[HCCN] fw: Amy Goodman on the Criminalization of Dissent

Judith Robbins judy at robbinsandrobbins.com
Sun Oct 3 19:13:39 EDT 2010

FBI Raids and the Criminalization of Dissent


Posted on Sep 28, 2010

By Amy Goodman

Early in the morning on Friday, Sept. 24, FBI agents in Chicago and  
Minnesota’s Twin Cities kicked in the doors of anti-war activists,  
brandishing guns, spending hours rifling through their homes. The FBI  
took away computers, photos, notebooks and other personal property.  
Residents were issued subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in  
Chicago. It was just the latest in the ongoing crackdown on dissent  
in the U.S., targeting peace organizers as supporters of “foreign  
terrorist organizations.”

Coleen Rowley knows about the FBI. She was a career special agent  
with the FBI who blew the whistle on the bureau’s failures in the  
lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. Time magazine named her Person of the  
Year in 2002. A few days after the raids in her hometown of  
Minneapolis, she told me, “This is not the first time that you’ve  
seen this Orwellian turn of the war on terror onto domestic peace  
groups and social justice groups ... we had that begin very quickly  
after 9/11, and there were Office of Legal Counsel opinions that said  
the First Amendment no longer controls the war on terror.”

Jess Sundin’s home was raided. She was the lead organizer of the St.  
Paul, Minn., anti-war march on Labor Day 2008 that occurred as the  
Republican National Convention began. She described the raid: “They  
spent probably about four hours going through all of our personal  
belongings, every book, paper, our clothes, and filled several boxes  
and crates with our computers, our phones, my passport ... with which  
they left my house.”

They smashed activist Mick Kelly’s fish tank when they barged into  
his home. The net cast by the FBI that morning included not only anti- 
war activists, but those who actively support a changed foreign  
policy toward Israel-Palestine and Colombia. The warrant for Kelly  
sought all records of his travel, not only to those countries, but  
also all his domestic U.S. travel since 2000, and all his personal  

No one was arrested. No one was charged with a crime. Days later,  
hundreds of protesters rallied outside FBI offices nationally.

The raids happened just days after the U.S. Department of Justice’s  
inspector general released a report, “A Review of the FBI’s  
Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups.” The IG looked at  
FBI surveillance and investigation of, among others, the  
environmental group Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of  
Animals and the Pittsburgh-based Thomas Merton Center.

Founded in 1972 to support opposition to the war in Vietnam, the  
Merton Center continues to be a hub of anti-war activism in  
Pittsburgh. In 2002, the FBI spied on a Merton-organized rally,  
claiming “persons with links to international terrorism would be  
present.” As the IG reports, this claim was a fabrication, which was  
then relayed to FBI Director Robert Mueller, who repeated it, under  
oath, to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The illegal surveillance trickles down, through “Joint Terrorism Task  
Forces” that bring together federal, state and local law enforcement,  
homeland security and military agencies, often under the roof of a  
“fusion center,” the name given to shadowy trans-jurisdictional  
intelligence centers. There, it seems, slapping the “domestic terror”  
tag on activists is standard.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell recently apologized when it was revealed  
that his state homeland security director, James Powers, had  
contracted with a private company to research and distribute  
information about citizen groups engaged in legal activity. Groups  
opposed to the environmentally destructive extraction of natural gas  
known as “fracking,” for example, were referred to as “environmental  

Their crime: holding a screening of the Sundance-winning documentary  

Back in the Twin Cities, the state has been forced to back off eight  
other activists, dubbed the “RNC 8,” who were part of organizing the  
protests at the Republican National Convention. They all were pre- 
emptively arrested, before the convention started, and charged, under  
Minnesota state law, as terrorists. The prosecution has since dropped  
all terrorism charges (four of them will go to trial on other charges).

This is all happening while the Obama administration uses fear of  
terrorism to seek expanded authority to spy on Internet users, and as  
another scandal is brewing: The Justice Department also revealed this  
week that FBI agents regularly cheated on an exam testing knowledge  
of proper rules and procedures governing domestic surveillance. This  
is more than just a cheating scandal. It’s about basic freedoms at  
the core of our democracy, the abuse of power and the erosion of  
civil liberties.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/ 
radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America.  
She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released  
in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

   © 2010 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer.  
Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
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