Defend the Rights of All
Emergency Actions to Support Anti-War and International Solidarity Activists: A call for action at Federal Buildings and FBI Offices
We denounce the Federal Bureau of Investigation harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists. The FBI raided seven houses and an office in Chicago and Minneapolis on Friday, September 24, 2010. The FBI handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to eleven activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. The FBI also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.
This suppression of civil rights is aimed at those who dedicate their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. The FBI has indicated that the grand jury is investigating the activists for possible material support of terrorism charges.
The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation. The activists are involved with many groups, including: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. These activists came together with many others to organize the 2008 anti-war marches on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.
We ask people of conscience to join us in fighting this political repression, as we continue working to build the movements against U.S. war and occupation.
Call U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-353-1555 or write an email to: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.
• Stop the repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists
• Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.
• End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists
Plan and Support national days of protest at FBI offices or Federal Buildings, September 27 and 28.
A demonstration has been called at the Minneapolis FBI Office Monday, 4:30, September 27th(111 Washington Ave. S.).
Whereas, early morning Sept. 24 in coordinated raids, FBI agents entered eight homes and offices of trade union and anti-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago, confiscating crates full of computers, books, documents, notebooks, cell phones, passports, children’s drawings, photos of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, videos and personal belongings. The FBI also raided offices of the Twin Cities Anti-war Committee, seizing computers; handed out subpoenas to testify before a federal Grand Jury to 11 activists in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan; and paid harassment visits to others in Wisconsin, California and North Carolina; and
Whereas, one target of the raid was the home of Joe Iosbaker, chief steward and executive board member of SEIU Local 73 in Chicago, where he has led struggles at the University of Illinois for employee rights and pay equity. Brother Iosbaker told the Democracy Now radio/TV program that FBI agents “systematically [went] through every room, our basement, our attic, our children’s rooms, and pored through not just all of our papers, but our music collection, our children’s artwork, my son’s poetry journal from high school – everything.” He and his wife, a Palestine solidarity activist, were both issued subpoenas. The earliest subpoena dates are October 5 and 7; and
Whereas, the majority of those targeted by the FBI raids had participated in anti-war protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul Minnesota, which resulted in hundreds of beatings and arrests [with almost all charges subsequently dropped]. Many of those targeted in the 9/24 raids were involved in humanitarian solidarity work with labor and popular movements in Colombia – “the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist” – whose U.S.-funded government has been condemned by the AFL-CIO and internationally for the systematic assassination of hundreds of trade unionists; and
Whereas, the nationally coordinated dawn raids and fishing expedition marks a new and dangerous chapter in the protracted assault on the First Amendment rights of every union fighter, solidarity activist or anti-war campaigner, which began with 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act. The raids came only 4 days after a scathing report by the Department of Justice Inspector General that soundly criticized the FBI for targeting domestic groups such as Greenpeace and the Thomas Merton Center from 2002-06. In 2008, according to a 300-page report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI trailed a group of students in Iowa City to parks, libraries, bars and restaurants, and went through their trash. This time the FBI is using the pretext of investigating “terrorism” in an attempt to intimidate activists.
Therefore be it resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council denounce the September 24 FBI raids on the homes and offices of trade union, solidarity and anti-war activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and elsewhere; the confiscation of computers and personal belongings; and the issuance of Grand Jury subpoenas. This has all the earmarks of a fishing expedition. The FBI raids are reminiscent of the Palmer Raids, McCarthy hearings, J. Edgar Hoover, and COINTELPRO, and mark a new and dangerous chapter in the protracted assault on the First Amendment rights of every union fighter, international solidarity activist or anti-war campaigner, which began with 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act;
And be it further resolved, that this Council make the following demands:
• Stop the repression against trade union, anti-war and international solidarity activists.
• Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, personal belongings, etc.
• End the Grand Jury proceedings and FBI raids against trade union, anti-war and international solidarity activists;
And be it further resolved, that this Council participate in the ongoing movement to defend our civil rights and civil liberties from FBI infringement; forward this resolution to Bay Area labor councils, California Labor Federation, Change to Win and AFL-CIO; and call on these organizations at all levels to similarly condemn the witch hunt;
And be it finally resolved, that this Council urge the AFL-CIO to ensure that denunciation of the FBI raids is featured from the speakers’ platform at the October 2, 2010 One Nation march in Washington, DC, possibly by inviting one of those targeted by the raids, for example the SEIU chief steward whose home was raided, to speak at the rally.
Pennsylvania Governor Rendell said on September 14 that he was “appalled” and “embarrassed” that his administration’s Office of Homeland Security has been tracking and circulating information about legitimate protests by activist groups that do not pose a threat to public safety.
Rendell said he did not know that the state Office of Homeland Security had been paying an outside company to track a long list of activists, including groups that oppose drilling in the Marcellus Shale, animal-rights advocates, and peace activists.
The office then passed that information on to large groups of people, including law enforcement and members of the private sector.
In doing so, Rendell said, the Homeland Security Office had distorted and made a mockery of the state’s responsibility to protect “critical infrastructure,” and collect and share credible plots to harm it.
“Let me make this as clear as I can make it,” the governor said at news conference Tuesday night, pounding his fist on the podium. “Protesting against an idea, a principle, a process, is not a real threat against infrastructure. Protesting is a God-given American right, a right that is in our Constitution, a right that is fundamental to all we believe in as Americans.”
Rendell said that he will not fire or discipline anyone in the Office of Homeland Security, headed by director James F. Powers Jr., for the lapse. But he said he ordered the office to terminate its contract with Philadelphia-based Institute of Terrorism and Research Response (ITRR), which he said has been paid $125,000 in the last year to gather data about possible security threats.
Instead, the governor said, the company passed on alerts about legitimate protests – and the state Homeland Security Office then disseminated them in an intelligence bulletin that it publishes three times a week.
The bulletin included information about a PrideFest by gays and lesbians; a rally that supported his administration’s education policy; and an anti-BP candlelight vigil. “Tell me, what critical infrastructure does the gay and lesbian PrideFest threaten?” Rendell asked. “How in the Lord’s name can we consider them to be terrorists?”
Reached last night for comment, Mike Perelman, the ITRR’s co-director, said he “respects the confidentiality of our clients,” and does not discuss them.
The controversy over the Homeland Security Office’s intelligence bulletins came to light after one became public last week. The August bulletin included a list of forthcoming – and mostly public – hearings involving Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling, and noted that anti-drilling activists would attend them. It also listed a planned screening of the controversial movie Gasland in Philadelphia.
The bulletin also mentioned planned demonstrations and activities by several other groups, including antiwar and antinuclear activists; anarchist groups; and a Philadelphia-based animal-rights group that is planning a protest against a rodeo in Montgomery County this month. The bulletin was disseminated to law enforcement as well as a number of drillers and others in the private sector.
That quickly sparked an outcry from anti-drilling and other environmental and activist groups, who raised the question of whether state government was acting as a security agent for private energy interests. They also raised concerns about whether there was any evidence that the groups being tracked posed a real threat.
The Homeland Security memo cites an extract from an August FBI bulletin states, “environmental extremists continue to target the energy industry.” Although the incidents have mostly involved “vandalism, trespassing and threats by environmental activists . . . this pattern is beginning to morph – transitioning to more criminal, extremist measures.”
When the memo was made public, Powers e-mailed a person he believed had posted it on the Internet and wrote that it was meant only for those “with a valid need to know.”
“We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders, while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies,” Powers wrote.
According to state officials, the state’s intelligence memo is sent to a large list of people, including law enforcement. It is also sent to people in private industry – such as the gas industry – if their sectors are included in the memo. Providing that information to those entities helps “increase situational awareness for public safety officials,” said Maria Finn, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the Homeland Security Office.
The surprise disclosure that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through its state Homeland Security Agency, along with a number of local police departments in the state, have been employing a private Israeli security company with strong links to Mossad and the Israeli Defense Force grows increasingly disturbing when the website of the company, called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, is examined.
ITRR’s slick site at www.terrorresponse.org features a homepage image of an armor-clad soldier or riot policeman preparing to fire an automatic pistol, while the company boasts of being “the preeminent Israel/American security firm, providing training, intelligence and education for clients across the globe.”
The firm, which offers courses locally at the University of Philadelphia, notes that all its course offerings, some of which are taught in Israel, are “approved by the Israeli Ministry of Defense.” The course titles include such compelling topics as: “Tactical Advantage in Combat,” “Civilian Battlefield,” “Undercover/Plainclothes Tactical Operations,” “Israeli Shooting Techniques,” “Arena Combat,” “Hard Entry (Arrest)” and “Principles of Night Operations.” While a number of the titles link to course descriptions, the links to the undercover class and the civilian battlefield class were disabled when this reporter visited the site, which was two days after the company’s role as a state security contractor was exposed.
The description for the Tactical Advantage course, which the website says was designed for military, law enforcement and security personnel, describes the program as “intense, dirty, aggressive and based on Israeli Counter-Terror Schools policy.” It says “This course pushes trainees to the physical and mental edge.” American organizations that engage in protests and rallies, hearing this reference to the Israeli Counter-Terror Schools policy, might recall the IDF’s handling of the aid flotilla that was boarded on the high seas by IDF troops. That assault, in which the Israelis used 9mm semi-automatic weapons against defenders armed at most with sticks and light chains, left nine flotilla participants, including a young Turkish American, dead.
The Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, which only lists a post-box address in Philadelphia (though in its report on the scandal the Philadelphia Inquirer referred to ITRR as a “Philadelphia-based company with offices in Philadelphia and Jerusalem”), also advertises a subsidiary operation it calls a Targeted Action Monitoring Center (TAM-C), which it claims is “world renowned” and which it says supplies “factual, actionable intelligence to subscribers.” All information gathered by the firm’s staff of “former law enforcement, military and intelligence professionals” is sent to the Israeli headquarters of the TAM-C for processing — a move which effectively insulates it from discovery by any surveillance victims who might seek disclosure under federal or state Freedom of Information laws, or who might sue in court for violation of their civil liberties.
While ITRR, founded in 2004, does not name any of its clients, it says they range from Fortune 100 companies, including the power industry, maritime companies, U.S. infrastructure companies, “the company charged with protecting oil production facilities,” missionary organizations and pharmaceutical firms, to law enforcement agencies and joint terrorism task forces. […]
But ITRR does much more than just monitor “terrorists.” Indeed, it seems to be far too busy monitoring legitimate, non-violent and completely legal protest organizations and other political groups to do much real anti-terror work. According to news reports on ITRR’s work for the Pennsylvania Homeland Security Agency and also the Pittsburgh Police Department, it would appear that ITRR was spying on and providing Pennsylvania State Police and Homeland Security with reports on everything from anti-war groups and anti-oil-shale-fracking groups to gay rights groups, animal rights groups, environmental organizations and even Good Schools Pennsylvania, a citizens association formed to back Gov. Ed Rendell’s school reform initiatives. Even a Harrisburg, PA man who likes to bring a 25-foot inflatable pig to demonstrations to symbolize government waste was targeted.
Its activities are not limited to Pennsylvania either. The firm boasts on its website that “Information provided to clients ranges from issues of global jihad to Mexican Cartel threats along America’s southern border (maybe that’s where Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer got her weird tale, eventually debunked and retracted, of beheadings in the border desert?) to providing guidance of the threat of disorders as a result of international monetary meetings.”
This latter is a reference to the yeoman work ITRR reportedly did for the Pittsburgh Police Department in advance of the disastrous G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, which turned into a police riot after the local government and police brought in hundreds of reinforcements from other cities, with cops suited up as though for war, to lock down the city and prevent students from demonstrating against the predations of international capital and international “free trade” agreements. It appears that ITRR had ingratiated its way into the confidence of demonstration planners by having its agents join chat rooms and websites “posing as G-20 opponents.” One wonders whether these same agents may have also acted as agent provocateurs.
As the head of Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security Agency, James Powers, who hired ITRR, put it, “We got the information to the Pittsburgh Police, and they were able to cut them off at the pass.”
So much for the Constitutional right to protest!
I know how damaging this kind of spying by state and local governments can be. Back in the mid-1970s, when I and some journalist colleagues owned and ran a small weekly alternative newspaper in Los Angeles, the LA Vanguard, we were among the targets of a massive illegal spying campaign by the paranoid Los Angeles Police Department’s “red squad,” the Public Disorder Intelligence Division. Our staff was actually penetrated by a young red squad officer, who pretended to be a student wannabe journalist in order to try to learn our sources for reports on the LAPD. But we were only one of about 200 groups, ranging from a local anti-nuclear group to the Peace & Freedom Party, a well-known third party in California electoral politics, to the National Organization for Woman and even the office of then City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.
The reason we all learned about what the LAPD red squad was doing was that one spy was outed, a class-action suit was filed by the ACLU of Southern California, there was discovery ordered by the court, and eventually the city of Los Angeles settled with the victims of the campaign, to the tune of $1.8 million.
The Pennsylvania ACLU may sue Pennsylvania over this latest domestic spying outrage, but the times have changed, and it is hard to be confident that the courts, no great friend of civil liberties at the state level, and packed with Reagan and Bush 1 and 2 appointees at the federal level, will mandate disclosure of the names of groups spied on, much less of the records that were compiled. Furthermore, because the state did this spying through an outside contractor, which is headquartered in Israel, government and police agencies could claim that the records are for the most part out of their hands and beyond the courts’ jurisdiction.
At least one man, Gene Stilp, owner of the giant inflatable pig, already has plans to sue the government in federal court. “When people’s civil rights are trampled it’s a federal issue,” says Stilp, himself a licensed attorney. Stilp says he is not satisfied with Rendell’s statement that he is “embarrassed” by the disclosure of ITRR’s contract. “Being embarrassed doesn’t cut it,” says Stilp, who is calling for an investigation into ITRR’s spying activities by the attorney general or the federal government, and full disclosure of which groups and individuals were spied on. […]
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening