The homes of five Twin Cities activists, including three prominent leaders of the Twin Cities antiwar movement, were raided Friday by the FBI in what an agency spokesman described as an "investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism." The office of an antiwar organization also was reportedly raided.
An FBI spokesman Steve Warfield confirmed that warrants were issued on six Minneapolis addresses this morning.
Among the homes raided were the apartments of Jessica Sundin, who was a principal leader of the mass antiwar march of 10,000 on the opening day of the Republican National Convention two years ago, and Mick Kelly, who was prominent in that protest and among those who announced plans to march on the Democratic National Convention in Minneapolis, if the city is selected to host it in 2012. Neither has been arrested.
Kelly said in an interview this morning he had "absolutely not" been involved in illegal activities.
A raid was also conducted on the home of Meredith Aby, another local antiwar leader who was frequently the spokeswoman for the march on the GOP convention. A fourth raid took place at the home of Tracy Molm, a leading activist in Students for a Democratic Society, an organization at the University of Minnesota, and a fifth warrant was executed on the upper duplex residence of Anh Pham, an antiwar activist.
Supporters of the protest leaders had gathered on the sidewalks outside some of the residences where the raids occurred.
The offices of the Anti-War Committee, a local organization that has sponsored many of the peace protests in the Twin Cities over the last decade, was also raided by the FBI, activists and attorneys said.
Ted Dooley, an attorney, said he had reviewed the search warrant issued in the raid on Kelly's apartment. "It's a probe into the political beliefs of American citizens and to any organization anywhere that opposes the American imperial design," he said.
Steve Warfield, an FBI agent, declined to respond to Dooley's comment. He said in a statement, "We are doing six federal search warrants in Minneapolis that are related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism. We are doing two search warrants in Chicago as well."
He said the raids were conducted at about 7 a.m., but he declined to say who or what addresses were being raided or any additional details.
According to one defense attorney, subpoenas were being issued for a federal grand jury in Chicago. It was not clear who is being subpoenaed.
The raid on Kelly's apartment was on the 1800 block of Riverside Av. The raid on Sundin's apartment was on the 2900 block of Park Av. Aby's home is on the 3000 block of 14th Av. S.
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Dooley said the search warrants cited a federal law making it a violation to provide, attempt to provide or conspire to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.
In the search warrant on Kelly's apartment, Dooley said, "It appears they are looking into any connections, travel, etc., to Palestine and Colombia, also around the United States," he said. He said that in Kelly's case, the warrant mentions a political organization called Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
Dooley said, "They are looking at any connection between him and 'FTO's,' foreign terrorist organizations, including but not limited to FARC, PFLP and Hezbollah," and any support, contact or association with those groups. FARC is a revolutionary peasant organization in Columbia, and PFLP is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Hezoballah is a political and paramilitary organization based in Lebanon.
Dooley said the search warrant mentions documents, files, books, photographs, videos, souvenirs, war relics, notebooks, address books diaries journals, maps or any other evidence in electronic for that shows Kelly's connections to those groups, and whether he supported or recruited people or talked to them. It also mentions potential co-conspirators, Dooley said.
Kelly said the FBI kicked down his door Friday morning.
At 11 a.m., about fours hours after the raid began, the FBI was still conducting its search. Kelly was sitting in the café while his attorney, Dooley, and Gawboy watched the search upstairs. Kelly said the search warrant said the FBI was investigating activists who travelled to Colombia, Palestine and elsewhere. Kelly said he has not traveled to those locations. He said he has been to Lebanon but does not believe that country is mentioned in the warrant.
"To me this is harassment of antiwar activists and leaders who have spoken against U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Middle East," he said.
Sundin said that at 7 a.m. a half-dozen FBI agents came into the house she shares with her partner, Steff Yorek, and their daughter. They were served with a search warrant and a subpoena to testify before a Chicago grand jury. The warrant asked for items related to trips to Colombia and the Middle east and related to the Anti-War Committee. They took papers, computers, photographs, computers and Sundin's cell phone. "They're targeting us because we've supported struggles for justice in other countries, and we oppose the US government's military involvement in places like Colombia and we've done so very openly," Sundin said. Sundin said she has traveled to Colombia, but she has not done anything illegal. She said she did not receive a "target letter" indicating she would potentially be targeted for indictment by the grand jury. She saijd she she has been an activist since 1991. After 9/11, she said the government has taken greater liberties to overrun the rights of those who speak out. "I am angry. I want people to know that the government is targeting people for our ideas," she said. "The ideas that they're targeting me for are ideas of peace and justice. I have and always will support struggles all over the world for peace and justice right down to my own neighborhood. To do that should not be a crime, and to do that should not make me the subject of any investigation, and the same goes for my friends and colleagues."
At Aby's home, police officers could be seen inside the house, although no FBI agents were visible. Aby's cell phone was taken by law enforcement agents, and Sundin's phone also was seized, Sundin said.
Attorney Bruce Nestor, who has represented antiwar organizations and individual protesters, said he was in New Orleans, attending a convention of the National Lawyers Guild and was notified by phone from activists that federal agents showed up with a search warrant at Sundin's apartment to seize documents, cell phones and computers.
"It appears to be an investigation and a claim of support for foreign terrorist organizations," said Nestor. He said the organizations are designated as terrorist by executive order of the president.
"There is no process whereby you can contest the designation," he said. "Ever since these laws were passed in 1996, there is a concern that they reach so broadly as to certainly chill or intimidate people in speaking out on foreign policy or support for groups that oppose U.S. foreign policy."