F.B.I. raids over the weekend in Minneapolis and Chicago aimed to “quiet activists”.
Government agents raided the home of a Palestinian-American antiwar activist in Chicago, Friday, “in an attempt to silence his advocacy, an attorney said Sunday”, The Associated Press reported Sunday evening (via The New York Times):
The F.B.I. on Friday searched eight addresses in Minneapolis and Chicago, including the home of Hatem Abudayyeh, who is the executive director of the Arab American Action Network, attorney Jim Fennerty told The Associated Press.
“The government’s trying to quiet activists,” Fennerty said. “This case is really scary.”
More than half a dozen agents went to Abudayyeh’s home on Friday and took any documents containing the word “Palestine,” Fennerty said.
Abudayyeh, a U.S. citizen whose parent immigrated from Palestine, wasn’t home at the time of the raid because he was at a hospital with his mother who is battling liver cancer, Fennerty said.
Warrants suggested agents were looking for links between anti-war activists and terrorist groups in Colombia and the Middle East.
Jason Ditz at AntiWar News added:
Beyond that a number of the activists raided were served with subpoenas demanding that they appear in Chicago before a Grand Jury and provide them with any evidence of any contact they had with anybody in a number of countries, including Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Officials seem to be fishing for evidence that they can somehow used to tie the domestic antiwar movement to some foreign terrorist group and charge its members with providing “material aid to terrorism.” Yet whether they can manufacture this evidence or not, the tactics used in the search seem certain to have a deleterious effect on the ablity to speak out against the administration going forward.
Patrick Martin at the World Socialist Web Site called the raids “an ominous warning that the U.S. government, unable to convince the American people to support the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a predatory foreign policy around the world, is moving to criminalize open political opposition”, adequately adding:
At a press conference Saturday in Chicago, two of those targeted, Joe Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner, gave details of the raid. Twenty F.B.I. agents ransacked their home, taking away more than 30 boxes of papers, correspondence and personal items dating back over four decades. At several of the homes raided, F.B.I. agents seized computers and cell phones.
While no one was arrested—a fact that in itself demonstrates there was no “terrorist” threat—many of those targeted were given subpoenas to appear before federal grand juries next month. They will apparently be questioned particularly about their personal travel to foreign countries where they met openly with political and labor groups.
Those targeted in the September 24 raids are not terrorists stockpiling bombs, but political activists whose “weapons” are leaflets, placards, newsletters and Internet postings.
An F.B.I. spokesman claimed that the raids were aimed at people “providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support” to terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). But there is no evidence tying any of those targeted in the raids to terrorism.
The FBI is apparently attempting to use the precedent set by the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of The Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder. In this reactionary decision, handed down in June, the high court upheld the charge of “material support” to terrorism against people who were working with the P.K.K., a Kurdish nationalist guerrilla group fighting in Turkey, and the L.T.T.E., the Tamil nationalist organization fighting a civil war in Sri Lanka.
The individuals charged in that case were not providing military or technical assistance to guerrilla warfare. Some were seeking to persuade the P.K.K. to make the transition from guerrilla warfare to electoral politics in Turkey (as the Irish Republican Army did in Northern Ireland, under the auspices of the Clinton administration). Others were advising the L.T.T.E., during a period of ceasefire in the Sri Lankan civil war, on how to obtain disaster aid for the Tamil population after the 2004 Asian tsunami.
Both the P.K.K. and L.T.T.E. had been designated as “terrorist” organizations by the U.S. State Department because they were fighting governments allied to Washington. Similar organizations fighting governments at odds with U.S. foreign policy were not so designated, although their tactics were identical.
If the Holder precedent had been in effect during the 1980s, antiapartheid campaigners in the United States could have been arrested and prosecuted for “material support,” because the Reagan administration had designated the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela as “terrorists.”
The Bush Justice Department brought the “material support” charges and the Obama Justice Department carried the case to a successful conclusion at the Supreme Court, a fact which underscores the continuity between the Republicans and the Democrats when it comes to attacking the democratic rights of the American people.
The September 24 raids came only four days after publication of an internal report by the Justice Department’s inspector general admitting that the F.B.I. improperly opened “terrorism” investigations into peace and social justice groups including Quakers, Catholic Worker, the Thomas Merton Center, Greenpeace, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Beware, peacemongers! The government hates you because it’s rooted in violence.