Obama’s war on dissent

United resistance pushes back against FBI raids and grand jury

By Linda Averill
Freedom Socialist

War on terror? Nope, it’s a war on dissent, as the feds raid anti-war groups’ offices and homes and open a grand jury witch hunt. And, since the FS went to press, the government has delivered subpoenas to nine additional Midwest activists – bringing the total to 23. For more information, click here.

In the early hours of Sept. 24, gun-toting FBI agents broke into the homes of anti-war activists and socialists in Minneapolis and Chicago, hauling away boxes of personal belongings and movement records. By afternoon, those raided held a press conference and called for support to thwart the government’s newest witchhunt against political dissidents.

Help came quickly. Within the week, protesters marched on FBI offices across the country. In October, 60 demonstrations were held across the country and in November, conferences, forums and protests kept the FBI’s break-ins spotlighted.

“This is an issue that affects everyone,” said Meredith Aby in an interview with this reporter. One of those raided, Aby added, “I’m touched by the fact that people really get it.”

Agents served grand jury subpoenas on 14 people in Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan. But on Oct. 5, rather than testify, they mounted public speakouts!

In an impressive display of solidarity, all 14 refused to participate in the grand jury, where witnesses would be forced to name associates, including opponents of the U.S.-backed regime in Colombia. This could get them killed.

FBI vs. activists. The government has several options: more raids, arrests, subpoenas, or jail time to compel grand jury testimony. A grand jury is a secret inquiry, where prosecutors can badger witnesses with no defense attorney or judge to intervene. The jury, after hearing this biased proceeding, usually decides what prosecutors want.

Meanwhile, the FBI is also harassing other activists, including visits to worksites. (See What to do if the FBI comes knocking.)

Rather than wait and worry, peace activists are organizing to halt the government’s intimidation tactics. More than 60 of Minnesota’s state legislators have signed a letter calling on President Obama and congressional representatives to investigate the FBI’s actions. Coalitions have sprung up in several locations. Call-ins during October flooded the office of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Why these activists? Federal raids have mostly gone after individuals, usually immigrants and foreign-focused charity organizations. In a disturbing escalation, the Sept. 24 broadside targeted a leftist, U.S. group, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). Warrants served demanded documents showing “the recruitment, indoctrination, and facilitation of other individuals in the U.S. to join Freedom Road Socialist Organization as well as to travel to Colombia and Palestine.”

In pursuing FRSO, allies are dragged into the net, including the Minneapolis Antiwar Coalition, Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, Palestinian Solidarity Committee, and Arab American Action Network.

The purpose? To silence anti-war dissent and criticism of regimes that the U.S. funds, such as Colombia and Israel.

Historically, when the Feds take aim at socialists, the goal is to minimize leftist influence on the movements. In one of the most infamous examples of a witch-hunt, the McCarthy Era, the U.S. government targeted socialists and communists in the 1950s, beheading the labor movement of radical leadership and weakening unions for decades.

Aby traces today’s clampdown to the post 9/11 Patriot Act. “You can’t give people a toolbox and then be surprised when they use it,” she said. The Justice Department was further emboldened this summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court widened its definition of aiding terrorism to include free speech. In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the high court made it a crime to provide humanitarian aid, literature and political advocacy to any groups the U.S. designates as “terrorist.”

In an interview with Mick Kelly, also singled out by the FBI in Minneapolis, Kelly noted that in the 1980s the African National Congress was labeled “terrorist” by the State Department. By the standard established in Holder, the anti-apartheid movement would have been considered suspicious, or criminal.

Solidarity movements to aid liberation struggles in Colombia and Palestine are the same. “Our work is open, public and transparent. We haven’t broken any laws,” said Kelly.

Raids galvanize solidarity. Activists are developing an aggressive national campaign to put heat on the Obama Administration — and to support those who face jail sentences for refusing to testify.

A vital component of this movement is its non-sectarian character. Several socialist and progressive organizations are providing leadership throughout the U.S.

The Freedom Socialist Party is participating in several cities, and with Veterans for Peace, initiated Seattle United Against FBI Repression. FSP National Secretary Doug Barnes stresses that political activism is crucial to stopping the witch-hunt. “We can’t rely on the courts,” said Barnes. “Nor can we allow the government to crush domestic opposition to U.S. imperialism, or the rights of those advocating socialism here.”

Strong support is pouring in from civil liberties, civil rights and progressive community and religious groups, with National Lawyers Guild attorneys providing crucial legal help.

Many of the activists raided are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in Minnesota — and the State AFSCME Council was among the first of several unions and councils to pass resolutions condemning the raids. They recount the harm caused by government attacks on labor in the past: the 1920s, when union halls were raided; the 1950s McCarthy era; and in the 1960s, when the government’s infamous COINTELPRO program killed or jailed leaders of the Black and Native American civil rights movements.

This time, Leftists and progressives are determined to stop the harassment before it escalates. “The mass response surprised them,” said Mick Kelly. “They thought they could shock and awe us — and it didn’t work.”

Sign the national petition to stop FBI spying and contribute to the legal defense at StopFBI.net. Join local actions.

Stop FBI witchhunts and assaults on free speech!

• Halt the grand jury proceedings!

• Return property seized in the raids immediately!

• End the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan & Pakistan, and the occupation of Palestine!

Related story: What to do if the FBI comes knocking

Also see: Obama’s surge against civil liberties


Ed. Also note US  and corporate attacks on WikiLeaks, and on the pilot who exposed TSA security failures.

One response to “Obama’s war on dissent

  1. Homeland Security: Are You a TWIC—Work Card Security Risk?

    Recently 131 Veterans For Peace Demonstrators were Arrested In Front of White House. Veterans For Peace Demonstrations and Civil Disobedience have brought attention to America’s ongoing costly wars. Should Americans be concerned that Citizens may subsequently be afraid to participate in lawful demonstrations against U.S. Government after Homeland Security issues millions of TWIC “right to work Cards” for private sector jobs; that Homeland Security may (disqualify) Veterans For Peace and other Civil Demonstrators—being issued TWIC Work Cards on the basis they are a “Security Risk?” Such concerns by working people could silence, intimidate Americans speaking out against Government.

    The TWIC government website for issuing Work Cards states, that job applicants deemed a “Security Risk” (convicted of specified crimes listed by HLS), will not be issued a TWIC Card to work at certain private sector jobs/and current employees denied TWIC Cards can be fired. The TWIC site further states, HLS will inform rejected job applicants and fired employees the reason Homeland Security would not issue them a TWIC work Card; rejected job applicants and fired employees may appeal.

    But realistically does HLS have to respond or fully provide a job applicant or fired employee the reason they were denied a TWIC Work Card? HLS can refuse to respond or not fully on the basis that doing so could threaten National Security or compromise an ongoing investigation.

    Other countries to protect national security, to safeguard ports, trains and airways, have created agencies similar to TWIC, but moved forward to crush civil liberties. In the beginning e.g. the German Reich Government without public oversight, barred Germans holding certain private sector jobs that were threats to national Security, but soon expanded to prevent Germans getting work that spoke out or protested the Nazi government. Could TWIC be similarly abused? Consider that TSA has put a large number of lawful Americans on “No Fly Lists.” Many that made requests to government to learn why they are on the “No Fly List”, were not provided an explanation by HLS/TSA. TSA is now in the process of labeling lawful Americans as “Extremists” that publicly oppose TSA mandated X-ray scans and invasive body-pat-downs at airports. So is it problematic Americans denied TWIC work cards might be treated similarly when requesting to know why they were denied a work card?

    Who is a security risk? Currently HLS utilizes over 90 national FUSION CENTERS that obtain and store information on ordinary Americans. Fusion Centers nationally share information with law enforcement agencies that among other sources receive information from informants. Could erroneous information provided by snitches to local police/HLS be used by HLS not to issue a TWIC work card to Citizens never charged or convicted of a crime? Under such circumstances how would Americans denied the right to work rebuke the allegations of an informant?

    Visit TWIC Website: http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/layers/twic/twic_faqs.shtm#denied_twic

    Don’t Think For A Moment—You Can Talk To The FBI Off The Record.

    If you are questioned by the FBI and (truthfully) answer “No” to a question, you might be charged for making a false statement. For example, if someone (unbeknownst to you) proposed committing an act of violence or other crime at an activist meeting you attended—then later the FBI questions you about having knowledge of that proposal, by answering “No” the FBI can charge you with providing a false or misleading answer or lying to a federal agent under 18U.S.C. § 1001. This law is a trap for the innocent, because how can you prove you didn’t know something? Even answering, “yes” under this law can be hazardous.

    Consider the U.S. Supreme Case BROGAN v. UNITED STATES No. 96—1579. Argued December 2, 1997 Decided January 26, 1998: James Brogan was indicted on federal bribery charges and for making a “false statement” within the jurisdiction of a (federal agency) in violation of 18U.S.C. § 1001.

    Note under 18U.S.C. § 1001, that any person questioned by the FBI or other Federal Agency can be imprisoned up to 5-years and fined $10,000 for every “misleading or false answer”; that includes any false or misleading statement made to the FBI when questioned about a crime you did not commit or crime the Government can’t prove you did.
    Under BROGAN v. UNITED STATES, Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg noted that when the FBI questions someone about an “old crime” after the Statute of Limitations past for criminal prosecution, and the questioned person denies having committed the crime, that their fresh denial may involuntarily waive their right to assert in their defense—the statute of limitations has past for criminal prosecution e.g., for a 20-year old crime.

    Consequently if you are ever questioned by the FBI or other federal agency or by a local cop, which some have been federally deputized, about a past crime or about having knowledge of anything illegal happening in the future, the smart thing to do is remain silent and if necessary state to the FBI or other law enforcement “Before I answer any of your questions I first need the benefit of an attorney.” Keep in mind there is no such thing as talking to an FBI Agent or any federal agency off the record. Consider the case of James Brogan. The FBI came by Brogan’s office and gave the appearance their visit was informal, then after asking a few questions indicted Brogan for lying to the FBI. Below is a summary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision: BROGAN v. UNITED STATES No. 96—1579 and Website access to learn more about the Brogan Case and 18 U.S.C. § 1001. (SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES BROGAN v. UNITED STATES CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT No. 96—1579.)

    Argued December 2, 1997–Decided January 26, 1998 Petitioner falsely answered “no” when federal agents asked him whether he had received any cash or gifts from a company whose employees were represented by the union in which he was an officer. He was indicted on federal bribery charges and for making a false statement within the jurisdiction of a federal agency in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. A jury in the District Court found Brogan guilty.

    The Second Circuit affirmed, categorically rejecting Brogan’s request to adopt the so-called “exculpatory no” doctrine, which excludes from §1001’s scope false statements that consist of the mere denial of wrongdoing. Held: There is no exception to §1001 criminal liability for a false statement consisting merely of an “Exculpatory No.”

    Although many Court of Appeals decisions have embraced the “Exculpatory No” doctrine, it is not supported by §1001’s plain language. By its terms, §1001 covers “any” false statement–that is, a false statement “of whatever kind,” United States v. Gonzales, 520 U.S. ___, including the use of the word “no” in response to a question. Petitioner’s argument that §1001 does not criminalize simple denials of guilt proceeds from two mistaken premises: that the statute criminalizes only those statements that “pervert governmental functions,” and that simple denials of guilt do not do so.
    United States v. Gilliland, 312 U.S. 86, 93, distinguished. His argument that a literal reading of §1001 violates the “spirit” of the Fifth Amendment is rejected because the Fifth Amendment does not confer a privilege to lie. E.g., United States v. Apfelbaum, 445 U.S. 115, 117.

    Brogan’s final argument that the “exculpatory no” doctrine is necessary to eliminate the grave risk that §1001 will be abused by overzealous prosecutors seeking to “pile on” offenses is not supported by the evidence and should, in any event, be addressed to Congress.

    Pp. 2—8. 96 F.3d 35, affirmed. Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O’Connor, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined, and in which Souter, J., joined in part. Souter, J., filed a statement concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Ginsburg, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Souter, J., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined.

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