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Profiles of the Targeted: FBI Wanted to Talk to Me About My Trip to Israel and Palestine

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After two Grand Jury dates, the FBI continues to investigate antiwar, labor, and international solidarity activists. by Stop FBI Coalition

In the final week of January, twelve anti-war, labor and international solidarity activists were expected to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. They refused to go before the grand jury.

These activists from Chicago, the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and other areas have been subpoenaed over the past months. Several of the activists had their homes raided. Documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers, and children's artwork were seized from their home. The subpoenas indicated the FBI was looking for evidence that the activists had provided "material support for terrorism." And, recently, it was discovered that the FBI had an informant, who went by the name of "Karen Sullivan," infiltrate an anti-war group in the Twin Cities.

This "witch-hunt" began on September 24th and, since then, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has been working to get activists to testify before a grand jury in Chicago. So far, all the activists have refused to participate in this "fishing expedition."

Coverage of WikiLeaks cables and the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) especially Egypt interrupted my scheduled coverage of the injustice several are experiencing. I now intend to resume coverage in the midst of uprisings against repression in countries in the MENA. Also, today are conferences in New York City and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Those involved will be updating those in attendance on the grand jury repression in the context of previous FBI witch hunts in US history.

Now here is a profile of one of the activists:

Sarah Smith

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Sarah Smith, a Jewish American woman and avid traveler who lives in Chicago, received a call from the FBI on December 3, 2010. The agent said his name was Robert Parker. He wanted to know if Smith had thirty minutes to sit down and answer some questions.

Smith asked what questions the agent had and the agent said he was not at liberty to discuss the questions. This made Smith think she needed a lawyer. The agent told Smith that it was not necessary to have a lawyer because she was not in trouble. He claimed he had some routine questions.

She asked again what the questions were and, when he refused to tell her again, she said she would have to call him back. The agent then told Smith what this was about. He had some questions on a trip Smith had taken. He said, "I think you know which trip I'm talking about."

Smith realized the agent wanted to talk to her about the trip she took to Israel and Palestine in August, just months ago. She reached out to a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, who said he would contact the FBI agent directly. She then contacted her two Palestinian American friends that went on the trip with her and informed them the FBI had contacted her. She suggested they both get in touch with a lawyer. Just as the two were on the phone with a lawyer, the same agent from the FBI pounded on their door and served them with subpoenas.

According to her profile on the Coalition to Stop FBI Repression website, Smith has been traveling ever since she was a teenager. She "spent her summer studying Spanish at the University of Havana in Cuba," when she was only 15. She went to Venezuela for the 16th World Youth Festival the summer after her freshman year at Grinnell College.

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Also, her profile says, "By her senior year in high school, [Smith] was the President of the National Honor Society, the Student Representative to the Local School Council, and a volunteer at a low-income elementary school." This and more is what led Crain's Chicago Business to designate her as "one of the six most influential female students in Chicago."

Since being ensnared in the FBI's investigation of anti-war, labor, and international solidarity activists, Smith has been speaking publicly on her trip and what the FBI is doing to activists. She thinks this investigation is an attempt to "criminalize Palestinians and Jewish Americans from traveling to Israel and Palestine together. "

"We went on an educational trip in which we met with NGOs, teachers, nonviolent protesters," explains Smith. "We didn't meet with anyone who is on any terrorist list. We didn't give money to anyone that is on a terrorist list. We wanted to see what it was like for ourselves, to live in Israel and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank."

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)

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It is very frightening that this could happen and ... by patricia win on Saturday, Feb 19, 2011 at 11:25:30 AM
I've talked to town, city, and state police office... by Steven G. Erickson on Saturday, Feb 19, 2011 at 2:11:14 PM
My road to prison was for having first advocated ... by Steven G. Erickson on Saturday, Feb 19, 2011 at 2:12:21 PM
"held youths go right"should be "help youths go ri... by Steven G. Erickson on Saturday, Feb 19, 2011 at 6:59:12 PM
Obama & his cabinet are one of THEM...BIG C... by Penel on Saturday, Feb 19, 2011 at 7:27:36 PM
should be told to hit the road. They are not true ... by Archie on Saturday, Feb 19, 2011 at 10:27:59 PM
...this and other Grand Juries.Under no circumstan... by James Hadstate on Sunday, Feb 20, 2011 at 9:23:00 AM
Thank God, the American Century Empire is falling ... by syed mahdi on Sunday, Feb 20, 2011 at 2:22:03 PM