Anti-war activists fight government secrecy on FBI raids

The following news about two anti-war activists who have been subject to government persecution since September 2010 was published on the fightbacknews.org website on Nov. 1. It reports the government’s threats of future indictments.

St. Paul, Minn. – Two prominent anti-war and international solidarity activists, Jess Sundin and Mick Kelly, were in federal court here, Nov. 1, in a bid to pull back the curtain of government secrecy that surrounds the FBI raids on their homes on Sept. 24, 2010. In the hearing presided over by Judge Steven E. Rau, Bruce Nestor, attorney for the plaintiffs, made a passionate argument for a motion to unseal the affidavits used to obtain the search warrants for the FBI raids.

Nestor told the court that the government cannot raid the homes of political activists without providing an explanation. He also spoke of the chilling effect the raids had on those exercising their First Amendment rights.

The Sept. 24, 2010, FBI raids struck seven homes in Minneapolis and Chicago and the office of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee. A total of 23 activists were summoned to a Chicago grand jury investigating “material support for terrorism.” No one testified.

At the Nov. 1 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter cited the ongoing investigation into the anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists as the “compelling government interest” in continuing to keep the documents under seal. Judge Rau stated that he will hold a closed “in camera” hearing with Assistant U.S. Attorney Winter in 120 days, where Winter will report on the status and scope of the investigation. After that the judge will make periodic reviews (possibly every 90 days) of the order to keep the documents sealed.

Commenting on the Nov. 1 proceedings, Jess Sundin stated: “I came to court today hoping to hear that the investigation of myself and fellow activists was coming to a close and that the veil of secrecy and suspicion around us would be lifted. Instead, the government said the investigation is ongoing. While Assistant U.S. Attorney Winter didn’t openly threaten indictments, he expressed that things could develop in our case any day. Given that the government is fighting to keep its secrets hidden, I think he was saying that one or more indictments may still be coming. Or perhaps he expects the investigation will widen, and other activists will be caught up in this shameful witch hunt.”

Sundin continued: “I left the courtroom with a sense of foreboding. We need to be prepared, in the event of indictments, possibly within the next few months. We need to defend others who are persecuted for their political ideas or who they are — such as Chicago’s Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh. Three years ago, many of us made arrangements for family members to put up their homes, in the event that we would need to make bail. It was a sobering moment after court today, when we were reminded that all of these preparations should be reviewed again today.”

Sundin and Kelly have long spoken out against U.S. wars and in support of oppressed people. Mick Kelly said: “This case is all about criminalizing those of us who stand with the struggles in Palestine and Colombia, those of us who work against U.S. wars. There is no doubt that the affidavits used to obtain the search warrants on our homes are full of lies and are an attack on protected political activity. We want to drag them into the light of day.”