FBI Agent’s Accidental Document Dump—and Uncle Sam’s Fear of Antiwar Activists

Candice Bernd

Once in a while, the federal government’s veil of secrecy is pulled back to reveal the inner-workings of the Pentagon or another department or agency. Usually a whistleblower does the pulling—think Daniel Ellsberg or Bradley Manning. But once in a long while, a federal employee accidentally exposes what the government is thinking.That’s exactly what an FBI agent did last September while raiding the home of antiwar activists Mick Kelly and Linden Gawboy in Minneapolis. The couple's home was one of more than half a dozen raided by scores of agents that day as part of a grand jury investigation into U.S. activists’ alleged “material support” for terrorist organizations. (See “Terrorist By Association,” our December 2010 cover story.)On May 18, The Committee to Stop FBI Repression, organized by those targeted by the late September raids, released five secret documents the FBI left behind in Kelly and Gawboy’s home. They include the raid operation order, Kelly’s subpoena, photos of the outside of the residence, a list of items seized from the residence and a list of interrogation questions.Kelly said the FBI emptied all of the couple’s filing cabinets on September 24. Filing folders were scattered throughout their apartment. After the FBI took the files they wanted, their own files became mixed in during the refilling process. Gawboy found the FBI documents on April 30 in a filing cabinet.Special FBI Agent Steve Warfield, who works in the bureau’s Minneapolis office, admitted the documents belonged to the FBI, but did not confirm the list of interrogation questions was theirs.The documents show that SWAT Team members were ordered to carry assault rifles and machine guns into the couple’s residence along with extra clips of ammunition. Two medics were on standby, and hostage negotiators were notified. The word “DANGEROUS” is top-center on the operation order.A slew of questions were aimed at Kelly because of his gun ownership, including questions about weapons training for Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) members. FRSO is a nonviolent group that organizes around an array of social justice issues through student and labor groups. According to the documents, Kelly is a “subject considered dangerous due to possession of weapons.” Kelly says his guns are entirely unrelated to his activism and membership within the FRSO. He learned to shoot when he was in the Boy Scouts of America.“The weapons training is a fantasy and a lie,” Kelly said. “It’s most likely point of origin is with the infiltrator, a professional liar.”The documents also contain questions that focus on the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, a progressive organization in the West Bank and Gaza working for women’s rights.Reminiscent of the May 2009 case against the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation (HLF), the attorney general’s investigation is partly centered on small donations given to Women’s Committee nurseries and healthcare projects.The government will likely try to prove “material support” for terrorism based on these donations, as they did with the HLF’s contributions to charities that feed and clothe children in Gaza. Prosecutors said those charities were connected to Hamas. The claim is that the Women’s Committee has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, another U.S.-designated foreign terrorist group.Fourteen U.S. activists were initially subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury last September. Eleven more activists have since been subpoenaed. On December 3, three women who went on a delegation to Palestine were subpoenaed in Chicago, and two more antiwar and Palestinian solidarity activists were subpoenaed on December 8. An additional four were subpoenaed in Chicago on December 21, including one journalist.Nine organizers refused to testify before a Grand Jury hearing scheduled in January; instead, they released a statement calling the subpoenas a “fishing expedition.” None have been charged with a crime.On May 6, the bank account of Arab-American Action Network Executive Director Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife was frozen by Twin Cities Federal Bank. It is still not clear who ordered the freeze on their account. Neither U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald nor the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control claim responsibility, according to Tom Burke, spokesman for The Committee to Stop FBI Repression.After Abudayyeh’s lawyer called Fitzgerald’s office about the freeze, prosecutors revealed they are still preparing to bring indictments against subpoenaed activists.As the grand jury investigation has continued, so have FBI raids of antiwar and solidarity activists.On May 17, the home of Immigrant Rights Activist Carlos Montes was raided by the Los Angeles police and the FBI. He was asked about the FRSO, though he is not a member. He has been subpoenaed to appear in court on felony charges. Montes was key in organizing many Chicano students’ school walkouts for civil rights, access to education and against the Vietnam War during the 1960s. He is subject of the 2006 film Walkout.The Committee to Stop FBI Repression has organized several protests and campaigns around the country as part of a larger pushback against the bureau, and is gathering signatures for a petition to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder seeking to halt FBI practices against organizers. So far there are more than 3,400 signatories. The committee is also organizing to support Montes.Kelly, who is also involved with The Committee, said that the dropped documents prove the raids represent a new brand of McCarthyism in the 21st century. During a May 27 protest in Minneapolis, where Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to give a speech, Kelly met Holder, who told him they would have to “agree to disagree.”Committee Spokesman Tom Burke said that while the original targets of the FBI raids were centered on antiwar and solidarity activists, they are now branching out to target immigrant rights activists. “The government repression is bringing our movements together,” Burke said.

Candice Bernd is an editor and staff reporter at Truthout. Her work has also appeared in several other publications, including The Nation, In These Times, the Texas Observer, Salon, Rewire.News, YES! Magazine and Earth Island Journal, as well as in Truthouts anthology on police violence, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? She received two awards from the San Francisco Press Club in November 2018, and the Dallas Peace and Justice Center’s annual journalism award in December 2016. Follow her on Twitter: @CandiceBernd.
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