The FBI on Tuesday added four more names to the list of antiwar activists subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of an investigation into whether members of the peace movement provided "material support" for terrorism.
In all, 23 people have been subpoenaed since September 24, when the FBI raided the offices and homes of prominent activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. None has been charged with a crime. Several have also refused to testify in what they say is a witch hunt aimed more at intimidating those who dare speak out against U.S. foreign policy than uncovering actual ties to terrorists.
And they're probably right.
Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling this past June, the definition of "material support" for terrorism is now so broad as to include any sort of "advice" to a State Department-designated terrorist group, even if that advice is "stop engaging in terrorism and embrace nonviolence." Former President Jimmy Carter and groups such as the ACLU and Human Rights Watch have spoken out against the ruling.
Because the definition is so broad, though, it provides the perfect legal basis for the government to go after those opposed to its policies abroad. And as the Bush administration ably demonstrated, there are plenty of people in government who would be all too happy to equate opposition to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen - just to name a few - as de facto support for terrorism.
"We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. fundig of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq," says Maureen Murphy, editor of the news outlet The Electronic Intifada and one of those subpoenaed on Tuesday. "What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy."
Meredith Aby, another prominent antiwar activist who had her home raided by the FBI, likewise believes she is being targeted for exercising her right to free speech, not because the government actually believes she and other committed pacifists would actually support terrorist violence. She says that the questions U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wants activists to answer - like which activists they met with abroad and what ideas did they express - proves as much. And like other activists, she said she wasn't interested in answering.
"I've never killed anyone," Aby says in an interview. "I have no blood on my hands. The blood is on the hands of the U.S. government, on the Israeli government, on the Colombian government. I'm not interested in helping kill people, and so there's no way that I can testify at a grand jury about what people's political ideas in places as dangerous as Colombia and Palestine."
"We need to send a message that this has gone far enough," she said. "We need to send a message to politicians that they will understand."
Her advice? Tell Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald that you oppose using the law to intimidate committed, nonviolent peace activists whose only crime is exercising their right to dissent. Fitzgerald's office can be reached at (312) 353-5300, while Obama and Holder can be contacted by signing this petition.
"At the end of the day, these men are politicians," Aby says, "and they will make their decision in a political fashion about ... how wide this investigation will go."