Minneapolis agents search for connections to Colombia, Mideast terrorists
The FBI raided the homes of five political activists and an office Friday in Minneapolis as part of an investigation into possible links between local anti-war activists and terrorist groups in Colombia and the Middle East.
An FBI spokesman said agents were “seeking evidence related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism.”
“There is no imminent threat to the community, and we’re not planning any arrests at this time,” said FBI Special Agent Steve Warfield of the Minneapolis office.
The homes of Anti-War Committee organizers Mick Kelly, Jess Sundin and Meredith Aby were among those searched. The organization’s office also was searched.
“I have no idea what all this is about,” said Kelly’s attorney, Ted Dooley. “Mr. Kelly is an activist; he’s a socialist or perhaps a communist and has been forever. He never hides his political views. They’re fishing. They’re casting big nets into the sea of political activism.”
Sundin said none of the people whose homes were raided had provided material support for terrorism.
“They can harrass us until the cows come home but we will not stop,” she said Friday at a news conference outside her home amid about 50 supporters carrying signs – with statements that included “Stop FBI harassment” and “Working for justice is not a crime.”
Six searches were carried out about 7 a.m. in Minneapolis and two in Chicago, Warfield said.
A SWAT team, accompanied by the FBI, knocked on Kelly’s door about 7 a.m. and Kelly’s partner answered, Dooley said.
“They said they had a search warrant,” he said. “She asked to see it; she couldn’t read it through the peephole, so they busted down the door. The door flew across the room and broke a fish tank.”
Dooley said several people were receiving subpoenas to a grand jury in Chicago on Oct. 12 and that simultaneous searches were being conducted in North Carolina and upstate Michigan.
Dooley said the search warrant for Kelly’s home allowed seizure of evidence “relating to Kelly’s travels to and from and presence and activities in Minnesota and other foreign countries, to which Kelly has traveled as part of his work for FRSO (Freedom Road Socialist Organization).”
The warrant also discussed Kelly’s “ability to pay for his own travel within the United States or to Palestine or Colombia from the year 2000 until today,” Dooley said. “And this has to do with any contact with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and Hezbollah, all of which are FTOs (Foreign Terrorist Organizations).”
Speakers at Friday’s news conference protested U.S. military aid to Colombia and Israel and called on America to leave Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sundin, 37, said she’d traveled to Colombia but hadn’t received money from any groups. She said she paid for a portion of the trip and “then did fundraising in the peace movement.”
Sundin said investigators searched her house for three to four hours and seized crates full of papers, books, CDs, her passport, her computer and her cell phone.
Aby, 37, said she believed the activists were targeted because they’re “political people.” Speaking out against the war “makes me a person of conscience, not a criminal,” Aby said.
The home of Tracy Molms, 29, who works with Students for a Democratic Society, also was searched. The fifth person whose home was searched didn’t want the name made public, Sundin said.
Molms said she’d traveled to “Palestine” in 2004. She said she’d raised money for the trip in the Twin Cities activist community.
Agents took Molms’ computer, phone, paperwork and “a scarf with a Palestinan flag that I bought in the Twin Cities,” she said.
Attorney Bruce Nestor said he’s not representing any of the people whose homes were searched, but he has in the past.
“I’m really profoundly troubled by it,” he said of the searches. “Overwhelmingly they’re people who are doing public political organizing, so I think it’s shocking to have heavily armed federal agents show up at their homes. … It’s all people involved in anti-war activity, and it appears to be focused largely on opposition to the U.S. policy in Colombia and Palestine.”
The federal law about material support of terrorism dates to 1996 and “has been interpreted so broadly to really endanger the rights of U.S. citizens to oppose the military and foreign policies of the United States,” Nestor said.
Kelly, Sundin and Aby helped organize a mass march on the first day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul two years ago.
Kelly, 53, filed a federal lawsuit against St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers after he said he was roughed up during a protest on the last day of the RNC. The suit is pending.
The three recently appeared at a news conference to announce plans for another protest if Minneapolis is selected for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Sundin said they’ve already sought permits for 2012, “something I don’t think terrorists would do.”
By David Hanners and Mara H. Gottfried
Pioneer PressUpdated: 09/24/2010 11:51:53 PM CDT
Source: Twin Cities