United States: FBI docs expose attacks on anti-war, solidarity activists

May 28, 2011
Protest against the FBI's raids in Washington.

The statement below was released on May 18 by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. The FBI documents can be viewed at www.stopFBI.net .

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FBI agents, who raided the Minneapolis home of anti-war and international solidarity activists Mick Kelly and Linden Gawboy in September 2010, 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 and duplicate evidence collection forms.

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.

The raid at the Kelly/Gawboy home was one of the many coordinated raids on Minneapolis homes and the offices of the Anti-War Committee on September 24, 2010. Two other homes were raided in Chicago.

To date, 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists have received subpoenas to appear in front of a Chicago Grand Jury headed by US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Taken as a whole, the secret FBI file shows the willful disregard for the rights of anti-war and international solidarity activists ― particularly the first amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.

The documents make it clear that legal activity in solidarity with the peoples of Colombia and Palestine is being targeted. The documents use McCarthy-era language, which gives one the feel that the 1950s red scare has returned.

And finally, the documents show the chilling plans for the armed raid that took place at the home of Kelly and Gawboy.

The documents show that public advocacy for the people of Colombia was the genesis of the FBI investigation.

The “Operations Order” for the FBI SWAT Team stated: “The captioned case was initially predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their travel to FARC controlled territory.”

We have no way of knowing if it was speaking tours or educational events on Colombia that got them so riled up, but there is something we can state with certainty: There is nothing illegal about traveling to Colombia, or visiting the areas where the FARC is in charge.

This is something that journalists, including US journalists, do, and we have yet to hear of their doors being broken down.

Upon returning from Colombia, Aby and Sundin spoke at many public events about their experiences.

The FBI interview questions for Meredith Aby ask “1) Have you ever met Lilia [sic] Obando? 2) Where? 3) When? 4) Why?”

Liliana Obando is a well-known Colombian trade unionist who spoke in Minneapolis at an event organized by the Anti-War Committee. She received a visa to travel in the US from the US government.

She spoke about the sickening human rights violations that were being carried out by the Colombian government and its paramilitary allies.

We understand that the Colombian government is the third largest recipient of US military aid, and that government officials would prefer that that people here in the US don’t get a chance to hear about human rights abuses committed with their tax dollars, but the fact remains: there is nothing criminal in trying to learn the truth.

The FBI is attacking the right of anti-war activists to speak out against US foreign policy.

Likewise, the “interview questions” make a big deal about delegations that visited Palestine.

The Israeli authorities try to disrupt these trips because people return from them and expose the gross human rights violations that are carried out in the context of the military occupation. But once again , this is a legal activity that activists have every right to engage in.

The documents show how the FBI investigation expanded outwards, starting with Colombia and soon focusing on Palestine.

How did the FBI get involved?

The most likely explanation is that an undercover police officer infiltrated the Anti-War Committee shortly before the 2008 Republican National Convention. Among the first people the officer met were Meredith Aby and Jess Sundin, who often spoke at public events about what they saw in Colombia.

The officer then gave reports to the FBI, paving the road to the September 24 raids.

When Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy went on a red-baiting witch hunt in the 1950s, communists, socialists and progressives of all stripes were hounded out of jobs, housing, the entertainment industry and institutions of higher education.

More than a few people were jailed for their ideas.

The secret FBI documents indicate an investigation is underway that takes its cues from this shameful past.

The FBI documents include 57 interview questions about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the organization that some of those who were raided or subpoenaed to the Grand Jury are members of.

The questions include; “Are you a member?” “How many members are there?’’ “Who are the leaders?”

And on and on. It is like pages of the calendar have been turned back 60 years.

In the US, there is a constitutional right to free association. Like-minded people are allowed to form groups and political parties that promote their views.

FRSO members, along with others, were very active in organising the huge anti-war protests at the Republican National Convention. They participate in the labor movement, community organising, and the anti-war movement too.

And they advocate that capitalism should be abolished and replaced with socialism.

Given the bank bailout, continuous wars and the economic crisis it is not unreasonable to see these activities and views as a breath of fresh air.

In the documents, the “Operations order” for FBI SWAT for “Operation Principal Parts” the raid on the Kelly/Gawboy home has the word “DANGEROUS” in underlined bold type at the top of the page.

FBI agents were told to bring assault rifles, machine guns and two extra clips of ammunition for each of their side arms. Two paramedics were to stand by in the event of causalities.

Other documents include photos of Kelly and Gawboy, as well as pictures of stairs leading to their front door and the front door itself.

What transpired on September 24 was this: Gawboy was awoken by the FBI pounding on the door. When she stated she wanted to see the search warrant, agents used a battering ram on the door, breaking the hardware and shattering a fish tank in the process.

Gawboy was taken down the front steps in her nightgown while the FBI swat team entered her home.

The justification for this armed home invasion is given in the “Operations plan” ― “Kelly is believed to be the owner of an unknown number of firearms which may be at his residence…”

Kelly, who learned to shoot while in Boy Scouts, owns guns ― just like a lot of Minnesotans. The “Operation Plan” also claims that Kelly “offered to provide weapons training” ― an outright lie that originated with the police infiltrator or a fiction writer at the FBI office.

The bottom line is this: there can be no justification for the raid in the first place, and still less for it to be done by agents smashing doors and wielding machine guns. This is a recipe for people getting hurt or killed.

The events of September 24 and the ongoing grand jury are not about “material support of terrorism”, as any normal person would understand it. What is happening is this: anti-war and international solidarity activists are being targeted for practicing our rights to speak out and organise.

We have done nothing wrong. Our activism is making this world a better place.

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