Rights wronged: An FBI probe of peace activists comes under fire
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Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a raid on the home of nonviolent activists in Chicago. The civilians came under suspicion for possible "material support" of Colombian and Palestinian groups the government considers terrorist.
Seven homes were raided and 23 people were subpoenaed as part of the probe. The fact that everyone who was targeted happened to be a critic of U.S. policy in the Middle East and South America was not lost on those who suspect the Obama Justice Department of being just as intolerant of dissent as the Bush administration.
Anti-war protesters and labor organizers are also feeling heat from the FBI raids in the Midwest. Even a few of Mr. Obama's fellow social activists from the era when he was an obscure state senator are also being investigated for possible ties to terrorism, too.
The 23 activists have invoked their right not to testify before a grand jury. They also formed a group with a name that spells out its mission: the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.
Church groups, political activists and labor unions including the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have rallied for those singled out for FBI scrutiny.
The probe began before the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Despite fears of massive protests and domestic violence, such activity did not occur. Still, the FBI did not lose interest in the activists after the convention was over.
Because some of them traveled to Palestinian territories or to Colombia on fact-finding missions to inform their activism in the United States, they're being investigated for possible ties to terrorist groups. Even so, the Justice Department's inspector general criticized the FBI last year for monitoring the domestic political activities of liberal groups unfairly accused of holding terrorist sympathies.
While there is nothing terroristic about Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or protesters against the Iraq and Afghanistan war, there is something un-American about what the FBI is doing in the name of fighting terror.
First Published June 19, 2011 12:00 am