Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky writes letter to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding FBI raids on activists

On April 26, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (Illinois) wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the September 24 FBI raids on anti-war and international solidarity activists. Rep. Schakowsky also attached a letter provided by Michael Deutsch, an attorney with the People's Law office and a member of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression legal team. These two letters send a strong statement to Holder about Schakowsky's concern for the issues involved in the case.

Schakowsky is the fourth Congressional representative to write a letter of concern to Attorney General Holder. The other Congressional representatives include Rep. David Price (North Carolina), Rep. Keith Ellison (Minnesota) and Rep. Danny Davis (Illinois).

Further information about legislative work around the September 24 FBI raids can be found at StopFBI.net. Activists interested to help obtain similar letters from their Congressional representatives should contact Richard Berg at berg.richard77 [at] rcn.com or Lucia Wilkes at luciaws [at] usiwireless.com.

Letter to Attorney General Holder from Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

April 26, 2011

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I am writing to convey concerns raised with me regarding the September 24, 2010 FBI raids that targeted peace and anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. These raids have been accompanied by the issue of subpoenas of at least 23 citizens of Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan, requiring them to testify before a grand jury.

Attached please find a letter from Michael Deutsch from the People's Law office, one of a team of attorneys representing the activists whose homes were raided and those who have been issued subpoenas. They are deeply concerned that these investigations into individuals and organizations engaged in peaceful anti-war demonstrations are a continuation of FBI investigations of peace and justice organizations criticized in a recent Department of Justice Inspector General report.

I know you share my commitment to protecting our civil liberties and preserving our freedoms. Please look into the issues raised in the attached letter and provide me with information regarding the status of the this matter, in keeping with applicable laws, rules and regulations.

Sincerely,

Jan Schakowsky
Member of Congress

Letter from Michael Deutsch of People's Law office

The Honorable Jan Schakowsky
U.S. Congresswoman
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.

Attn: Leslie Combs

April 21, 2010

Re: Civil Liberties Violations Against Political Activists

Dear Congresswoman Schakowsky,

I am one of the attorneys representing the political activists whose homes were raided by the FBI in September, who were subpoenaed to appear before a Federal Grand Jury and who are facing the possibility of serious federal indictments. As a member of a legal team of over 15 lawyers, I am writing to express our deep concern about the civil liberties violations already visited upon these activists and the looming potential for far more serious attacks.

As you are aware, in late September of last year the FBI carried out raids on the homes and political offices of public activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Hundreds of books, pamphlets, videos and other materials protected by the First Amendment were illegally seized as well as the entire computers, cell phones and personal materials of these activists and their families, including photos and items of their children. The pretext for these raids was the claim that the FBI was investigating “material support” for designated foreign terrorist organizations. However the people targeted are public non-violent activists with long distinguished careers in public service, including teachers, union organizers, and anti-war and community leaders.

These raids were followed by grand jury subpoenas issued through the Office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois against the people whose homes were raided, and numerous other public activists, particularly those active in speaking out about the human rights violations against the Palestinian people. As of this writing, at least 23 people have been subpoenaed. Although each one of the 23 people have refused to voluntarily cooperate with what they consider an illegal attack on their political work, the possibility of forced immunity and testimony or imprisonment is a real danger.

In addition, the files and records of two anti-war groups in Minnesota were subpoenaed by the same grand jury. As you can imagine the targeting of public, peaceful political activists and their organizations creates an anti-constitutional “chilling effect” on all activists who speak-out in solidarity with human rights issues which may conflict with U.S. government policies.

Based on statements by local U.S. Assistant Attorneys, we believe that the government is now preparing indictments against many of the targeted political activists. These indictments appear to be based on the First Amendment protected advocacy and associations of these activists, relying on a distorted and dangerous interpretation of the law prohibiting “material support” for designated foreign terrorist organizations. We also believe that these indictments will rely on the false claims of at least one government infiltrator/provocateur and focus on the legal solidarity advocacy of many of those targeted.

The expansion of the law prohibiting material support to target peaceful public activists based on their First Amendment activities is an ominous expansion of the law and was never intended by the Congress when it passed this law in 1996. While the government seems to read the recent Supreme Court case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project as a green light to go after non-violent public activists, the legal team vigorously rejects such an anti-civil liberties interpretation.

We urge you to speak-out against this dangerous and chilling use of the broad powers of federal law enforcement against those who are simply exercising their constitutional rights to organize and protest government policies. We know of your positive record in support of civil liberties, and I and the other lawyers involved in this case believe that this case presents a very dangerous attack which threatens the civil liberties of all of us.

Sincerely yours,

Michael E. Deutsch
People’s Law Office
1180 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, Ill 60647
773-235—0070

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Letter from Schakowsky to Holder61.05 KB
Letter from Deutsch to Schakowsky55 KB