Published November 17, 2014
CHICAGO -- Two anti-war activists said Saturday that a 12-hour search of their Chicago home by the FBI was an attempt to intimidate them and silence the peace movement.
Joe Iosbaker and his wife, Stephanie Weiner, said the government targeted them because they've been outspoken against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. funding of conflicts abroad. They denied any wrongdoing.
The FBI said it searched eight addresses in Minneapolis and Chicago Friday. Warrants suggest agents were looking for connections between local anti-war activists and groups in Colombia and the Middle East.
Iosbaker and Weiner declined to discuss their relationship with any groups abroad, citing their upcoming testimony before a grand jury on Oct. 5.
"These raids, searches and grand jury investigations are nothing more than an attempt to intimidate us and to intimidate the anti-war movement," Iosbaker said. "We have done nothing wrong."
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said Saturday that the bureau's investigations "are predicated on criminal violations, not First Amendment protected activities."
When reached Friday, FBI spokesman Steve Warfield declined to provide details of the searches, but said there was no imminent threat to the community and the agency wasn't anticipating any arrests "at this time." He said the FBI was seeking evidence related to "activities concerning the material support of terrorism."
The homes of longtime Minneapolis anti-war activists Mick Kelly, Jess Sundin and Meredith Aby were among those searched. All three were also subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago next month.
The warrant for Kelly's home, provided by his attorney, sought evidence on travel he did as part of his work for the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and information on any travel to Colombia, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria or Israel.
Two groups use the name Freedom Road Socialist Organization, one based in Chicago and one in New York. They split several years ago, and the New York group said it was not targeted.
The website for the Chicago group, which describes itself as a "revolutionary socialist and Marxist-Leninist organization," shows Kelly and Sundin have been affiliated with it. Kelly edits FightBack!, a Minneapolis-based website and newspaper for the group.
Kelly's subpoena also commanded him to bring records he might have relating to the Middle East and Colombia, along with "all records of any payment provided directly or indirectly to Hatam Abudayyeh."
The subpoena did not further identify Abudayyeh, but FightBack! has interviewed and carried articles by a Hatam Abudayyeh who's the executive director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network.
Abudayyeh did not return a phone message left at his office Friday, and his office mailbox was full Saturday. His cell phone voicemail was also full. Several activists said their cell phones had been confiscated by the FBI.
The website for the Arab American Action Network describes the organization as a "grassroots nonprofit" that "strives to strengthen the Arab community in the Chicago area by building its capacity to be an active agent for positive social change."
Melinda Power, an attorney representing Iosbaker and Weiner, said the couple know Abudayyeh through their work on Palestinian issues, but she didn't know the extent of their relationship. She said Abudayyeh is Palestinian.
Power said Iosbaker, 51, works at the University of Illinois in Chicago, though she didn't know in what capacity, and his wife was a college teacher. UIC's website lists Iosbaker as assistant to the associate chancellor for sustainability.
Iosbaker and Weiner said the raid wouldn't stop them from speaking out. Activists are planning protests outside of FBI offices around the country, they said.