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FBI raids on antiwar activists

PATRICK MARTIN | 27 September 2010

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[print_link] Workers, youth and students who oppose the war policies of the Obama administration and all those who uphold democratic rights must defend the antiwar and pro-Palestinian activists whose homes were raided Friday morning by the FBI. These raids are an ominous warning that the US government, unable to convince the American people to support the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a predatory foreign policy around the world, is moving to criminalize open political opposition.
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At a press conference Saturday in Chicago, two of those targeted, Joe Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner, gave details of the raid. Twenty FBI agents ransacked their home, taking away more than 30 boxes of papers, correspondence and personal items dating back over four decades. At several of the homes raided, FBI agents seized computers and cell phones.
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While no one was arrested—a fact that in itself demonstrates there was no “terrorist” threat—many of those targeted were given subpoenas to appear before federal grand juries next month. They will apparently be questioned particularly about their personal travel to foreign countries where they met openly with political and labor groups.
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Those targeted in the September 24 raids are not terrorists stockpiling bombs, but political activists whose “weapons” are leaflets, placards, newsletters and Internet postings. Most are members or supporters of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), which publishes the newsletter Fight Back.
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RECOMMENDED RELATED MATERIALS:
Inspector general report on FBI transgressions:
http://www.cjournal.info/resources/IGreports1009r.pdf
IN AN AGENT KNOCKS  -Center for Constitutional Rights advisory (MUST READ)
http://www.cjournal.info/resources/CCR-What-to-Do-if-the-FBI-Comes-to-Your-Door.pdf

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The Socialist Equality Party has a very different political perspective from the FRSO, which has its roots in the Maoist student groups of the 1960s and 1970s, and supports a variety of bourgeois nationalist leaderships in the oppressed countries of Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. But the SEP is unreserved in our defense of the democratic rights of the FRSO and its members against state repression.
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We also defend the supporters and members of the Arab-American Action Network, whose web site describes it as a grassroots organization that “strives to strengthen the Arab community in the Chicago area by building its capacity to be an active agent for positive social change.” The Bush administration witch-hunted and destroyed many Arab-American and Islamic charities and community groups after the 9/11 attacks, and the Obama administration is continuing in this reactionary tradition.
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The SEP condemns as well the complicity of the corporate-controlled media with this blatant assault on political dissent. Outside of Minneapolis and Chicago, there has been little press coverage of the raids. The New York Times, for example, published a small article buried in its inside pages. The television networks have devoted zero time to the most flagrantly antidemocratic action taken by the US government since Obama entered the White House.
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An FBI spokesman claimed that the raids were aimed at people “providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support” to terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). But there is no evidence tying any of those targeted in the raids to terrorism.
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The FBI is apparently attempting to use the precedent set by the recent US Supreme Court ruling in the case of The Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder. In this reactionary decision, handed down in June, the high court upheld the charge of “material support” to terrorism against people who were working with the PKK, a Kurdish nationalist guerrilla group fighting in Turkey, and the LTTE, the Tamil nationalist organization fighting a civil war in Sri Lanka.
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The individuals charged in that case were not providing military or technical assistance to guerrilla warfare. Some were seeking to persuade the PKK to make the transition from guerrilla warfare to electoral politics in Turkey (as the Irish Republican Army did in Northern Ireland, under the auspices of the Clinton administration). Others were advising the LTTE, during a period of ceasefire in the Sri Lankan civil war, on how to obtain disaster aid for the Tamil population after the 2004 Asian tsunami.
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Both the PKK and LTTE had been designated as “terrorist” organizations by the US State Department because they were fighting governments allied to Washington. Similar organizations fighting governments at odds with US foreign policy were not so designated, although their tactics were identical. If the Holder precedent had been in effect during the 1980s, antiapartheid campaigners in the United States could have been arrested and prosecuted for “material support,” because the Reagan administration had designated the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela as “terrorists.”
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As the World Socialist Web Site wrote at the time of the Holder decision: “This week’s ruling marks a new stage in the ongoing attack on democratic rights in the United States. At the behest of the Obama administration, the Supreme Court—for the first time ever—has given its imprimatur to the prosecution and imprisonment of US citizens for advocating support of organizations opposing the policies of the US government or its allies anywhere on the planet.” (See “Supreme Court backs use of terrorism law against free speech”).
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The Bush Justice Department brought the “material support” charges and the Obama Justice Department carried the case to a successful conclusion at the Supreme Court, a fact which underscores the continuity between the Republicans and the Democrats when it comes to attacking the democratic rights of the American people. LEFT: Subpoena.
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The September 24 raids came only four days after publication of an internal report by the Justice Department’s inspector general admitting that the FBI improperly opened “terrorism” investigations into peace and social justice groups including Quakers, Catholic Worker, the Thomas Merton Center, Greenpeace, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
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The decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks has seen the systematic buildup of police-state powers, beginning with the overwhelming bipartisan support for the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Northern Command, the establishment of the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp and secret CIA torture prisons, and the assumption of greater and greater authority by the military/intelligence agencies and the White House.
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The SEP has consistently warned that while these measures were declared to be directed against Al Qaeda and its alleged sympathizers, the real target was the American people. The financial aristocracy in the United States is well aware that the real threat to its privileges and wealth is not a handful of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, but the American working class. Under conditions of deepening economic and social crisis, the ruling elite anticipates the growth of social opposition from below. It is preparing the state machinery of repression accordingly.
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The role of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party in intensifying the buildup of police-state powers underscores the necessity for the independent mobilization of the working class against the entire political establishment and the capitalist system that it defends. This is the only basis for putting an end to war and defending democratic rights.
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Patrick Martin is a senior political analyst with the World Socialist Web Site.
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The New York Times and the FBI raids

By Hiram Lee 
28 September 2010
The New York Times published an editorial on Monday entitled “A Reminder to the FBI” ostensibly chastising the federal police agency for spying on domestic antiwar groups and other protest organizations. The editorial makes reference to “abuses” and “missteps” committed by the agency.
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The real significance of the editorial, however, lies in what it does not say. In a commentary lamenting “how easily civil liberties can be cast aside,” there is not a single mention of the FBI raids carried out against antiwar activists in Chicago and Minneapolis just three days before the editorial’s publication.
There is no innocent explanation for this silence. It is a highly conscious omission.
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Of a piece with the Times’ decision to bury its news report on the raids in a perfunctory article on its inside pages, the editorial sends a clear signal to the Obama administration and the police/security agencies. The Times has no problem with the use of police-state methods to suppress antiwar sentiment and will not make an issue of the attacks carried out on Friday. This amounts to a tacit endorsement of the FBI raids.
The major organ of the liberal Democratic Party establishment is by no means alone in suppressing coverage and implicitly condoning the raids. The FBI action was ignored entirely by the Washington Post and has received only token coverage from other media outlets.
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The brief editorial uncritically cites a Department of Justice report released on September 20 containing a review of the FBI’s investigations into “domestic advocacy groups.” (See, “Report whitewashes FBI political spying”) As the Times writes, “The report did not find evidence that the FBI routinely targeted groups that were trying to exercise their First Amendment right to protest government policies. It characterized the Merton Center incident as a slip-up.”
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The “Merton Center incident” involved FBI surveillance of Iraq war protesters at a 2002 peace rally in Pennsylvania sponsored by the pacifist Thomas Merton Center. The Times  adds, “It sounds like the paranoid approach to dissent of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, but this and other abuses took place during the Bush administration.”
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That the Times can speak of such abuses as a thing of the past when just days earlier the FBI raided the homes of antiwar activists in a coordinated action in two states, seizing computers, cell phones, books, papers and personal effects and issuing subpoenas to eight activists to appear before a grand jury, reveals the newspaper’s utter indifference to the defense of democratic rights.
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It underscores its complicity in the antidemocratic policies carried out under Bush and intensified under Obama. The Times supported the Patriot Act and the entire panoply of police-state measures enacted after 9/11 and justified in the name of the phony “war on terrorism.” This goes hand in hand with the newspaper’s support for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and Obama’s escalation of the bloodbath in the latter country.
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It highlights the fact that no section of the political establishment is prepared to defend democratic rights. The general silence of the media, and particularly that of the nominally liberal press, on the brazen state attack on political dissent represented by the FBI raids must be taken as a warning. The liberal establishment will not lift a finger as the government uses “antiterrorism” as the pretext for broader attacks on social and political opposition to its reactionary policies.
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The only social force that can defend democratic rights is the working class, mobilized independently of and in opposition to the Obama administration and the entire political establishment.
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HIRAM LEE is an editorial member of the World Socialist Web Site.

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