A series of paramilitary-style raids conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) against activists in Portland, Oregon, and in Olympia and Seattle in Washington occurred on July 25. The FBI seized computers, black clothing, and any “anarchist” literature they could find. Multiple people were reportedly issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury at the Federal Courthouse in Seattle on August 2.
Will Potter, who has closely followed how federal government agencies work to suppress environmental or so-called eco-terrorist movement groups, reported at GreenistheNewRed.com:
Three homes were raided in Portland, by approximately 60-80 police including FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force. Individuals at the homes say police used flash grenades during the raid.
Grand jury subpoenas have been served to individuals in all three cities: 2 in Olympia, 1 in Seattle, and 2 in Portland. The grand jury is scheduled to convene on August 2nd at the federal courthouse in Seattle.
…They took a “zip-up hoodie,” which belonged to Neel’s girlfriend. They took one glove from an upstairs closet. They took a pair of sunglasses that can be worn over another pair of glasses. Fliers and a pamphlet that anyone could’ve picked up at any Occupy action were seized. The police also took a notepad that had his girlfriend’s handwritten notes, which she wrote when she was a Chase 5 defendant. (The Chase 5, who were accused of trespassing during a bank protest, won their case in March.)…
The FBI will not give specifics on why they raided homes or why they are subpoenaing people to appear before a grand jury on Wednesday. The search warrants are sealed and the FBI intends to keep the warrants sealed. However, law enforcement has said this is all part of a “violent crime investigation.”
In the case of the July 10 raid, law enforcement claimed the apartment was being raided as part of an investigation into “suspects” that could be tied to violence that occurred in Seattle during “May Day riots.” But nothing was found in the apartment to tie anyone to the militant actions on May Day of which law enforcement would like to hold someone responsible.
The FBI appears to be targeting people on the basis of their beliefs. The fact that a special grand jury has been empaneled sends a signal that law enforcement has embarked on a fishing expedition. They are going after anarchists who are likely connected to the Occupy movement.
These kinds of raids where paramilitary units set off flash bangs, storm into a home, briefly detain individuals, and then conduct a search for “anarchist materials” are like something from the era of former Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, when raids were being conducted against anarchists in the early 1900s. They are not especially abnormal though. The Justice Department under President Barack Obama has shown a willingness to use the FBI to go after activists. In September 2010, twenty-three antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists had their homes raided by the FBI. The activists from Chicago, the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and other areas in the Midwest were subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. Agents seized documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers, and even children’s artwork. Search warrants and subpoenas showed the FBI was targeting the activists for evidence that they had provided “material support to terrorism.” One of the activists targeted, Sarah Smith, was under investigation for taking an “educational trip” to Israel and Palestine.
On January 12, 2011, targeted activists announced an agent named “Karen Sullivan” infiltrated the Twin Cities Antiwar Committee (AWC) to monitor the group’s organizing efforts for the Republican National Convention. Later in May, a Los Angeles County Sheriff SWAT team, accompanied by FBI agents, raided long-time Chicano activist Carlos Montes. They essentially looted his home taking his computer, cell phone, computer disks, photos, and forty-four years worth of political activist files. Montes was arrested and questioned about his support for antiwar activists raided in the Midwest in September of last year. [Montes nearly went to trial for bogus felony charges related to the fact that he owns a gun but the authorities signaled they would back down and he pled guilty to a perjury charge to end the prosecution.]
While no person has been indicted yet, each remain subject of a federal grand jury investigation which the FBI has had a key role in perpetuating. In February, Barry Jonas, a Northern Illinois US Assistant Attorney known for his leading role in prosecuting the leaders of the Holy Land Foundation, reaffirmed the Justice Department’s commitment to pursuing a fishing expedition against people who have been organizating against American wars and in solidarity with Colombian trade unionists and the Palestinian people.
In response to the raids and subpoenas, a group of activists formed the Committee Against Political Repression and declared in a statement:
…Though the FBI has said that the raids are part of a violent crime investigation, the truth is that the federal authorities are conducting a political witch-hunt against anarchists and others working toward a more just, free, and equal society. The warrants served specifically listed anarchist literature as evidence to be seized pointing to the fact that the FBI and police are targeting this group of people because of their political ideas. Pure and simple, these raids and the grand jury hearings are being used to intimidate people whose politics oppose the state’s agenda. During a time of growing economic and ecological crises that are broadly affecting people across the world, it is an attempt to push back any movement towards creating a world that is humane, one that meets every person’s needs rather than serving only the interests of the rich…
Allegations that anarchists are being explicitly targeted should not be considered pure hysteria. In June, the Puget Sound Anarchists reported the FBI had “contacted and spoken with at least two individuals” who had been involved in Occupy Seattle about the actions on May Day. Law enforcement infiltrated the Occupy movement in Cleveland and charged five individuals, all allegedly anarchists, with allegedly plotting to blow up a bridge on May Day. Law enforcement also charged five Occupy organizers—again, all allegedly anarchists—with plotting to commit terrorist acts of violence ahead of the NATO Summit in Chicago.
In the cases where “self-proclaimed anarchists” have been charged with plotting acts of terrorism, authorities have hyped the fact that they are anarchists in a clear attempt to marginalize and dehumanize them for possessing these views. They have propagandized the indictments against these people in a manner that would isolate them and ensure members of the Occupy movement keep their distance. They’ve worked to ensure few examine how the Cleveland 5 or NATO 5 cases are cases where people were likely setup by infiltrators. They’ve tried to divide so-called bad activists from so-called good activists, which is no surprise given the fact that FBI director Robert Mueller has characterized “anarchists” as people who pose a clear “domestic terrorism” threat to America.
The Occupy movement owes its initial growth to anarchists, who took action that liberals did not think would amount to anything when Occupy Wall Street began in September 2011. People with anarchist views also ensured the movement grew and hundreds of encampments sprouted in the United States by October. They went and spent days and nights in front of buildings or parks before well-established activist groups and progressive organizations started to celebrate the movement as a breath of fresh air that would renew action against financial institutions responsible for economic crimes that had gone unpunished.
Aside from these grand juries empaneled to go after more traditional activists, there have been grand juries set up to investigate individuals believed to have links to Anonymous or WikiLeaks. The grand jury in San Jose, California, indicted fifteen people alleged to have links to Anonymous for their suspected involvement in shutting down PayPal’s website in July 2011. The grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, has yet to indict anyone but has been subpoenaing individuals like Bradley Manning Support Network co-founder David House to testify. They have subpoenaed Google, Twitter, and other companies for personal data of WikiLeaks staffers and volunteers that might be used to put together indictments.
Grand juries are a perfect tool for power when it is seeking to repress an entire group of people for taking actions they find to be criminal or a threat to the status quo, which they might want to protect:
Grand juries meet in secret and its members take an oath never to discuss what happens inside the grand jury room. The only other people present in the room when the grand jury is in session are a court reporter who transcribes the proceedings, a federal prosecutor who presents the government’s case, the case agent who is the law enforcement officer in charge of the investigation, and the witness who is testifying. Witnesses may appear with counsel, but their attorney must wait outside the grand jury room while the witness is testifying. The witness must answer all questions truthfully under penalty of perjury. The witness can request a recess in response to a question in order to consult with counsel outside the grand jury room. The witness may refuse to answer any question on the ground that a truthful answer might tend to incriminate the witness, or lead to the discovery of evidence that might tend to incriminate the witness. Since the Fifth Amendment protects this privilege to refuse to answer, no witness can be punished for refusing to answer a question on the basis of asserting the Fifth Amendment. Properly subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to appear before the grand jury, or who appear but refuse to answer questions without asserting the Fifth Amendment, may be held in contempt of the grand jury and jailed until such time as they agree to answer the question, or the grand jury term expires, whichever happens first. [See David House's testimony before the WikiLeaks grand jury.]
The shady nature of the grand jury process is why most ordered to appear before a grand jury refuse to testify. As noted, that can sometimes result in jail time, which is what happened in the case of journalist Josh Wolf who was imprisoned for 226 days for not turning over a video of a San Francisco street protest he had recorded during a G8 Summit.
Additionally, one might be told by law enforcement when they are subpoenaed that they are not to publicly discuss the contents of the subpoena or even that they were subpoenaed; but when a group is being targeted, the government is less likely to succeed in targeting people if those they are going after publicly reveal they are being subjected to a grand jury process.
It also helps to share personal or biographical details so that the public can see how the government is truly trying to chill dissent. The Committee Against Political Repression has posted profiles of each of the individuals the government wants Americans to believe may have provided “material support to terrorism.” Anyone can read the activists’ short biographies and decide if they believe any of these people would ever support malicious or violent acts and that goes a long way toward making it impossible for the government to isolate these people as they fight against a pernicious grand jury process.
The FBI also visited Vermont activists on Thursday, July 26, ahead of a planned northeastern protest convergence between US and Canadian activists during a binational governors’ meeting.
On July 26, 2012 at 1 PM activists near Burlington, VT received a knock at the door of their home from two FBI agents. The agents asked to speak with a member of the household who wasn’t present. The person who answered the door, organizer and self-identified anarchist Jo Robin, a pseudonym, asked the agents why they were looking for her roommate. While they initially declined to tell her, they ultimately said that they wanted to ask him questions about the Northeast Governors’ Conference, to take place in Burlington over the July 28th weekend.
Organizers from the northeast United States and Quebec have planned a convergence to coincide with the binational governors’ meeting, the BTV Convergence. Members of the FBI-targeted house near Burlington have been actively involved in planning the convergence, including Jo Robin.
This seems to have become routine. Whenever a protest event is planned, FBI agents try to collect intelligence as if something criminal is being planned.
Many of these activists know better than to talk and do not share any information.