October 8, 2010

FBI Raids Erode First Amendment

Statement from Friends for a Non-Violent World

The FBI raids of anti-war activists in September, 2010, are symptomatic of a trend:  the erosion of our fundamental democratic rights in the name of national security and the “war on terror.” In recent years, federal legislation, new Attorney General Guidelines and Supreme Court decisions have made it easier to both criminalize and curtail dissent. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have advocated for, upheld and applied broad and poorly defined federal law and regulations to limit civil liberties.

We expect our government to provide security for its citizens. We recognize the enormous complexities and challenges this entails.  Unfortunately, during times of war or fear, our government has abridged constitutional rights.  We feel called upon to speak out in defense of our First Amendment and constitutional rights, against the intimidation of advocacy groups, and  urge the government not to replicate past injustices upon our own citizens or onto people abroad.

FNVW does not share the perspectives or approaches of some of the groups or activists who were raided.  However, First Amendment rights ensure that citizens have a right to express and debate a variety of perspectives free from government scrutiny or interference.

We believe there must be an ongoing public discussion on how national security measures are impacting our democracy. We strongly oppose government efforts to criminalize speech and dissent through the broad interpretation of anti-terrorism law, which is inconsistent with First Amendment guarantees. We call upon our elected officials to restore our constitutional rights.

We urge all FNVW members to ask our Minnesota congressional delegation to:

· Call for Judiciary Committee hearings, similar to the Church committee hearings of 1976, to review the FBI’s implementation of anti-terrorism laws and ensure the First Amendment rights of advocacy groups.

· Work to redefine and limit the legal definition of “material support” so it is not inconsistent with First Amendment guarantees.

· Tighten the broad definitions of domestic terrorism in federal law and reclassify acts such as trespassing and vandalism.

We urge FNVW members to call the Attorney General’s office at 202-353-1555 and demand that he restore, promote and prioritize legislation which supports constitutional rights and international standards, and to apply strict guidelines porhibiting the surveillance and targeting of activists.

Bob Nechal, Board President
Erika Thorne, Interim Executive Director
Gail Daneker, Director of Peace Education