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Coleen Rowley

Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley was one of three whistleblowers chosen as persons of the year by TIME magazine in 2002

October 13th, 2010 10:39 PM

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

By Susu Jeffrey and Coleen Rowley

Domestic surveillance of peace groups, speech elevated to material support for state enemies, secret assassinations of American citizens — the war on terror has come home. Even publishing an op-ed or filing an amicus brief could be a criminal act. Offering training in non-violent conflict resolution or giving humanitarian assistance in a crisis zone is said to “enable” acts of terrorism.

The Thought Police arrived in Minneapolis in late September to investigate “activities concerning the material support of terrorism," namely antiwar organizing. Search warrants in six homes and offices allowed FBI agents to collect documents, files, computers, phones, books, photographs, videos, souvenirs, war relics, notebooks, address books, diaries, journals, maps or any other evidence showing connections to groups in Palestine, Lebanon or Colombia or Minnesota and to determine if the people whose places were raided, supported or recruited other people or talked to them. Talked to them?

The victims of the FBI raids do give talks. They have extensive email lists. The warrants also mentioned potential co-conspirators. We chant: 

The First Amendment is under attack.
What do we do?
Speak up! Talk back!

National Lawyers Guild (NLG) attorney Ted Dooley called the FBI actions “a probe into the political beliefs of American citizens.”

“You are the Indians now,” Clyde Bellecourt, of the American Indian Movement, said at a Minneapolis rally in front of the FBI offices. About sixty support rallies have taken place outside FBI offices throughout the nation.

Former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley called the searches a “war on dissent, rather than terrorism.” She noted that the raids in Minneapolis occurred four days after the Department of Justice Inspector General found numerous problems with the FBI targeting environmental, anti-war and faith-based advocacy groups in the period 2002-2006. Rowley pointed to the fact that Federal Attorney General guidelines were erased “that used to require a level of factual justification before domestic groups could be spied on.” As a former FBI insider, she described make-work career incentives for ambitious agents to obtain good numbers, called “stats” (statistics) — regardless of the outcome of any investigation.

A dozen subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago next month were issued in Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. The targeted peace and justice organizers called the move "an outrageous fishing expedition" and an effort by government to use a grand jury to frame activists. The antiwar leaders repeatedly declared their political activities to be “very open” and “with absolutely no involvement in illegal activities.”

“Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)” are unilaterally designated by the President without consulting the United Nations or international law. The current President also decided he has the power (legal or extralegal) to authorize extrajudicial killings of American citizens anywhere in the world.

"There is no process whereby you can contest the designation," said NLG attorney Bruce Nestor. "Ever since these laws were passed in 1996, there is a concern that they reach so broadly as to certainly chill or intimidate people in speaking out on foreign policy."

Think about it. If Israel were considered a terrorist nation — how many American Jews would be guilty of material support to a “FTO”? How many American Jews have given humanitarian aid to Palestine? Remember supporting divestment in South Africa? (At one time, South African anti-apartheid groups were on the FTO list.) Does your church collect donations for international relief? Are you part of the majority of Americans now opposed to the war in Afghanistan? Should we stop former president Jimmy Carter from monitoring election fraud in countries we disapprove of? Should Greg Mortenson, humanitarian builder of schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan, be more careful of who he drinks Three Cups of Tea with?

You could be guilty by association; it’s now legal precedent. Speaking out could be fatal to your freedom.

Susu Jeffrey was a Women's International League for Peace and Freedom delegate to the UN-Beijing Women's Conference in 1995, took wheel chairs to Cuba in 2004, and has been active in the nuclear-free movement since her first nonviolent, civil disobedient arrest at Seabrook NH, in 1977. Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent/legal counsel whose whistleblower disclosures about pre 9-11 FBI failures led to her being named as one of three TIME Magazine “Persons of the Year” in 2002. They are both active members of the Minnesota peace community that is made up of over 70 different peace and social justice groups.

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