On September 24, the FBI raided seven Chicago and Minneapolis homes of well-known anti-war and international solidarity activists and our office, the Anti-War Committee. The FBI also subpoenaed 14 activists, many of whom are members or former members of the AWC, to testify at a secret grand jury. According to the FBI, the goal of the raids was to show material support for terrorism charges. This investigation, harassment, intimidation, and threat of jail time is an attempt to silence those who support resistance to oppression in the Middle East and Latin America.
Material Support for Terrorism
“Terrorists” are anyone the State Department decides should be on the “Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO)” list. In practice, this means any militant organization whose aims oppose those of U.S. foreign policy. There is no review, oversight or appeal of the State Department designation. The FMLN (the current party in power in El Salvador) was on this list, the African National Congress (movement in South Africa fighting apartheid in the 80’s, now the reigning political party) was considered a terrorist organization at the time. Despite historical and popular understanding, “material support” is not just about whether a person or group sends money or weapons to a designated “terrorist” organization. A recent Supreme Court ruling, Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project could be construed, in an incredible overreach into the realm of free speech, that any form of communication with a designated “terrorist” is considered “material support.” In that legal case, the Humanitarian Law Project was proposing to assist with setting up fair elections in Turkey and Sri Lanka, a project which necessarily involves discussions with all parties. The case determined that that election education would be material support. Under this law, Jimmy Carter could potentially be charged with a felony for helping to organize fair elections in Lebanon, where he, of course, had to coordinate with Hezbollah. The FBI may be trying to stretch this decision to justify investigating any contact with groups on the FTO list? and those individuals who have merely talked to members of those groups.
Bruce Nestor of the National Lawyers Guild explained the significance of this repression to the Star Tribune on 10/24/10, “The real point of the First Amendment isn’t just thought. It’s in association too, to join with people in advocacy to try to change opinion. To what degree do we want to give government the sole power to decide the limits on debating foreign policy? No one’s arguing that you have a right to send weapons. But do you have a right to comment on that conflict? Do you really want to chill Americans from having an ability to speak on all sides of a conflict? The result of this is for people to do nothing. That, to me, is the real concern.”
The Anti-War Committee is being targeted for our solidarity work with Palestine and Colombia. Ironically, the reason we do solidarity work in those countries is because in Palestine and Colombia, activists who work for social justice and who speak out against the policies of the U.S. or of their own repressive governments (which are funded and supported by the U.S.) are targeted for oppression. Many of us have seen this first hand. We have seen how the Israeli government uses collective punishment (home demolitions, bombing of apartment buildings, cutting off food) to pressure Palestinians to stop demanding their own freedom. In Colombia we have met with campesinos (farmers) who told us about massacres committed by government-sponsored death squads in an attempt to push them off their land for oil companies or to silence them from protesting U.S. free trade policy. The Anti-War Committee has spoken out across the country about how our tax dollars fund this oppression and we should have the right to do so. Stand up to protect the right to dissent! We must not allow the FBI investigation silence us, or the “anti-terror” laws to target free speech and assembly.
Contact President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to say NO MORE attacks on the anti-war movement and to call off the grand jury! Obama – 202-456- 1111 or http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact and Holder – 202-353-1555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.