FBI serves warrants on Minn. anti-war activists, Chicago addresses, looking for terrorist ties
MINNEAPOLIS – The FBI said it searched eight addresses in Minneapolis and Chicago as part of a terrorism investigation Friday. Warrants suggest agents were looking for connections between local anti-war activists and terrorist groups in Colombia and the Middle East.
FBI spokesman Steve Warfield told The Associated Press agents served six warrants in Minneapolis and two in Chicago.
"These were search warrants only," Warfield said. "We're not anticipating any arrests at this time. They're seeking evidence relating 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, they said. All three were subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago: Aby on Oct. 5, Sundin on Oct. 12 and Kelly on Oct. 19.
"The FBI is harassing anti-war organizers and leaders, folks who opposed U.S. intervention in the Middle East and Latin America," Kelly said before agents confiscated his cell phone.
Sundin said she believes the searches are connected with the Minnesota Anti-War Committee's opposition to U.S. military aid to Colombia and Israel, as well as its opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's kind of outrageous that citizens of the United States could be targeted like this," Sundin said.
In Chicago, the home of activists Joe Iosbaker and his wife, Stephanie Weiner, was searched by more than a dozen agents who carried out boxes full of their possessions — including their cell phones — and loaded them into a white van, the couple's attorney said.
Stepping outside his house briefly as FBI agents searched inside, Iosbaker was clearly shaken when he told The Associated Press: "I have done nothing wrong."
Their attorney, Melinda Power, said the warrant cited possible support, in her words, "for unnamed terrorist organizations." Iosbaker and Weiner were summoned to testify before a grand jury on Oct. 5.
"These are people committed to social justice," Power said. "That is not a crime in this country."
As news of the raid spread around the neighborhood, friends and fellow activists gathered outside the house and several sang John Lennon's, "Give Peace a Chance."
"These people have been activists all their lives," said Bob Hearst, who said he was a family friend. "I can't imagine why the FBI would have any interest in them."
Warfield said he couldn't comment on whose homes were searched or give details on why because it was an ongoing investigation. "There's no imminent threat to the community," he said.
The Minneapolis searches were first reported by the Star Tribune.
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. The warrant for Sundin's home was similar but included a slightly different list of targeted groups.
Kelly's warrant also said agents sought information on contact with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hezbollah. The U.S. government considers those three groups terrorist organizations.
"It appears to be a fishing expedition," said Kelly's attorney, Ted Dooley. "It seems like they're casting a huge seine or net into the political sea and see what they can drag up on shore and dry out. There's no rhyme or reason to it in a free society."
The federal law cited in the search warrant prohibits "providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations."
"I'm having a hard time paying my rent," Kelly said. "There is no material support."
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a free-speech challenge to the law from humanitarian aid groups that said some provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist organizations about nonviolent activities.
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 immediately return a phone message left at his office.
Kelly said he went to Lebanon two years ago for a Palestinian solidarity conference, and he's been on Colombian radio by phone from the U.S.
Sundin said she visited Colombia 10 years ago for a conference organized by a social movement there in opposition to U.S. military aid.
Aby said she went to Palestine in 2002 and Colombia in 2004 and 2006 to meet with activists. She said anyone who's an activist in those counties gets labeled as a terrorist.
Both Sundin and Kelly were organizers of a mass march on the first day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul two years ago, and recently appeared at a news conference to announce plans for another protest if Minneapolis is selected to hold the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Police estimated the peaceful march in 2008 drew 10,000 protesters; organizers put the figure at 30,000. Other protests were marked by destructive acts by anarchists. More than 800 people were arrested during the four days of the convention, including Sundin and Kelly.
Other Minnesota anti-war activists whose homes were searched included Anh Pham, Sarah Martin and Tracy Molm, Dooley said. He said he didn't know whose homes were searched in Chicago.
The FBI's spokesman in Chicago, Ross Rice, would only say two searches were conducted Friday in Chicago and there were no arrests.
Asked about the reports, the U.S. Attorney's office spokesman in Chicago, Randy Samborn, confirmed warrants were served in the city "in connection with a law enforcement investigation." He also declined to provide details.
Associated Press Writers Michael Tarm in Chicago and Martiga Lohn in Minneapolis contributed to this report.