I am writing to let everyone know that the FBI visited my father today with the intention of questioning me about my trip to Syria as an international election observer for the 2014 Syrian presidential elections. In June 2014, I visited Syria with the objective of learning the truth about the situation there. (See article at tinyurl.com/ourqr4g)
This trip was entirely legal and well-documented. I visited, along with observers representing 32 countries. Many were members of Parliament and representatives of local governments in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil and Uganda. Since then, I have reported on my trip in public meetings at the United Nations, as well as in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, N.Y., and in Philadelphia where I live.
Since 2007, I have been a committed anti-war activist with many organizations, including Students for a Democratic Society and the International Action Center. The FBI mentioned me as an activist with FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together), in which I am one of the national coordinators.
Why is the FBI coming after me? The FBI’s attempt to question me is not only an attack on me. It is an attack on anyone who chooses to travel the world and seek a perspective that is not represented by the corporate media. The U.S. depends on misinformation and huge lies to perpetrate its crimes abroad. Yet the FBI has picked the wrong person, since I have strong friends and allies across the U.S. who will stand with me in the fight against unjust government repression.
This visit is a continuation of the FBI’s attack on anti-war and international solidarity activists. The FBI has been attempting to charge 24 anti-war and international solidarity activists with “material support of terrorism.” They are being targeted and face potentially long jail sentences. Take a moment to look at the StopFBI.net site for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, the organization that has fought to defend these 24, as well as Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh. This is a strong example of the political fightback that is needed to defend activists from government repression.
These activists are not alone in their treatment. Since 2001, hundreds of Muslim men in the U.S. have been victims of entrapment, harassment and false imprisonment, simply for their religion.
I strongly encourage all of my friends, co-workers and family members to look at the Center for Constitutional Rights’ booklet entitled “If an Agent Knocks.” (ccrjustice.org/ifanagentknocks). See StopFBI.net for resources on what to do if the FBI comes to your door. Most importantly, you should never agree to speak to the FBI without a lawyer present — and you really should never speak to the FBI. You can simply say, “I do not wish to speak with you. I will have my lawyer contact you,” and then close the door.
If the FBI visits, do not become fearful or silent. Let other people know immediately and speak out against government surveillance and intimidation. If you do not have a lawyer and you or a family member is contacted by the FBI, contact the National Lawyers Guild immediately — and contact other activists who have dealt with government intimidation before.
As soon as this happened, I called Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center, to discuss our strategy to stop this FBI repression. We decided to make a clear statement as public as possible. We will not be silent as the government attempts to attack those who choose to speak out against unjust U.S. foreign policy. In fact, we will use any attack on my freedom to continue to build a movement against government repression. It is in this spirit that I am writing today.
As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home.” With U.S. wars escalating in Syria, Iraq and beyond, we see that these wars have only caused massive devastation for the people of the world, while bringing in huge profits to a few.
Meanwhile, billions of dollars are taken away from public education and jobs, as the government has trampled on our basic civil liberties. As the activists in the Committee to Stop FBI Repression have done, I will continue to fight unjust U.S. wars against people across the world, as I demand full funding for human needs and an end to the aggressive destruction of our basic civil liberties.
I am not certain what will happen next. While I do have legal help, I hope you all will also stand with me in case of any further attempt at government repression by the FBI.
Another world is possible.
Oct. 17, 2014