21050Standing together against US government witch hunt
- Jan 1, 2011Standing together against US government witch hunt
Editorial, The Electronic Intifada, 22 December 2010
Protesters in Chicago call for an end to a
government witch hunt of anti-war and solidarity activists, 6 December.
(Maureen Clare Murphy)
As The Electronic Intifada reported in November, international solidarity and anti-war activists are facing a new wave of repression in the United States.
Since 24 September, two dozen activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and
other cities across the country have been handed subpoenas by the FBI to
appear before a grand jury.
Yesterday, Maureen Clare Murphy, an organizer with the Palestine
Solidarity Group in Chicago, and managing editor of The Electronic
Intifada, became one of the latest to be subpoenaed by the federal
In a press release issued by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression,
Murphy stated, "Along with several others, I am being summoned to appear
before the Grand Jury on Tuesday, January 25th, in the Dirksen Federal
Building in Chicago. We are being targeted for the work we do to end US
funding of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and
ending the occupation of Iraq. What is at stake for all of us is our
right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy" ("FBI delivers subpoenas to four more anti-war, solidarity activists," 21 December 2010).
So far, all those who have previously been summoned have refused to
appear before the grand jury. No one has been arrested or charged with
any crime, nor has the government specified any alleged crimes that it
might be investigating.
Although The Electronic Intifada itself has not been a target of any of
the subpoenas -- contrary to some media reports -- we consider the grand
jury investigation and all of the subpoenas to be part of a broad
attack on the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements and a threat
to all of our rights. We offer our full support to our colleague Maureen
Clare Murphy and all those who are being harassed for their lawful
advocacy of a just and violence-free US foreign policy.
A grand jury, no longer in use anywhere outside the US, is an
investigative tool that allows the government to compel citizens to
testify even if they are not suspected of any crime. In this case, as
has happened many times in past decades, according to lawyers and
experts interviewed by The Electronic Intifada in November, the
government appears to be using the grand jury as a form of political
inquisition and intelligence gathering targeting groups and individuals
working for ending war, and for a more just US foreign policy in
Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia.
In June, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report documented 100
recent reported incidents in 33 states where "Americans have been put
under surveillance or harassed" by federal and local law enforcement
agencies "just for deciding to organize, march, protest, espouse unusual
viewpoints and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing
notes or taking photographs in public" ("Policing Free Speech: Police Surveillance and Obstruction of First Amendment-Protected Activity," 29 June 2010 [PDF]).
The ACLU pointed out that "United States law enforcement agencies, from
the FBI to local police, have a long history of spying on American
citizens and infiltrating or otherwise obstructing political activist
groups," and that "Unfortunately, it appears that these old tendencies
have once again come to the fore."
For its part, the FBI unsurprisingly claims that all its activities fall
under its duty to protect the United States from terrorism, but recent
history demonstrates that a large dose of skepticism is in order. Also
in September, the FBI's own Office of the Inspector General (OIG) -- its
internal auditor -- issued a report severely criticizing the agency for
spying on and misleading Congress about the reasons it was spying on
anti-war and environmental activists ("A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups"
[PDF]). In one case, contrary to claims by the FBI, the OIG uncovered
documents that the agency targeted the Thomas Merton Center -- an
anti-war group in Pittsburgh -- "as a result of its anti-war views."
In other cases, FBI agents monitored anti-war rallies and took note of
participants who appeared to be "of Middle Eastern descent." An agent
labeled a group as "communistic" in a context "in which that
characterization was irrelevant to a law enforcement purpose." Most
disturbingly, the OIG found that the FBI baselessly classified
investigations into activists with Greenpeace USA and The Catholic
Worker among others as "terrorism" investigations.
The OIG stressed that the findings in its report about incidents dating
back to 2006 are "relevant to current and prospective FBI investigations
that may implicate First Amendment considerations" and called on the
FBI to reform its practices.
Nevertheless, a recent Washington Post exposé documented
disturbing FBI tactics targeting Muslim communities in the United States
that involve paying huge sums of money to convicted criminals to go
undercover and foment "terrorism" plots apparently so that the
government could later claim success in foiling them ("Tension grows between Calif. Muslims, FBI after informant infiltrates mosque," 5 December 2010).
The ongoing government campaign against anti-war activists is a stark
reminder of the unabated deterioration of civil liberties and political
rights in the United States. These developments admonish us to remember
that the last protection for our ability to work freely for an end to
the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Colombia, for an end to US military aid
to Israel and for justice and peace in Palestine, is the solidarity we
offer each other by exercising those rights before they are taken away.
We call on all our readers and friends to remain informed and to make
their voices heard against this outrageous witch hunt which threatens
not merely a few dozen individuals, but the rights every one of us has
to work for a more peaceful world.
For more information please see: www.stopfbi.net
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