FBI documents on criminal investigation of anti-war activists released

From the Committee to Stop FBI Repression:

FBI agents, who raided the home of Mick Kelly and Linden Gawboy, took with them thousands of pages of documents and books, along with computers, cell phones and a passport. By mistake, they also left something behind; the operation plans for the raid, “Interview questions” for anti-war and international solidarity activists, duplicate evidence collection forms, etc. The file of secret FBI documents was accidently mixed in with Gawboy’s files, and was found in a filing cabinet on April 30. We are now releasing them to the public.

A PDF file contained all 30 pages of released files can be found here.

Of particular interest is a series of questions that FBI agents were assigned with asking those whose homes were being searched. A few samples are posted below:

1) Have you ever heard of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (“FRSO”)?

2) What it it?

3) What does it do?/What is its purpose?

4) Are you a member?
[…]
13) Are there regular FRSO chapter meetings?

14) Where do they take place?

15) What is discussed?

16) Do you or anyone else at the meeting or with the FRSO, take notes?

17) Where are those notes?
[…]
31) Do you have a “red” name?

32) What is it?

33) What’s the purpose of having a red name?

34) Do you have a “red” e-mail account?

35) What is it?

36) What’s the purpose of having a red e-mail account?

37) Have you ever heard of a group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also known as the PFLP?
[…]
56) Do you support, either financially or otherwise, groups that have been designated as terrorist organizations in the United States?

57) Have you ever taken steps to overthrow the United States government?

Questions specifically intended for Mick Kelly are also listed:

1) Do you own a gun?

2) For what?

3) Have you taught any FRSO member how to shoot?

4) Why?

5) What’s your prsonal view of the FARC?

6) Did you ever meet a woman named Maha Nasser?

7) Who is she?

8) Where did you meet her?

9) What were the circumstances of your meeting her?

10) Was she a member of the Women’s Committee?

11) Was she a member of the PFLP?

Questions intended for Meredith Aby, who traveled to Colombia:

1) Have you ever met Lilia Obando? 

2) Where?

3) When?

4) Why?

5) Who is she?

6) Is she a member of the FARC?

7) Did you ever help her raise money in the United States?

As it turns out:

Liliana Obando is a well-known Colombian trade unionist who spoke in the Twin Cities at an event organized by the Anti-War Committee. She received a visa to travel in the U.S. from the U.S. government. She spoke about the sickening human rights violations that were being carried out by the Colombian government and its paramilitary allies.

Similarly, Maha Nassar (whom Mick Kelly was supposed to be questioned about) is a now-deceased Palestinian who was in charge of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and a member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). She, much like Lilia Obando, toured the US for a brief period of time and spoke about “of the special challenges that women faced under the occupation. In addition to the societal struggles such as check-points, land confiscation and arrest, Palestinian women are also confronting traditional views of women.”

What is disturbing is the broad authority the US government has been given to both define terrorist groups as such and to label certain activities as “material support.” The successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation was based off of that charity’s funding of zakat committees supposedly controlled by Hamas but were never officially designated as such by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control or the State Department and had received funds from USAID. The Humanitarian Law Project ruling allows almost any form of coordinated activity with designated terrorist groups or affiliates of said groups, including normally protected activities such as legal counseling and advice on peace negotiations and disarmament, to be declared a criminal offense. When these precedents are put together, a civil liberties nightmare emerges. Individuals and organizations can now be prosecuted for advising foreign groups on peace talks even if the foreign group in question was never previously designated a terrorist organization or a support base for terrorist activities.

Here’s a quote worth keeping in mind from an article following the initial raids:

In interviews with the Independent, Aby and committee members Jess Sundin and Steph Yorek disavowed connections to Lebanese Hezbollah, the Colombian revolutionary group FARC or the small Palestinian militant group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“We meet with human rights activists in other countries to get understanding of situations they face,” said Yorek.

Sundin said committee members use the trips to gather information that the group then uses in presentations to the public back in the United States.

“All trips always been very public,” Sundin said.

Aby said that in Palestine, committee members met with the Palestinian Women’s Commission and another group that advocates for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. In Colombia, she said members met with representatives of Colombian unions.

In Colombia, you’re considered to be a FARC supporter if you’re a member of a union,” Aby said. Critics of current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos or former president Alvaro Uribe were also considered supporters of the FARC by Colombian authorities.

There are disturbing possibilities for future prosecutions of anti-war and solidarity groups in the US. Here’s just one to consider: will US courts be willing to defer to foreign governments in defining groups and individuals as terrorists or material supporters of terrorists?

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