Saturday, September 25, 2010
Many activists involved in Central America issues became aware of ham-handed snooping by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in the early 1980's. In 1986 the Center for Investigative Reporting in California used the federal Freedom of Information Act to obtain FBI files which suggested a large-scale probe into CISPES. In 1987 testimony by a former FBI informant Frank Varelli also suggested a broad attack on CISPES by the FBI. Varelli later told reporters of the involvement of other governmental and private right-wing groups in targetting CISPES.
Some 1300 pages of additional FBI files released in 1988 by New York's Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), on behalf of CISPES, reveal in sharp detail the extent and nature of the FBI probe into CISPES. More importantly, the files show that the FBI, to justify its actions, accepted as fact a right-wing conspiratorial world-view which sees dissent as treason and resistance to oppression as terrorism.
The first FBI investigation of CISPES was launched in September of 1981 to determine if CISPES should be forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Among the documents used by the FBI to justify this CISPES probe, according to Congressional testimony by FBI official Oliver "Buck" Revell, was a 1981 article by a former FBI informant and ongoing right-wing private spy-John Rees. The Rees article appeared in Review of the News a magazine published by the paranoid ultra-right John Birch Society. This FBI investigation was terminated without indictments in December of 1981.
A second FBI investigation of CISPES began in March of 1983. It was premised on the right-wing conspiracy theory that CISPES was a cover for "terrorist" activity. To justify this view, the FBI relied not only on reports from its informant Varelli, but also in part on a conspiratorial analysis contained in a report written by Michael Boos, a staffer at the right-wing Young Americas Foundation. This FBI "counter-terrorism" investigation was terminated without indictments in 1985.
NOTE: In Holder, the US Supreme Court adopted the legal reasoning of then Solicitor General Elena Kagan, an aspiring A. Mitchell Palmer of our times.
FBI agents raided the homes of six activists in Minneapolis and two in Chicago on September 24, seizing computers, cell phones, CDs, files and papers. They left behind subpoenas ordering at least some of the targeted individuals to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. The FBI agents were seeking evidence of ties to "FTOs," or foreign terrorist organizations, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Steven Warfield, the FBI media coordinator, said that six warrants were issued in Minneapolis and two in Chicago as part of a terrorist investigation. The FBI agents were searching for evidence of "material support to terrorists." When asked about any subpoenas that were issued today, Warfield said "I can't tell you about any grand jury activities."
University of Minnesota Law Professor Peter Erlinder, who was arrested this summer near the Rwandan capital for representing Victoire Ingabire, attended a press conference at one of the homes that was raided on Park and 29th Street. He said that the raids today were not simply a small issue that happened on the South Side of Minneapolis. They were the result, he said, of a recent Supreme Court ruling, Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, which upheld a statute that made it illegal to support any organization that the Secretary of State deems terrorist because it is opposed to U.S. policies. The Supreme Court ruling makes providing "material support" to terrorist organizations a felony even if that support was peaceful. Thus, a lawyer providing legal services or a doctor providing medical services to a terrorist organization would technically be committing a felony, Erlinder said. "The individual doesn't have to intend to be furthering the illegal activities," Erlinder said.