The Feds Go Fishing
Back in September 2010, a series of FBI raids were conducted in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago and North Carolina. These raids were conducted under laws pertaining to US citizens providing “material aid to terrorists” and targeted members of antiwar, leftist, and solidarity organizations. Since the raids, various activists that were targeted have been subpoenaed to appear at a grand jury and have refused to do so. By refusing, those subpoenaed are risking arrest for contempt. However, as of this writing, none have been taken to jail yet. As I wrote in an article first published in CounterPunch on September 27, 2010: “These raids are a clear and vicious attempt to intimidate the antiwar movement.” and the grand jury “is a fishing expedition, as evidenced (for example) by the warrant asking for papers from no determined time.”
The reaction of those whose homes were raided and their supporters was quick and determined. The targeted activists, their attorneys, and local supporters held a couple of press conferences within days of the raids and original subpoenas and a national network organized protests at Federal Buildings in a number of US cities and towns. Resolutions attacking the raids and subpoenas and pledging support for the activists and the right to organize were introduced and passed by a number of city councils and antiwar and labor organizations. The office of the US Attorney for the Northern Illinois District under the direction of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald temporarily withdrew the subpoenas. However, they were reinstated in December, leading to the aforementioned refusal of those subpoenaed to appear in front of the grand jury. Several more subpoenas were served on other activists. In fact, nine more activists have been ordered to testify before the grand jury on January 25, 2011 in Chicago.
A sidebar regarding Patrick Fitzgerald might be beneficial here. If that name seems familiar, it is because he is associated with many high profile cases. He helped prosecute Scooter Libby in the case known as the Valerie Plame affair. For those who don’t remember this case, it involved members of the George Bush White House releasing the name of a CIA agent to the media–a federal offense. Although Libby was convicted of the crime, it has always been believed that others in the White House, including Vice President Cheney, were involved in its commission. This demands the question as to why no one else was prosecuted and how much the prosecutor (Fitzpatrick) was involved in limiting the prosecution to one individual, thereby sparing the White House from a criminal investigation. Patrick has also been involved in many other high profile cases, including the prosecution off Illinois governors Ryan and Blagojevich in separate corruption cases and a case involving torture by the Chicago police that resulted in the conviction of Chicago detective Jon Burge.
In another investigation targeting leftist, anarchist and antiwar political activists in the Twin Cities, several homes and offices were raided before and during the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. If one recalls, that convention also saw the arrest of media members including Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, brutal attacks on protestors by police and private “contractors” working with police, and a lockdown against free speech activities in certain areas of the city. Several hundred people were arrested and many were beaten. Nine organizers were eventually charged with acts of terrorism. During their trial it became clear that the organizations these individuals were affiliated with had been infiltrated by government informers.
Similarly, last week the AntiWar Committee (one of the organizations targeted in the September raids) of the Twin Cities discovered that they too had had an informer in their midst since 2008. Going by the name Karen Sullivan, this woman claimed to be a single parent and a lesbian who did not get along with her child’s father. According to statements from members of the AntiWar Committee that appeared in the press, the group’s members were sympathetic to her cover story and, despite an initial concern by some members, accepted and befriended the woman. Also, since the AntiWar Committee (AWC) believed their meetings and activities to be covered by the first amendment and were always open to the public, there was little concern for secrecy.
“Ms. Sullivan” involved herself in AWC activities and meetings, even chairing some of them. She was also one of three AWC members that traveled to Palestine. As soon as they reached Israel, the members were told they would be detained unless they turned back. Two chose to stay and were detained while “Sullivan” went back to the US. It turns out that the Israeli authorities had prior knowledge of the visit and the intention of the group to meet with Palestinian women. While no one in the group could figure out how this was so, it seems apparent now that the “Ms. Sullivan” had provided this information to her handler who had in turn provided it to US officials, who then passed it on to the Israeli government.
In the wake of the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona there have been calls by a number of politicians, media commentators and others suggesting the need for new laws limiting political speech in the United States. Meanwhile, efforts are underway in Congress to renew sections of the PATRIOT Act that are due to expire soon. History tells us that when laws designed to curb political speech are enacted in the US, they are used primarily against groups and individuals on the left side of the political spectrum. There is no need for more laws. Instead, there is a need for more free speech. Laws like the PATRIOT Act and The Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996 and the subsequent interpretation of those laws by the courts have criminalized political activities that were previously legal. The investigation that led to the raids and grand juries discussed here are an example of this.
The intention of the government in this and other similar investigations is to intimidate people into keeping silent so they can carry on their business with a minimum amount of attention from the public. As the discovery of an informer in the AWC shows, they will stop at nothing in their attempt to silence protest against their imperial designs. It doesn’t matter if they get any convictions or even an indictment out of their fishing expedition. If they have intimidated those who oppose imperial war and support people around the world in their struggle against military occupation, they will have accomplished their goal. This is reason enough to support those currently targeted by the FBI in the investigations discussed here. It is more than enough reason to attend the protests against the grand jury on January 25, 2011 around the US.
Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. His most recent book, titled Tripping Through the American Night is published as an ebook. Fomite (Burlington, VT.) is publishing his new novel, titled The Co-Conspirator’s Tale in Spring 2011 He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org