Last year, FBI agents raided the homes of nonviolent peace activists in Chicago. The civilians had come under suspicion of providing "material support" of Colombian and Palestinian activists the government considers terrorists.
Seven homes were raided and 23 people were subpoenaed in the probe. The fact that everyone who was targeted was a critic of U.S. policy in the Middle East and South America was not lost on critics who say the Obama Justice Department is just as intolerant of dissent as the preceding Bush administration was.
Antiwar protesters and labor organizers are also feeling heat from the raids. Even some of President Obama's fellow social activists from the era when he was an obscure state senator are being investigated for possible ties to terrorism.
The 23 defendants have invoked their right not to testify before a grand jury. They formed a group with a name that spells out its mission: the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Church groups, political activists, and labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees are offering their support.
The probe began before the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Fears of massive protests and domestic violence were not realized. Still, the FBI did not lose interest in the activists after the convention was over.
Because some of them traveled to Palestinian territories or to Colombia to inform their activism in the United States, they are under investigation for possible ties to terrorist groups. Even so, the Justice Department's inspector general criticized the FBI last year for monitoring the domestic political activities of liberal groups that are unfairly accused of terrorist sympathies.
Members of Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, as well as protesters against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, should not be presumed to be terrorists or fellow travelers. There seems something un-American about some of what the FBI is doing in the name of fighting terror.
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