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  • Letter Against Investigations of Anti-War and International Solidarity Activists

    Patrick Fitzgerald

    United States Attorney’s Office

    Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

    219 S. Dearborn St., 5th Floor

    Chicago, IL 60604

    The Honorable Eric Holder

    Attorney General

    United States Department of Justice

    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

    Washington, DC 20530-0001

    The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, III


    Federal Bureau of Investigation

    935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

    Washington, DC 20535-0001

    RE: Investigations of Anti-War and International Solidarity Activists

    Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,

    As a group of concerned organizations, professors and elected officials, we write to denounce the use of sweeping raids and grand juries in your ongoing investigation of anti-war and international solidarity activists in Chicago and Minnesota. We are deeply concerned that your efforts to investigate individuals and organizations engaged in protected political activity has caused a chilling effect, not just on the individual targets of the investigation, but on many individuals engaged in constitutionally protected political dissent.

    Grand juries have historically been used to disrupt and undermine political dissent.  It is true that “[c]itizens generally are not constitutionally immune from grand jury subpoenas.”  Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 682 (1972).  Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that “[a]lthough the powers of the grand jury are not unlimited and are subject to the supervision of a judge, the longstanding principle that the public has a right to every man’s evidence, except for those persons protected by a constitutional, common law, or statutory privilege, is particularly applicable to grand jury proceedings.”  U.S. v. Dionisio, 410 U.S. 1, 9 (1973) (internal citations omitted).

    But even grand jury proceedings must respect constitutional guarantees.  Justice Powell authored the Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, et al., wherein he discussed the use of grand juries and their inevitable implications:

    As illustrated by a flood of cases before us this Term, we are currently in the throes of another national seizure of paranoia, resembling the hysteria which surrounded the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, and the McCarthy era. Those who register dissent or who petition their governments for redress are subjected to scrutiny by grand juries, by the FBI, or even by the military. Their associates are interrogated.  Their homes are bugged and their telephones are wiretapped. They are befriended by secret government informers.  Their patriotism and loyalty are questioned.  Senator Sam Ervin, who has chaired hearings on military surveillance of civilian dissidents, warns that ‘it is not an exaggeration to talk in terms of hundreds of thousands of . . . dossiers.’…  More than our privacy is implicated.  Also at stake is the reach of our Government’s power to intimidate its critics.  When the Executive attempts to excuse these tactics as essential to its defense against internal subversion, we are obliged to remind it, without apology of this Court’s long commitment to the preservation of the Bill of Rights from the corrosive environment of precisely such expedients.  (emphasis added) 407 U.S. 297, 329-330 (1972).

    In his critique of grand juries, Justice Powell also discussed the impact of FBI investigations of individuals engaged in protected First Amendment activity.  Today, the FBI’s use of informants in religious institutions[1] and civic organizations[2] has raised widespread alarm within these communities, inhibiting the expression of constitutionally protected religious activity and political speech.  In conjunction with the current FBI raids, the grand jury subpoenas, and ongoing investigations of non-profit leaders and anti-war activists, such government activity reflects an aggressive assault on political dissent, one which has quickly led to “another state of [national] paranoia,” as noted above.

    As Justice Powell so clearly stated, even national security investigations are subject to constitutional limits.  The aggressive use of grand juries, planting informants in communities and raiding homes reflect precisely the corrosive environment that Justice Powell cautioned against.  The recent Supreme Court decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project makes clear that though “the material-support statute is constitutional as applied to the particular activities plaintiffs [in that case] … wish to pursue, [the Court does not] address the resolution of more difficult cases that may arise under the statute in the future.”  130 S. Ct. 2705, 2712 (2010).  To be clear, no court has characterized the anti-war and international solidarity work undertaken by the victims of the recent raids as “material support.”

    Thus, we ask that you halt the use of grand jury proceedings in your current investigations.  Additionally, we ask that you stop investigating the protected and legitimate political activities of anti-war and international solidarity activists.  This includes the use of undercover informants, which should be halted immediately.


    Alliance of South Asians Taking Action

    American Friends Service Committee, Pacific Mountain Region

    American MidEast Leadership Network

    American Muslims for Palestine

    American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

    Anakbayan East Bay

    Arab American Association of New York

    Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services (ACCESS)

    Arab Cultural and Community Center, San Francisco

    Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East

    Arab Muslim American Federation

    Arab Resource and Organizing Center

    Asian Law Caucus

    Asian Pacific American Legal Center

    Bay Area Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid

    Birthright Unplugged

    Black Alliance for Just Immigration

    CARECEN, Central American Resource Center

    Catalyst Project

    Causa Justa::Just Cause

    Center for Constitutional Rights

    Center for Political Education

    Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy

    Coalition for Asian American Children and Families

    Community Coalition

    Community Justice for Youth Institute

    Community United Against Violence (CUAV)

    Council on American Islamic Relations – Michigan

    Council on American Islamic Relations – San Francisco Bay Area Chapter

    Culture and Conflict Forum

    Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM)

    Dignidad Rebelde

    Eastside Arts Alliance

    Electronic Frontier Foundation

    Equal Justice Society

    Filipino Advocates for Justice

    Freedom Archives

    Gabriela USA

    Global Women’s Strike/SF Bay Area

    Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine

    International Socialist Organization

    Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, International

    Jewish Voice for Peace

    La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco

    La Raza Centro Legal Day Labor Program

    Labor/Community Strategy Center

    LatCrit, Inc.

    League of Filipino Students, San Francisco State University

    Middle East Children’s Alliance

    Middle East Report

    Movement to End Israeli Apartheid-Georgia

    National Network for Arab American Communities

    National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

    Nihonmachi Outreach Committee

    Omid Advocates for Human Rights

    Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago

    Philadelphia Arab American Community Development Corporation

    Pinay sa Seattle

    Political Research Associates

    Shura Council of Southern California

    SOUL-School of Unity and Liberation

    South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

    South Asian Network

    The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC) of the National Lawyers Guild*

    US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

    US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

    Vamos Unidos

    WESPAC Foundation

    *This endorsement is by The United People of Color Caucus, a committee of the National Lawyers Guild

    Individuals (organizations and universities listed for identification purposes only)

    Rabab Abdulhadi

    San Francisco State University

    Evelyn Alsultany

    University of Michigan

    Supervisor John Avalos

    City of San Francisco

    District 11

    Asli Bali

    UCLA School of Law

    Ali Behdad

    University of California, Los Angeles

    Eduardo Bonilla Silva

    Duke University

    Supervisor David Campos

    City of San Francisco

    District 9

    Piya Chatterjee

    University of California, Riverside

    Sumi Cho

    Depaul University College of Law

    Kimberle W. Crenshaw

    UCLA School of Law

    Supervisor Chris Daly

    City of San Francisco

    District 6

    Leo F. Estrada

    UCLA School of Public Affairs

    Keith Feldman

    University of California, Berkeley

    Neil Gotanda

    Western State University College of Law

    Susan Gzesh

    Human Rights Program

    University of Chicago

    Amira Jarmakani

    Georgia State University

    Amy Kaplan

    University of Pennsylvania

    Sunaina Maira

    University of California, Davis

    Supervisor Eric Mar

    City of San Francisco

    District 1

    Priscilla Ocen

    UCLA School of Law

    Associate Dean John S.W. Park

    University of California at Santa Barbara

    H.L.T. Quan

    Arizona State University

    Addie Rolnick

    UCLA School of Law

    Bobby Seale


    Black Panther Party

    Chandra Talpade Mohanty

    Syracuse University

    Representative Rashida Tlaib

    Michigan House of Representatives

    Dave Welsh

    Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council

    [1] See e.g. Teresa Watanabe and Scott Glover, “Man says he was informant for FBI in Orange County,” Los Angeles Times, 26 Feb. 2009;  Nick Schou, “The FBI, the Islamic Center of Irvine and Craig Monteilh: Who was Conning Whom?” OC Weekly, 30 Apr. 2009;  Leila Fadel, “Muslims in U.S. feel unfairly implicated in war on terror,” McKlatchy Newspapers, 11 Oct. 2009;  Salvador Hernandez, “Informant tells of role in FBI probes,” The Orange County Register, 30 Dec. 2009.

    [2] See U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, “A Review of the FBI’s Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups,” September 2010.