I refer, of course, to the to the – I cannot think of another word for it – raids on peace activists in Chicago, Minneapolis and elsewhere in September, 2010:
September 24 began like any other Friday for Joe Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner. Then, at 7 a.m., FBI agents knocked on the door of the Chicago couple’s house in the city’s North Side.
Armed with a search warrant, more than 20 agents examined the couple’s home, photographing every room and combing through notebooks, family videos and books, even their children’s drawings. Some items were connected to their decades of anti-war and international solidarity activism, but others were not. “Folders were opened, letters were pulled out of envelopes,” says Weiner, an adult education professor at Wilbur Wright College. “They had rubber gloves and they went through every aspect of our home.”
In addition to the raids, several individuals have been served with subpoenas to appear before grand juries. Nobody has been arrested or charged with a crime.
Here is what the people subpoenaed seem to have in common:
Most of those subpoenaed, including Weiner and Iosbaker, have been active in the labor movement and/or are members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), a self-described “socialist and Marxist-Leninist organization” with about 100 members. But affiliations vary: 71-year-old great-grandmother Sarah Martin belongs to the Minneapolis-based group Women Against Military Madness; Hatem Abudayyeh is executive director of the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago social services agency; others are connected to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago and the Colombia Action Network, which has protested U.S. military aid to Colombia and the assassinations of unionists there. The only connection they all have in common is that they all participated in an AWC-organized rally outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
Eric Holder, the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, undoubtedly felt emboldened by the 6 – 3 holding of the Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which held that:
- “train[ing] members of [the] PKK on how to use humanitarian and international law to peacefully resolve disputes”;
- “engag[ing] in political advocacy on behalf of Kurds who live in Turkey”;
- “teach[ing] PKK members how to petition various representative bodies such as the United Nations for relief”;
- “[e]ngag[ing] in political advocacy on behalf of Tamils who live in Sri Lanka[,]”
could be criminalized under 18 U. S. C. § 2339B, and that it was not protected speech under the First Amendment.
Just as, apparently, Eric Holder thinks the act of publishing government information – including information about malfeasance, criminality, and generally buffoonery on the part of agents of the government – is espionage.
There will probably come a time when Eric Holder is recognized by history the same way that Attorney General Mitchell Palmer is. Palmer is best remembered for rounding up the usual suspects during one of the Red Scares that have swept the country. Palmer targeted immigrants especially, but the object is the same: the chilling of dissent and free speech. Some targets of the raids were deported, but the raids were widely condemned for their disregard of legal process.
For some of us, anyway, who thought that the Obama Administration would usher in a new respect for the First Amendment and the rule of law, the Holder Raids are a bitter disappointment.