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Tuesday, Oct 5, 2010, 9:59 am

Another Round of Anti-Terrorist FBI House Raids. Has Anything Changed Under Obama?

By David Szydloski

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In the early morning hours of September 27, 2010, two houses in Chicago and six in Minneapolis were raided by FBI agents. No arrests were made, but documents, computers, and electronic storage equipment was seized.

Officially, the raids were part of a “Joint Terrorist Taskforce Operation” that was "looking at activities connected to the material support of terrorism." Here's the breakdown of the victims of the raids:

In Chicago:

• The Logan Square home of “Stephanie Weiner, an adult-education instructor at Wilbur Wright College, and Joseph Iosbaker, assistant to the associate chancellor for sustainability at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was raided by 20 FBI agents.

• The Jefferson Park apartment of immigrant activist Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network, also was raided.

• Thomas Burke, a Chicago attorney and activist, was served with a grand jury subpoena.

In Minneapolis:

• Jess Sudin of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee also had her house raided. She indicated to reporters that she knows of at least 14 others who have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago.

• Mick Kelly—search warrant here—along with Sudin, helped coordinate protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention that were also the target of a coordinated series of pre-emptive arrests and detentions.

(Party conventions seem to be an ideal place to repress free speech, whether it's Chicago in 1968, Miami in 1972, New York’s massive imprisonments of protesters during the 2004 RNC convention in New York and the 2008 DNC Convention in Denver, which operated "free speech zones" within fenced-in enclosures away from the convention venue.)

Sundin and Kelly have ties to activist groups (including the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Palestine Solidarity Group, Students for a Democratic Society, the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network) and have traveled in the Middle East and Colombia. But they all denied contributing any money to terrorist groups. Kelly commented: "We barely have money to publish our magazine. We might write about (revolutionary groups) favorably, but as for giving them material aid, nothing."

What Kelly might not know is that, since the Supreme Court's decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2009), the government’s interpretation of what counts as material support includes much of what lay people might believe should be protected speech under the First Amendment.

As David Cole, professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, said when the decision was released:

According to today’s Supreme Court decision, advocating for human rights and peace can be prosecuted as a “terrorist” crime, punishable by 15 years in prison.

Under this ruling, President Jimmy Carter, in monitoring an election in Lebanon, would be providing “material support” to Hezbollah.

It does not matter that the speaker intends to support only nonviolent activity, and indeed seeks to discourage a resort to violence. It does not matter if the speech in fact convinces its listeners to abandon violence.

Both the Holder decision and last week's raids continue a trend of domestic spying on activist groups which did not stop with COINTELPRO or the Church Committee. Anti-war protesters have been targeted in many ways, including being infiltrated by FBI moles. Last month the Department of Justice’s Inspector General released a report entitled "A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups", detailing a number of abuses by such terrorist threats as the Thomas Merton Society of Pittsburgh, PETA, Greenpeace, and The Catholic Worker Movement.

Former-FBI agent Colleen Rowley details one such waste of resources (Full Interview from Democracy Now!): "n 2008, we found out through a Freedom of Information request that there’s 300 pages of—I think it was four or five, six agents trailing a group of students in Iowa City to parks, libraries, bars, restaurants. They even went through their trash."

Raiding peace groups is also relevant in the context of Barack Obama's continuation and extension of many of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy initiatives. Glen Greenwald has been particularly good at looking at the Obama administration’s positions regarding legal procedures for Guantanamo detainees and executive power as well as arguments for the assassination of an American citizen overseas without capture or trial.

During this election season, it's difficult for the Left to hear calls for more enthusiasm for and trust of the Democratic party, when the government in which the party dominates does not have that same trust and enthusiasm for it. Regardless of party or political convictions, domestic spying and lack of government transparency affects—and should worry—all U.S. citizens.

Too often, it seems, the government is devoting resources to tracking and harassing peaceful protesters rather than focusing on real threats.
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