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2010-11-05

Justice Dept. Renews Enforcement of Subpoenas for Antiwar Activists Targeted in FBI Raids

Guests

Bruce Nestor, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and a criminal defense and immigration attorney in Minneapolis. He’s representing those who’ve been summoned before a grand jury.

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We get an update on the fallout from the FBI raids in late September that targeted antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury were served on thirteen people but later withdrawn when the activists asserted their right to remain silent. But this week, the US Department of Justice said it intends to enforce the subpoenas for some of them and require them to appear before a grand jury. We speak to former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Bruce Nestor. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to an update on the fallout from the FBI raids in late September that targeted antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury were served on thirteen people but later withdrawn when the activists asserted their right to remain silent. But this week the Justice Department said it intends to enforce the subpoenas for some of them and require them to appear before a grand jury. All those subpoenaed have been involved with antiwar activism that is critical of US foreign policy in Colombia and the Middle East.

We’ll be joined in a minute by their attorney, but first, here’s a reminder of what happened on September 24th. Soon after the raids, two of the activists whose homes had been raided told their stories on Democracy Now! We spoke to Joe Iosbaker in Chicago and Jess Sundin in Minneapolis.

JESS SUNDIN: Friday morning, I awoke to a bang at the door, and by the time I was downstairs, there were six or seven federal agents already in my home, where my partner and my six-year-old daughter had already been awake. We were given the search warrant, and they went through the entire house. 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. And when they were done, as I said, they had many crates full of my personal belongings, with which they left my house.

JOE IOSBAKER: It was a nationally coordinated assault on all of these homes. Seven a.m., the pound on the door. I was getting ready for work, came down the stairs, and there were, I think, in the area of ten agents, you know, of the — they identified themselves as FBI, showed me the search warrant. And I turned to my wife and said, "Stephanie, it’s the thought police."

AMY GOODMAN: Joe Iosbaker of Chicago, whose home was one of the three raided by the FBI in September.

The federal law cited in the search warrants prohibits, quote, "providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations." In June, the Supreme Court rejected a free speech challenge to the material support law from humanitarian aid groups that said some of its provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist groups about nonviolent activities.

For more, we’re joined here in New York by Minneapolis-based attorney, past president of the National Lawyers Guild, Bruce Nestor. He’s representing those who have been summoned before a grand jury.

Tell us the latest. We only have a minute.

BRUCE NESTOR: Three people are now being — looking at reappearing in front of the grand jury and likely being forced with the choice between talking about who they meet with, what the political beliefs of their friends and allies are, or perhaps risking contempt and sitting in jail for eighteen months. These are people who are deeply rooted in the progressive community in Chicago and Minneapolis. These are grandmothers, they’re mothers, they’re union activists. They were some of the organizers of the largest antiwar march at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

And so —- and they’re being prosecuted under this material support for terrorism law, a law that was really enhanced under the PATRIOT Act and that allows, in the government’s own words, for people to be prosecuted for their speech if they coordinate it with a designated foreign terrorist organization. What you run the risk of there is that even if you state your own independent views about US foreign policy, but those views somehow reflect a group that the US has designated as a terrorist organization, you can be accused of coordinating your views and face, if not prosecution, at least investigation, search warrants, being summoned to a grand jury to talk about who your political allies and who your political friends are. So, so far, this law has largely been used against individuals, often Muslim Americans. Of course, Lynne Stewart -—

AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds.

BRUCE NESTOR: Lynne Stewart is one of the biggest cases. This is the first time that they’re going directly after the antiwar and peace movement. It’s something people really need to respond to. Go to www.stopfbi.net for more information about what you can do.

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce Nestor, thanks for joining us, past president of the National Lawyers Guild.

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