Coalition of prominent community, civil and human rights organizations delivers open letter to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., in follow-up to Sept. 24 FBI raids against activists and issuance of grand jury subpoenas.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – http://prlog.org/11086818
PRLog (Press Release) – Nov 20, 2010 – WASHINGTON, D.C. (MWA-Net) – On November 19, 2010, a coalition of 45 national and statewide prominent community, civil and human rights organizations, including Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA), delivered a jointly signed open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., and the U.S. Congress, calling for an investigation and report on FBI activities that appear to be targeting legitimate political speech and assembly. (LETTER - SHORTCUT URL: http://tinyurl.com/letter-fbi-raids)
The coalition's letter is in follow-up to the Sept. 24 FBI raids targeting the offices and homes of 14 peace and anti-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Raid victims were also served with grand jury subpoenas. It has been reported that the grand jury subpoenas target the activists for alleged material support of terrorism. On the same day agents also attempted to question activists in San Jose, California; Durham, North Carolina; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The raids come on the heels of a recent report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the Inspector General documenting recent examples of the FBI monitoring activists engaged in protected political speech and not criminal behavior. This suppression of civil rights is aimed at those who dedicate their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war.
"The September 24 raids serve as a wake-up call. We must not remain silent as the First Amendment rights of all Americans are increasingly jeopardized. We must take action now in turning back the tide, by demanding that the trend of intrusive government surveillance and prosecution of progressive activists for protected political activity stand corrected," stated MWA director, Aishah Schwartz.
The 45-member coalition has called on Congress to initiate an investigation similar to the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (the "Church Committee"), initiated in 1975, to report on FBI activities that appear to be targeting legitimate political speech and assembly.
The Nov. 19 letter also calls on the Department of Justice to revisit and amend the Attorney General's Guidelines and the FBI's implementing Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), to better respect fundamental constitutional protections, the steady erosion of which, has resulted in empowering the FBI to identify targets for investigation based at least in part, on their race, ethnicity or religion.
Additionally, the letter also draws attention to the fact that the Sept. 24 raids were conducted within a month-and-a-half of the 2010 mid-term elections. Similarly, in the 2004 Presidential election, the government contacted thousands of mostly Muslim men for 'voluntary interviews' with the FBI in 'Operation Frontline'. Incidents such as these produce a chilling effect on the willingness of individuals from vulnerable communities to engage in protected political activity, including voting.
"If government is allowed to continue unabated in surveillance and policing of the nations citizens near an election, when there is no imminent threat of danger, it sends a message that the government may retaliate against people exercising their First Amendment rights," added Schwartz.
"Not even the 'serious and deadly problem' of international terrorism can require automatic forfeiture of First Amendment rights," stated U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor in dissent of the June 21, 2010 ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.
In addition to Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA), the Nov. 19 letter has been endorsed by the American Friends Service Committee, American Muslim Voice, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Arab American Association of New York, Arab American Institute, Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services (ACCESS), Arab Muslim Federation, Asian Law Caucus, Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Brooklyn For Peace, Center for Constitutional Rights, Civil Liberties Defense Center, Community to Community Development, Council on American-Islamic Relations- Cincinnati Chapter, Council on American-Islamic Relations-Cleveland, Council on American-Islamic Relations-Columbus, Creating a Culture of Peace Training, Defending Dissent Foundation, DRUM- Desis Rising Up & Moving, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Filipino Advocates for Justice, Humanitarian Law Project, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, Muslim Legal Fund of America, Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA), National Lawyers Guild-New York City, National Lawyers Guild International Committee, National Lawyers Guild New York City Chapter Anti-Racism Committee, National Lawyers Guild/Los Angeles, National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), NBPA International Leadership Institute, Network of Arab American Professionals, Nevada Desert Experience, Rights Working Group, Satrang, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, Standish E. Willis, Esq., National Conference of Black Lawyers/Chicago, The Sikh Coalition, Trikone Northwest, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, US Palestine Community Network, and WESPAC Foundation.
In October MWA also participated in a national call-in campaign sponsored by The Chicago Committee Against Political Repression, calling on President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and members of the media, to stop the FBI campaign of repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists, and to end the grand jury investigations.
For questions or additional comments please contact Shahid Buttar at firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 582-0110 or Jen Nessel at JNessel@ccrjustice.org or (212)-614-6464.
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Established in 2006, MWA is an internationally-based collaboration of Muslim women writers and advocates working together to counter negative and inaccurate perceptions regarding members of the Muslim community and the Islamic faith.
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