FBI Expands Probe into Antiwar Activists
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COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, you know, after 9/11, we almost—there was a green light put on, and there was a very big blurring between protest, civil disobedience and terrorism. And you saw this in many ways. The door was open to basically targeting, without any level of factual justification, advocacy groups. And again, this began pretty quickly after 9/11.
It’s gotten to the point now, nine years later—and I wanted to mention the Washington Post is doing a pretty good job of exposing this, this top-secret America, this monitoring. Their most recent article in the Washington Post says there’s a hundred—the FBI has 164,000 suspicious activity reports. Again, these are things that just have no level of factual justification, that people call in, and the FBI is now keeping records on people. So, I think that, you know, this case will just be the start of targeting various groups like this.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a clip of an interview we did recently when Bruce Nestor came into town, the former head of the National Lawyers Guild in Minneapolis. He’s representing those who have been summoned before the grand jury. Bruce Nestor talked about potential consequences the activists face for defying subpoenas.
BRUCE NESTOR: Three people are now being—looking at reappearing in front of the grand jury and likely being forced with the choice between talking about who they meet with, what the political beliefs of their friends and allies are, or perhaps risking contempt and sitting in jail for 18 months. These are people who are deeply rooted in the progressive community in Chicago and Minneapolis. These are grandmothers, they’re mothers, they’re union activists. They were some of the organizers of the largest antiwar march at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
And so—and they’re being prosecuted under this material support for terrorism law, a law that was really enhanced under the PATRIOT Act and that allows, in the government’s own words, for people to be prosecuted for their speech if they coordinate it with a designated foreign terrorist organization. What you run the risk of there is that even if you state your own independent views about U.S. foreign policy, but those views somehow reflect a group that the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, you can be accused of coordinating your views and face, if not prosecution, at least investigation, search warrants, being summoned to a grand jury to talk about who your political allies and who your political friends are.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Bruce Nestor, who’s representing some of those being subpoenaed, former head of the Naitonal Lawyers Guild in the Twin Cities. Mike German is joining us from Washington, D.C., National Security Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He was an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism for many years. Mike, talk about your assessment of this widening dragnet and its consequences.
MIKE GERMAN: Well, I think part of the problem is sort of the scope of this investigation and the aggressive tactics that are being used, when there isn’t any public evidence to suggest these people pose a threat. In fact, the FBI spokesman said immediately after the raids that there wasn’t a threat to the community. So, it sort of leads to a question of why there is this nationwide, you know, early morning raids, as if these are Mafia groups, when, you know, it’s clear from the materials that are being seized, the materials that are being requested in the search warrant returns that are public, that a lot of this is associational information that’s being requested—address books, computer records, literature and advocacy materials, First Amendment sort of materials.