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Why Does the FBI Treat Nonviolent Activists Like Terrorists?

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The FBI has targeted 23 activists in the Midwest, some from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). The activists were accused of providing “material support” to terrorists and have been subpoenaed, according to a report on Vice.

The activists were first targeted by the FBI in 2008 in relation to protests outside the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. Years later, they found their homes raided and their computers seized. According to Vice, Tom Burke is an active member of multiple antiwar and labor groups and had been monitored for months before a September 2010 raid. None of the activists have been prosecuted with an actual crime, yet all the cases are still open, the magazine reports.

The case was made by an FBI plant named “Karen,” who allegedly tried to incite violence but failed.

Her cover was fashioned to appeal to the bleeding-heart leftists she sought to entrap and imprison—“Karen’s” identity was practically a caricature of a socialist activist.

“She presented herself as a lesbian with a teenage daughter,” Jess Sundin, a founding member of the Anti-War Committee who also belongs to the FRSO, said in a 2011 interview with Nick Pinto of the Minneapolis City Pages. The agent told activists she had a rough childhood and spent years on the streets after first her parents and then the military kicked her out for being gay. She laid it on thick, in other words.

“I remember a woman who was really eager,” Tom told me. “She kept bringing up how eager she was about revolution. And you know, on the one hand, people think it’s good because we really need to change society, so it’s a fine thing to talk about. On the other hand, she was trying to find people she could manipulate into [committing] a crime.”

The issue of material support entered the story when the activists tried to deliver $2,000 to a group looking to feed the starving residents of Gaza, the Hamas-run Palestinian territory blockaded by Israel.

The more ridiculous aspects of the case were kept somewhat secret due to the gravity of the charges, which is becoming a familiar problem.

This case further helps demonstrate the significance of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges has been reporting on. He is in the process of suing President Obama over Section 1021 and is waiting to learn whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case. Read more on the implications of this section for activists, journalists and civilians from all political fields and Hedges’ court case against Obama here.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman.

Donald Kaufman
Correspondent
Donald Kaufman began contributing to Truthdig in 2013. He has reported from many locations, including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and North Dakota, where he covered the confrontations over the Dakota Access…
Donald Kaufman

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