October 3, 2010

Stop FBI Raids and Harassment of Activists Opposing U.S. Intervention in Colombia and the Middle East

Statement by the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban Five

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
-The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

On September 24, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided seven homes and an office in Chicago, Minneapolis, and North Carolina and subpoena’d eleven activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan to testify before a Grand Jury. We denounce this harassment of anti-war and Latin American solidarity activists. We call on the Department of Justice and the FBI to stop the grand jury investigation into their activities, and to return all their seized possessions.

By seizing from those raided every computer hard drive, disk, cell phone, file and papers they could find, including unrelated personal possessions stretching back for 30 years, the authorities have simply revealed they are on a “fishing expedition.” The activists have not been charged with anything. Rather, the FBI has confiscated their possessions and will see if they can find something to charge them with. Like the Red Queen of Alice in Wonderland, who insisted that the execution of prisoners should take place before the trial, the FBI is making the confiscations before the investigation. The FBI is illegally violating the privacy and constitutional rights of those they have unjustly targeted with the sham excuse of combating terrorism.

The subpoenas ordered the recipients to bring with them to the Grand Jury proceedings:

“(1) all pictures and videos relating to any trip to Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, or Israel;
(2) all items relating to any trip to Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, or Israel;
(3) all correspondence, including but not limited to emails and letters, with anyone residing in Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, or Israel;
(4) all records of any payment provided directly or indirectly to Hatem Abudayyeh [our note: director of Chicago’s Arab American Action Network], the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (“PFLP”) or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (“FARC”);
(5) all records of any telephonic or electronic communications with anyone in Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, or Israel; and
(6) any item related to any support provided to any designated terrorist organization, including the PFLP or the FARC.”

The FBI has indicated that the grand jury is looking for evidence that activists have violated the ban of “material support” for groups designated as “terrorist” by the United States government. Under a recent Supreme Court decision, ‘material support’ is defined to include any ‘service,’ ‘training,’ ‘expert advice or assistance’ or ‘personnel.’ As one of the losing lawyers in the case argued, under this interpretation, former President Carter would have recently violated this law by advising Hezbollah and other groups on election procedures. Violations of the law are punishable by 15 years imprisonment.

We consider the current persecution of Colombia, Palestine solidarity and anti-war/trade union activists as a step towards criminalization of all actions in solidarity with governments and peoples of the world fighting corporate domination. We think this is an extremely dangerous attack on civil liberties by the Obama Administration and must be opposed.

The activists involved have done nothing wrong. They do not use guns and bombs. They are not terrorists. Their "weapons" are leaflets, newsletters, and nonviolent demonstrations. They participate in groups like the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Arab American Action Network. Most of these activists came together with many others to organize the 2008 anti-war marches on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

They have also been founding members of the Venezuela Solidarity Network, long time opponents of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, and supporters of the five Cuban political prisoners who have been unjustly imprisoned in the US for over 12 years. Since the U.S. government lists Cuba, without any justification, as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” and since the recent Supreme Court ruling declares providing “service” as “material aid to terrorism,” the present case also opens the door to the prosecution of anyone working to free the Cuban five, or to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba, as providing material aid to terrorism.

It is the height of hypocrisy that while the FBI harasses these law-abiding anti-war activists, it shields actual violent terrorists such as Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. These two live openly in Miami even though they are wanted by Venezuela for the murder of 73 civilians when they blew up a Cubana passenger airplane.

A few days before the raids, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice had blasted the FBI for spying on anti-war activists, animal-rights groups, and environmentalists, calling the improper "terror" investigations "unreasonable and inconsistent with FBI policy." Among those targeted were the anti-war Thomas Merton Center, the Quakers, the Catholic Worker, Greenpeace, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The DOJ report described a "complete breakdown" of procedures within the FBI. Agents repeatedly and knowingly violated the law by invoking nonexistent "terror emergencies" to get access to information they were not authorized to have. The present raids are a continuation of these abuses.

The FBI has a long history of lawless abuse of its authority. If we do not act to curtail these actions we are all in danger of being spied on and added to terrorist watch lists for doing nothing more than attending a rally, signing a petition or holding a sign.

Contact President Barack Obama (202-456-1111) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (202-353-1555) to demand an end to the FBI raids and to demand that the grand jury witch hunt be closed down immediately. Tell them:

* Stop the repression against trade union, anti-war and international solidarity activists.
* Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, personal belongings, etc.
* Stop the Grand Jury proceedings and FBI raids against trade union, anti- war and international solidarity activists.

Send messages as well to your Representative and Senators and let them know they also must speak out against this FBI abuse of our constitutional rights. Tell them to hold hearings to investigate the extent of domestic spying on Americans who are merely exercising the rights to free speech, to assembly, and to petition the government.