|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 6, 2004
|CONTACT: National Lawyers Guild
Michael Avery, President, 617-573-8551
Heidi Boghosian, Exec. Dir., 212-679-5100, ext. 11; 917-239-4999
National Lawyers Guild Target of FBI Subpoena
Legal/Activist Group Will Not Divulge Membership Information
NEW YORK - February 6 - The National Lawyers Guild will move to quash an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force subpoena issued on Wednesday, February 4, 2004. The subpoena asks Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to produce all records relating to a November 15, 2003 antiwar conference at Drake University called "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!" The conference was sponsored by the Drake Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and was followed the next day by a demonstration at the Iowa National Guard Headquarters in Johnston, at which 12 protestors were arrested on misdemeanor charges.
The subpoena asks Drake University for all records relating to the November 15 conference, as well as information about leaders of the Drake University chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and the location of Guild offices and any annual reports since 2002. In addition, it asks for "all records of Drake University campus security reflecting any observations made of the November 15, 2003 meeting, including any records of persons in charge or control of the meeting, and any records of attendees of the meeting."
Guild President Michael Avery said, "The law is clear that the use of the grand jury to investigate protected political activities or to intimidate protestors exceeds its authority. The government has no business investigating legal conferences held in academic institutions."
On February 5, the federal investigation expanded as prosecutors subpoenaed a fourth activist to appear before a grand jury. Earlier subpoenas were directed to the former director of the Iowa Peace Network and members of the Catholic Peace Ministries. That same day, at the request of the U.S. attorney's office in Des Moines, U.S. District Judge Ronald Longstaff issued an order under seal that sources say prohibit Drake University employees from commenting on the earlier subpoena demanding university records.
"The subpoena has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with intimidating lawful protestors and suppressing First Amendment freedom of expression and association," said Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the Guild. "In the 1950s our members suffered harm from disclosure of their associational relationship with the Guild. The Guild is in the business of fighting illegal government activity and we will fight to protect our membership information. We will also work to support and defend the rights of the other activists targeted by these subpoenas."
The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, comprises over 6,000 members and activists in the service of the people. Its national office is headquartered in New York and it has chapters in nearly every state, as well as over 100 law school chapters. Guild members provide legal support to progressive demonstrations throughout the country, and well understand the nationwide trend toward increasingly repressive measures deployed against political protesters.