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.
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."
She says on the trip they "met with NGOs, teachers, nonviolent protesters" and others and got involved with some of the groups throughout Israel and Palestine working to bring legal rights, women's rights, farming rights, housing rights, etc to all people.
Suppressing the right of American groups to travel is not new to U.S. government policy. In 1992, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) mounted a case on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Geo-Vista Global Experiences and Veterans for Peace asserting regulations on group travel to Vietnam and Cambodia were "making it impossible to organize academic study groups, to travel with study groups, to travel with colleagues to assess humanitarian aid and to engage in group fact-finding trips." Secretary of State James Baker eventually lifted the regulations, making it permissible for groups to travel to the two countries.
Presumably, the restrictions had been in place to prevent Americans from seeing the truth of what happened with U.S. military operations in Vietnam or Cambodia decades ago. If the government was willing to restrict access to history then, it is probably not surprising that they are closely monitoring travel to countries like Israel or Palestine, where the U.S. has been helping Israel preserve a situation where Israel maintains dominance over Palestinians.
Smith discusses the reality that the FBI and the Grand Jury
expecting the subpoenaed activists to go in and testify on everyone
they know who is involved in
nonviolent resistance in Palestine. They want names. The activists
don't know what will happen if they share that information. And, those
who have relationships with activists in Colombia who are being
targeted for their solidarity work don't know what will happen if they
give up the names of individuals there.