New FBI Subpoenas Issued Against Antiwar Activists

by David Bernt

CHICAGO—On Dec. 21, four new subpoenas were issued to antiwar activists here, bringing the total number of people subpoenaed to 23 in the Justice Department’s McCarthy-style witch hunt of the antiwar movement. The government’s current witch hunt dates back to Sept. 24, when 14 homes were raided by the FBI in Chicago and Minneapolis in an alleged attempt to investigate “material support” for terrorism.

In reality, these activists are being targeted for their public support and organizing on behalf of the people of Palestine and Colombia in their struggle against repressive U.S.-funded regimes, and their support of U.S.-based socialist and international-solidarity organizations. The Justice Department is attempting to silence these activists while sending a message to activists around the country that antiwar activism will be treated as a crime.

On Jan. 25, nine of the subpoenaed activists are to appear before a grand jury. All 14 of the originally subpoenaed activists invoked their Fifth Amendment rights when they were called to the grand jury in October. Since then, three of those activists have had their subpoenas reactivated. On Dec. 3, three Palestine solidarity student activists were subpoenaed, followed by four new subpoenas on Dec. 21. It is expected that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald may offer some or all of the subpoenaed activists conditional immunity at the grand jury, eliminating their Fifth Amendment rights, and thereby compelling them to either cooperate in the government’s witch hunt or face indefinite jail time for “contempt of court”

A protest is being organized outside the federal courthouse on Jan. 25 in Chicago and outside FBI and federal buildings in cities across the country, demanding an end to the grand jury and an end to the FBI raids.

Activists around the country have continued to organize in defense of the targeted activists. On Dec. 10 in Chicago, over 200 people attended the annual People’s Thanksgiving fund raiser organized by Fight Back newspaper and raised more than $7000 for the legal defense. Dozens of trade-union locals, councils, and federations have passed resolutions denouncing the raids and subpoenas, including AFSCME Council 5, The St. Paul Labor Federation, San Francisco Labor Council, Troy Area Labor Council, SEIU Local 73, and Teamsters Local 705.

On Dec. 23, about 75 people attended a press conference inside the Federal Dirksen Building in Chicago to respond to the latest subpoenas. Palestine solidarity activist Maureen Murphy, editor of the website The Electronic Intifada and one of those subpoenaed on Dec. 21, read the following statement:

“I have no intention in participating in the government’s witch hunt. It is very clear that no crime has been committed and that the government’s motivation in issuing these subpoenas is to have us name the names of other activists not only here in the United States, but also in places like Palestine and Colombia, where many of us have traveled to learn about the human rights situations in those places. We can only assume that the U.S. government shares intelligence with the governments of Israel and Colombia, whose repressive militaries rule the U.S. bankrolls at the taxpayers’ expense. And it is essentially a prison sentence or worse for human rights activists in Palestine and Colombia to be singled out in this way. And I have no intention in playing any role in that.”

For more information on the nationwide protests on Jan. 25 see:

> This article was originally published in the January 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.

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