Sunday, January 30, 2011

Final Call Newspaper on FBI Repression

By Saeed Shabazz

From: Final Call Newspaper

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression late last year asked Congress to stop alleged F.B.I. and Justice Dept. attacks on the anti-war movement. Activists plan to hold national protests Jan. 25 to decry federal subpoenas issued against critics of U.S. military policy and actions against Palestinians. The subpoenas violate constitutional rights and are intended to squelch political dissent, the group said.

Anti-war activists and advocates for just U.S. foreign policy say they won't buckle to government pressure or honor subpoenas ordering them to report to a Chicago grand jury on Jan. 25. Instead the activists, who have spoken out against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people and American military incursions, plan to protest what they call government harassment and violation of free speech rights.

U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to deliver nine new subpoenas to activists belonging to organizations including the Minnesota-based Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

“There's nothing on my subpoena that says why they want to talk to me,”Maureen Murphy told The Final Call. Ms. Murphy belongs to the Chicago-based Palestine Solidarity Group and is also editor of The Electronic Intifada, an online publication. “I don't plan to talk to them on the 25th,” she said.

Last October, activists from Chicago, Michigan and Minnesota who had been subpoenaed Sept. 24, 2010 decided not to participate in the secret proceedings of the grand jury and signed a letter invoking their Fifth Amendment rights. The constitution protects Americans from self-incrimination. The 14 people called to testify say the government action isn't about any wrongdoing but is about politics—and shutting down government critics.

“No one has been arrested or charged with any crime; nor has the government specified any alleged crimes that it might be investigating,”observed Ms. Murphy.

Three women from Minnesota, however, have been given re-activated subpoenas.

These modern-day FBI attacks are a continuation of the FBI's ongoing practice of trying to discredit and stop any movements for social change, said Sara Flounders, co-director of the New York-based International Action Network during an interview with The Final Call.

Analysts say a grand jury is used as a tool to round people up—and a tool to intimidate people. It is also highly undemocratic process that has been abolished in many states in the U.S., but not in Illinois, they added.

“The grand jury met for a year in secret before the FBI began its program of literally raiding and sacking people's homes,”Ms. Flounders noted. In Sept. 2010 the FBI raided seven homes and offices of anti-war activists in Minnesota and seized information, cell phones and other items.

Organizations and individuals in 35 U.S. cities—from Seattle, Wash. to Tallahassee, Fla.—plan to stand together on Jan. 25 to protest the federal government's attempt to silence and criminalize anti-war and Palestinian rights activists.

“This is an attack on our freedom to speak, our freedom to assemble; and our freedom to tell the government that their actions and policies are wrong,” Ms. Murphy said.

Ironically in Sept. 2010, the U.S. Dept. of Justice Office of the Inspector General's Oversight and Review Division issued a report, “A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups,” which found the bureau “improperly spied on American activists involved in First Amendment protected activities.”

“The activists that have been subpoenaed are teaching a lesson to the entire movement on how to handle this attack on our basic freedoms; they are showing us how to stand in solidarity—how to build mass support across the country to combat these FBI attacks,”Ms. Flounders said.

The activists have formed an umbrella organization called the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and lists the following demands on its website: Stop the repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists; immediately return all confiscated materials such as cell phones, papers, documents, etc.; and end the grand jury proceedings.

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