Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Material Support Investigation Moves Forward

by IPT News

Despite unfounded charges that the FBI is using criminal investigations in an attempt to silence anti-war activists, a probe into potential American support for terrorist groups by anti-war activists is moving forward.

A new round of subpoenas has been issued in the three-month-old investigation into whether Americans in Chicago and Minneapolis have provided material support to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), both designated terrorist organizations, Politico's Josh Gerstein reports.

Maureen Murphy, the managing editor of the Electronic Intifada, received a grand jury subpoena from the FBI on December 21, ordering her to appear before a grand jury in Chicago on January 25. Murphy is reportedly one of 23 "activists" from the Chicago and Minneapolis areas who have been called to testify in the investigation.

News of the case first came on September 24, when the FBI carried out raids in the two cities seeking evidence of support for the two terrorist organizations. "The warrants are seeking evidence in support of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism," said Steve Warfield, an FBI spokesman in Minneapolis.

Following the searches, the Justice Department reportedly issued subpoenas to a number of individuals, including the Electronic Intifada's Murphy, in connection with the investigation. Many, if not all of those subpoenaed refused to testify. Within weeks, those subpoenas were cancelled. It now appears that prosecutors are moving forward with the investigation, reissuing the orders to appear before a grand jury.

"Along with several others, I am being summoned to appear before the Grand Jury on Tuesday, January 25th, in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago." Murphy said in a press release. "We are being targeted for the work we do to end US funding of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq. What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy."

News of the September raids prompted a substantial outcry from civil liberties and Muslim-American advocacy organizations. The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) attacked the searches as "a fishing expedition" and claimed the U.S. government showed "no regard for nonviolent work." Absent evidence that the targeted groups were "planning terrorist operations," MPAC said the justification offered for the raids is "absurd."

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the FBI for searching the Chicago home of Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network. Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR's Chicago chapter, called the investigation "a waste of taxpayer dollars," "a new low," and "an example of FBI overreach when it comes to activism or commentary on the (Middle East) conflict."

As the IPT reported at the time, such comments show ignorance about what activity is barred under U.S. law. It isn't necessary for the government to show that someone was "planning terrorist operations" to demonstrate that the suspect is providing material support to terrorists.

The statute barring material support covers both violent and nonviolent help because Congress found foreign terror groups "are so tainted by their criminal conduct that any contributions to such an organization facilitates that conduct. In upholding the law, the Supreme Court recently ruled that such support also "helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups – legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds – all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks."

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