Activists speak out on
FBI raids, harassment
BY JANET POST
WASHINGTON—Since last September the FBI has raided the homes of 23 antiwar and political activists, visited their workplaces, and pored over their telephone calls. FBI agents seized documents, computers, cell phones, and passports.
Three of the activists who have been subpoenaed to appear before federal grand juries spoke at a workshop at the Latin American Solidarity Coalition Conference held here April 9-10. They represented the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. All 23 people subpoenaed have refused to testify before federal grand jury hearings, invoking the Fifth Amendment.
Sarah Smith, a Palestinian solidarity activist from Chicago, described a December 3 call she received from the FBI. She had traveled with two Palestinian American friends on a delegation to Israel and the West Bank earlier in the year. The agents asked to sit down for a “friendly talk,” telling her, “You don’t need a lawyer; you’re not in trouble—we just need 30 minutes.”
Smith refused, and immediately called her two friends just before FBI agents arrived at their homes to deliver subpoenas. “The grand jury is handpicked by the prosecution to get indictments,” Smith said. “You cannot talk to your lawyer. They can omit evidence; there is no rebuttal.”
“Moreover,” she added, “They press you to name other people, name other organizations.”
Another panelist was Meredith Aby, a teacher and member of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee and the Colombia Action Network, whose home was raided by eight FBI agents September 24 last year. Among the things taken from her home were sign-up sheets from literature tables set up by the School of the Americas Watch, an organization that protests U.S. military intervention.
“The government agents also want us to say where we have traveled in the U.S. and abroad, and who we associated with on those trips,” Aby said. “This is a fishing expedition.”
Kosta Harlan, of Durham, North Carolina, reported that four FBI agents also came to his home September 24. Harlan repeatedly refused to talk to them without a lawyer. “They tried to intimidate me. Finally, I just closed the door and told them, ‘I’m done.’ Then they posted a surveillance truck outside my house to see who would come to visit me.”
Harlan pointed to the three demands the committee is raising: call off grand jury hearings; return belongings seized in the raids; and end the FBI raids, as well as harassment calls at home and work.
According to a March 26 New York Times article, a U.S. Justice Department document says that from December 2008 to March 2009, the FBI initiated 11,667 “assessments” of individuals and organizations. Speech, religion, and ethnicity are factors that can be used to single out those “assessed.” Sending informers into organizations, photographing people, and interviewing others about the targeted individual are all legitimate “assessment” techniques.