Minneapolis (VIDEO)

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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:

Chicago Activists Raided by FBI Refuse to Participate in “Fishing Expedition”

10:15 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


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: