These are dark times. We fight wars in far flung reaches of the world, destroying those nations which we invade) for far less than noble purposes, while we morally and economically bankrupt our own nation. While most of this nation goes about its business as the military runs amok, some groups and individuals do their best to call on people to demand peace (with justice) rather than the current state of perpetual war.
While most (I hope) would agree that speaking out for peace and justice should be considered a sacred right in a "free" country, and a First Amendment right at that, it seems that many in our own government did not study the Constitution. I think that the Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves right now.
A recent study by the Justice Department's Inspector General, A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups, found that the FBI improperly investigated a number of peaceful "domestic advocacy groups". Brace yourselves; these are some DANGEROUS groups (and one individual) such as Greenpeace, PETA, The Merton Center, The Catholic Worker and "Quaker Peace Activist" Glen Milner.
Are you seeing terrifying visions of mushroom clouds yet??? Yes folks, we have gone completely nuts in this post 9/11 nation. Soon we will be seeing signs on every street corner - "Report suspicious Quaker activity at your nearest Homeland Security phone kiosk... report anyone resembling (or acting like) Dorothy Day to your local FBI office." But I digress...
In a September 20th ACLU news release about the Inspector General's report Michael German, ACLU Senior Policy Counsel and former FBI agent is quoted:
And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, IT DOES! As if it isn't bad enough for the FBI to be squandering our tax dollars on surveillance of peace activists exercising their first amendment rights, the FBI has been at it again, but this time it is much more serious!
The FBI has a long history of abusing its national security surveillance powers, reaching back to the smear campaign waged by the American government against Dr. Martin Luther King. Americans peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights were able to become targets of FBI surveillance because spying guidelines that were established after the shameful abuses of the 60s and 70s were loosened in 2002. Unfortunately, they were loosened again in 2008, even after this abuse was uncovered.
Unless the rules regulating the FBI are strengthened to safeguard the privacy of innocent Americans, we are all in danger of being spied on and added to terrorist watch lists for doing nothing more than attending a rally or holding up a sign.
The FBI gave the Inspector General the proverbial "finger" as agents raided homes and offices of antiwar activists in Chicago and Minneapolis Friday, September 24th. We aren't talking about "knock, knock, FBI, open up please!" No, we're talking SWAT teams breaking down doors, shoving warrants in people's faces and taking evidence without even a "thank you for your cooperation."
This is chilling folks. The FBI said that the searches were part of a joint task force probe of terrorism, and that they were “seeking evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism.” This is what happens when you get mired in an endless Global War on Terror in which laws have been successively weakened (by a weak and fearful Congress).
Here are the groups targeted in Friday's raids: Palestine Solidarity Group, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, and Students for a Democratic Society. Perhaps your organization will be next??? Of course we should give the FBI the benefit of the doubt, right? Based on history, I don't think so!
People have already taken to the streets in many U.S. cities in protest of the FBI raids. More events will likely occur. Here are ways we can all act and speak out (Thanks to Fellowship of Reconciliation for these):
- Call the Attorney General's office at 202-353-1555 and demand an end to political intimidation of peace activists.
- Call or write the "newspapers of record" such as the New York Times and Washington Post, asking them to give full and prominent coverage to this story.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, explaining why this kind of intimidation is a danger to democracy.
- Call your local members of Congress to demand that the FBI stop harassing peace activists.
- Participate in any local actions to protest these raids. Click here for a list of protest events around the country.
You can also send an email to the Department of Justice courtesy of Veterans for Peace.
Historian and author Henry Steele Comager once said that, "Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive." Let us never stop being subversive so long as those in authority are not serving the people.
Here is a thorough summary of the Inspector General's report in The Atlantic: OIG: FBI Inappropriately Tracked Domestic Advocacy Groups
FBI searches homes as part of terrorism probe at CNN Justice.
It Is Official: The US Is A Police State at Countercurrents.org
Anti-War Activists Targeted by FBI Speak Out by the Associated Press