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Activists report suspicious government activity: the Nov. 6 FBI raids forum

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 13th November 2010

As advertised here and elsewhere, activists convened at the Washington Friends Meeting House last Saturday afternoon for education and brainstorming about the recent troubling FBI raids and grand jury subpoenas of peace and solidarity activists in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan. Search warrants indicated the FBI was looking for evidence of “material support” for foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) in Colombia, Palestine, and elsewhere — but as forum-goers were to learn, the idea of ‘material support’ has been stretched past the breaking point. A diverse and engaged crowd of some forty people attended the forum, and peppered each of three speaker panels with questions before brainstorming together about the next directions they could take.

A video of the first panel is shown to the right.  This video and two more like it are displayed on an “11/6 forum videos” page together with links to news items, analyses, and documents referred to by panelists.

The first panel, “What’s Going On and What Are the Legal Rules in Place?,” was led off by Sue Udry, of the Defending Dissent Foundation, who spoke about the raids themselves, the shifting legal predicaments the activists involved are in, and the background of ever more intrusive, expanding uses of surveillance to address ‘terror threats’ allegedly emanating from nonviolent peace, animal rights, and environmental groups, to name a few. Using the Inspector General report on the FBI, and revelations from Pennsylvania, Iowa, and elsewhere, Ms. Udry made clear that the FBI raids are not isolated incidents, but an escalation of an already deteriorating situation.

Ms. Udry was followed by  ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson.  Like Ms. Udry, Ms. Richardson noted how the expanding surveillance undermined both the Constitution and real counterterrorism efforts by “dumping more hay” on the haystack, instead of focusing on searching for needles.  She described the United States as a surveillance society “collecting 1.7 billion records and communications a day. … When you get to 1.7 billion, that’s not about the government going to a judge and saying “I have a suspected terrorist, I’d like to read his emails,” that’s about our government turning its extraordinary computer powers loose on the American people.“  Charity and Security Network executive director Kay Guinane focused on the recent Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project ruling, which she and others believe probably green-lighted the raids on the peace activists.  John Hardenbergh of the National Lawyers Guild discussed the grand jury process, acknowledging the old saw that prosecutors could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich — though he got a laugh with the observation “it depends what the ham sandwich is accused of doing.”

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11/6/10 forum videos

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th November 2010

Videos


The FBI Raids: Activists Respond to Government Intrusion (part 1)
Download (54 min, 357 MB)
Creative Commons copyright: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
No transcript available

“We’re here today to talk about what happened with the FBI raids, what our rights are, and how we can respond.”
–Kit Bonson, Washington Peace Center*

“…fourteen of them were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, they stood in solidarity with each other, and every single one of them refused to testify before the grand jury, which is a major – and to me, inspiring – story.  However, the prosecutors have come back and said that they are going to reissue the subpoenas to some of those activists.”
– Sue Udry, Defending Dissent Foundation

“…the surveillance society that we have in this country is collecting 1.7 billion records and communications a day. … When you get to 1.7 billion, that’s not about the government going to a judge and saying “I have a suspected terrorist, I’d like to read his emails,” that’s about our government turning its extraordinary computer powers loose on the American people.”

– Michelle Richardson, ACLU

Related links

Defending Dissent Foundation (Sue Udry)(1:23)
* US agencies forewarned about India bomb suspect (Rotella, Wash.Post)
* Jordan Halliday Sentenced to 10 Months for Resisting Grand Jury (Potter, greenisthenewred.com)
* Solidarity statements with 9/24 raid targets (stopfbi.net)
* A Review of the FBI’s Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups (Dept. of Justice OIG Report)
* Actionable Intelligence Briefing, 10/31-11/1/09 (PA Inst. of Terrorism Research and Response)

ACLU (Michelle Richardson)(12:40)
* Top Secret America (Wash.Post series)
* More about FBI Spying (ACLU)
* What’s Wrong with Fusion Centers (ACLU)
* Universal Adversary Dynamic Threat Assessment, 5/7/08 (DHS)
* FBI’s Latest Power Grab Is a Bold and Unnecessary Move (Richardson, ACLU)
* NSA To Build $1.5 Billion Cybersecurity Data Center (Hoover, InformationWeek)
* DHS expands ‘see something, say something’ campaign to fusion centers (SecurityInfoWatch)
* The Privatization of Citizen Informant Networks (emptywheel, “firedoglake”)

Charity and Security Network (Kay Guinane)(27:33)
* 11/6/10 presentation outline (Guinane)
* Material support and the Humanitarian Law Project Decision (CSN document, 11/2010)
* Material Support and the Need for a Sensible Humanitarian Exemption (CSN analysis)
* 18 USC 2339B (Providing material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations)
* AEDPA (Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996)
* Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (Supreme Court, 2010)
* The Roberts Court’s Free Speech Problem (David Cole, NYRBlog, June ’10)

National Lawyers Guild (John Hardenbergh)(42:55)
* Grand Jury Resistance Project (GJRP)
* Midnight Special Law Collective
* Impact of Grand Juries on Political Movements (GJRP; .PDF)
* The Improper Use of the Federal Grand Jury: An Instrument for the Internment of Political Activists (Deutsch, 1984; .PDF, 25 pages)

vid 2


The FBI Raids: Activists Respond to Government Intrusion (part 2)
Download (62 min, 415MB)
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No transcript available

“…Every time you hear another story it’s more shocking than the last time. Each group is never really suspected of doing anything wrong, it’s considered sort of preventive or preemptive spying. So whether it’s happening again I couldn’t give you good advice about, whether it’s not or what even to do to prevent it. That’s really the chilling effect that it has: you want to be open, you want to have public meetings, you want to be able to organize but you’re prevented from doing so by the fear that you are being infiltrated…”
– Michelle Richardson, ACLU

“If you come away with anything from this training… one: cops lie and the second lesson I’d like people to come away with is keep your mouth shut.”
– John Hardenbergh, National Lawyers Guild

vid 2 links

Q&A
* Foreign Terrorist Organizations (Dept. of State), Specially Designated Global Terrorist list (Treasury Dept.)
* Lisa Schrich, Eastern Mennonite Univ., 3D Security Initiative in FREE SPEECH, HUMAN RIGHTS AND COUNTERTERRORISM LAWS: A Briefing on What’s at Stake in the Supreme Court Case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. (2/17/10 forum transcript, .PDF); forum video excerpt; Free Speech or Support for Terrorists? Supreme Court Weighs Key Patriot Act Provision (de Vogue, ABC News, 2/22/10)
* The Impact of Counterterrorism Measures on Charities and Donors After 9/11 (Charity and Security Network); Restore Religious Freedom for Charitable Donors (Turner, ACLU)
* Brad Sherman (D-CA) call for ‘material support’ charges for Gaza Flotilla supporters; transcript (.PDF)
* Justice Dept. Renews Enforcement of Subpoenas for Antiwar Activists Targeted in FBI Raids (Amy Goodman 11/5/10 interview w. Bruce Nestor, National Lawyers Guild, Democracy Now!)
* COINTELPRO: THE FBI’S COVERT ACTION PROGRAMS AGAINST AMERICAN CITIZENS (Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations, a.k.a. Church Committee, 1976)
* Demand Your DotRights (ACLU Northern California)

National Lawyers Guild
* Flex Your Rights

vid 3


The FBI Raids: Activists Respond to Government Intrusion (part 3)
Download (26 min, 214MB)
Creative Commons copyright: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
No transcript available

“We really wanted to make sure that people didn’t leave today feeling completely fearful and demoralized.  Because the object of learning about the FBI’s — and I would dare say other agencies’ — surveillance and infiltration is not to… shut people down and to make you all go home and hide under your bed.  The object is to figure out a way to work with this knowledge and to make sure our movements are ever growing and ever stronger.”
– Nadine Bloch

vid 3 links

Nadine Bloch
* Sachs Report (Review of Maryland State Police Covert Surveillance of Anti-Death Penalty and Anti-War Groups from March 2005 to May 2006)
* ACLU Maryland “No Spying” page
* Laird v. Tatum (Wikipedia)

Raed Jarrar
* Yassin Aref (Wikipedia); Son of Mountains (Yassin Aref web site)
* linked news articles (Yassin Aref web site)
* Muslim Solidarity Committee
* “Little Guantanamo”–Secretive “CMU” Prisons Designed to Restrict Communication of Jailed Muslims and Activists with Outside World (Democracy Now! April ’09)
* Entrapment or Foiling Terror? FBI’s Reliance on Paid Informants Raises Questions about Validity of Terrorism Cases (Democracy Now! October ’10)
* Dr. Sami Al-Arian (Wikipedia); U.S.A. vs. Al-Arian (Norwegian documentary film)
* Feds arrest N.Va. man in D.C. Metro bomb plot (Finn/Hsu/Gibson, Wash.Post, 10/27/10)
* Suspect in subway terror sting pleads not guilty (Barakat, AP to Wash.Post, 11/9/10)
* METRO PLOTTER SNARED (Express, 10/28/10)

Photos

FBI Raids Forum (pt.1): What is going on?
John Hardenbergh (NLG), Kay Guinane (Charity and Security), Michelle Richardson (ACLU), Sue Udry (standing; Defending Dissent), Kit Bonson (Washington Peace Center)

More

Background

Raids
* Search and Seizure Warrant, residence of Michael Kelly
* Defending Dissent October 10 newsletter
* The September 24 FBI ‘material support’ raids (this blog)
* Justice Dept. Renews Enforcement of Subpoenas for Antiwar Activists Targeted in FBI Raids (Amy Goodman 11/5/10 interview w. Bruce Nestor, National Lawyers Guild, Democracy Now!)

Groups sponsoring the forum
* Washington Peace Center
* Defending Dissent Foundation
* National Lawyers Guild
* ACLU
* Bill of Rights Defense Committee

My own blog posts about this issue
* Dissent is not a crime – DC activists to hold forum on FBI raids
* The September 24 FBI ‘material support’ raids
* Activists report suspicious government activity: the Nov. 6 FBI raids forum

Share: http://tinyurl.com/nov6forum

=====
* Kit Bonson is mistakenly listed in the video as being part of the National Lawyers Guild; she is affiliated with the Washington Peace Center.

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The September 24 FBI ‘material support’ raids

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th November 2010

This past Saturday, November 6, I attended an excellent forum — announced earlier on this blog and (mainly) elsewhere — about some very troubling FBI raids on fourteen peace activists in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan on September 24th.  The raids sought evidence of their alleged support of terrorist organizations.  In the course of writing about that forum, I’ve decided I need to back up and record some of the basics I’ve been able to learn about the raids, their subjects, and the subsequent legal process.

Many of the fourteen people who were subjects of the September 24 FBI raids are associated to varying degrees with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), an avowedly Marxist-Leninist organization that, not surprisingly, calls for the overthrow of the capitalist system in the jubilee days a-coming, but whose members also apparently engage in slightly more feasible, sometimes gutsy peace- , justice- and labor-related outreach work in the here and now in Colombia, the Middle East, and the U.S. An ad hoc, but doubtless related Committee to Stop FBI Repression has published profiles of the 14 activists to their web site; they include a PIRG activist who traveled to Palestine to meet with NGO members there, a grandmother of five, and a University of Illinois Staff Person of the Year.

Another common bond among at least some of the activists served with search warrants is that they were involved in the 2008 protests around the Republican convention in Minneapolis.  The events in Minneapolis surrounding that convention, mentioned at this blog and elsewhere, seemed to me at the time a veritable negative showcase of police surveillance, infiltration, and abuses.**

An apparently typical search warrant, for Michael Kelly, looks ominous at first glance: it seeks evidence concerning the violation of 18 USC 2339B, or “Providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” The FTO’s involved are a rogue’s gallery indeed — Colombia’s FARC, and Middle Eastern groups like Hezbollah and the PFLP.

However — as the November 6 forum-goers were to learn — bad laws and a worse Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project Supreme Court ruling have stretched the definition of ‘material support’ beyond common sense, regardless whether any of the subpoenaed activists stepped over today’s absurdly restrictive lines or more serious ones.  As the excellent Defending Dissent October 2010 newsletter wrapup puts it, “The problem is, one can be found guilty of material support for interacting with a group that is not an FTO, but that the government alleges is in cahoots with an FTO.  [...] In Columbia, the government deems any trade union and any group that opposes the government to be allied with FARC.”

Quite as disturbingly as the ever-widening definition of “material support,” the warrant seems to suggest that recruitment of individuals to FRSO is itself an actionable crime — and provides the FBI with a legal driftnet to sweep up Kelly’s address book, e-mail, social network contacts, so that the execution of a search warrant for person A becomes an invasion of privacy, chilling of association, and the beginning of FBI dossiers for persons B to Z.   Again, Defending Dissent: “The expansive list of ‘evidence’ sought led one of the lawyers to deem them “kind of unconstitutional and hideous.”

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Dissent is not a crime – DC activists to hold forum on FBI raids

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 22nd October 2010

Protest of FBI raids 22
From “Protest of FBI raids” series by Alan
Wilfahrt, on Flickr. (Photo used with permission)

On September 24th, 2010, the FBI raided anti-war and solidarity activists in Chicago (two homes) and Minneapolis (five homes and the office of the Anti-War Committee). During the raids, the FBI took computers, cell phones, documents and personal family items. In total, 14 activists in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan were subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury. They have subsequently refused to appear.

“Get FISA Right” activists recently decided to add the organization’s name to a petition protesting these raids. Now there’s a chance to learn more about those raids, and lend support to activists opposing such infringements of First and Fourth Amendment rights.

On November 6, civil liberties activists and experts will gather from 1-4 pm the Friends Meeting House in Washington, DC (2011 Florida Ave., NW) to examine the FBI raids and other attacks on activists, our legal rights, and how our community can respond. Admission is free, the event is open to everyone.

The program and other details follow:

The FBI Raids: Activists Respond to Government Intrusion

What’s Going On and What Are the Legal Rules in Place? (1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m)

  • Update on the FBI raids and other recent incidents of harassment, infiltration and surveillance of activist groups — Sue Udry, Defending Dissent Foundation
  • A look at the tools police and intelligence agencies use to quash dissent and the laws that allow it — Michelle Richardson, ACLU (invited)
  • Material support laws and the Supreme Court’s Humanitarian Law Project decision: what every peace, solidarity and union activist needs to know — Kay Guinane, Charity and Security Network
  • Function of the Grand Jury — John Hardenbergh, National Lawyers Guild

What Are Our Rights? (2:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.)

  • Know Your Rights – in the streets, in your home, at your office — Jeff Light, Rachael Moshman, Ann Wilcox, John Hardenbergh, National Lawyers Guild

How Should the Movement Respond? (3:10 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

  • A discussion led by activists Michael Beer, Nadine Bloch, Raed Jarrar, Gael Murphy
  • Solidarity, support and resistance – how should the movement respond to the raids and other recent provocations?
  • Advocacy to change the laws that allow unconstitutional surveillance, infiltration and detention.

The event is brought to you by the National Lawyer’s Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Washington Peace Center and Defending Dissent. For more information about this program, contact Malachy Kilbride at 202-841-2230 or by email at malachykilbride@yahoo.com. Organizations can use an online form to co-sponsor the event, and are then expected to help publicize it. Finally, while it’s not necessary, if you have a Facebook account, it will be helpful and encouraging to let us know you’re attending via this event announcement.

I’ve participated in one organizing call so far, and plan to attend. I’ll report back about it here as best as I can; we’re also hoping to videotape the event and post that as well.

[crossposted from "Get FISA Right"]

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