Sunday, February 08, 2004

Crackdown on Dissent 

This, from the DailyKos:

Yesterday, February 3, Detective Jeff Warford of the Polk County Sheriff's Office-FBI-Joint Terrorism Task Force came to Catholic Peace Ministry's office here in Des Moines with a subpoena for me to testify before a Federal Grand Jury next Tuesday, February 10. Mr. Warford also served papers on Elton Davis at the Catholic Worker House and Patti McKee, who was coordinator of Iowa Peace Network until last month. The Grand Jury process is shrouded in secrecy. We do not know who or what the object of this investigation may be, beyond "possible violations of federal criminal law in the Southern District of Iowa."
The proceeding will be behind closed doors. We may not have an attorney present. We have the right to plead the Fifth Amendment, refusing the answer questions that might incriminate us. The government, then, can offer us immunity from prosecution, in which case we will obliged to answer under threat of contempt of court and could be imprisoned for the length of the Grand Jury session, 18 months, should we continue to refuse to answer. This immunity would be limited to our own testimony and anything any of us say could be used against the others.

Whatever is going on, this is definitely an escalation on the part of the government's war on dissent and clamp down on civil liberties. The fact that anything that we three and the peacemaking communities we represent could possibly attract the notice of a "Terrorism Task Force" is reprehensible. Please spread the word, express concerns you have with Federal and Polk County authorities. Keep us in mind and prayer.

Brian Terrell
Executive Director
Catholic Peace Ministry

And from the Des Moines Register:

Judge's gag order silences Drake campus
Register Staff Writer
Much of the Drake University campus was silent Friday about a federal investigation into an anti-war group meeting held on campus last fall.

Sources say a sealed court order issued Thursday prohibits Drake University employees from talking about a subpoena calling for all university records of the Drake group sponsoring the meeting.

President David Maxwell said he couldn't comment.

Chief of Security Hans Hanson referred calls to the university's marketing office. Several Drake Law School faculty said the dean's office was handling calls, while a secretary said the dean was out of the office.

"Good luck finding anyone who's going to talk," said Robert Rigg, a law professor.

Across campus, some faculty members were talking. They expressed outrage about the investigation, saying it appeared to infringe on free-speech rights. The subpoena asks for all records relating to the Nov. 15 anti-war conference on campus hosted by the Drake chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The request calls for information about leaders of the group, security reports reflecting observations about the meeting and any annual reports since 2002.

"It's a very disturbing development," said Kathleen Richardson, a Drake professor and executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. "A university atmosphere should encourage intelligent discussion and debate about the important issues of our day."

Journalism professor Herb Strentz said some faculty members were considering how to take a stand opposing the request for university documents.

"Does this mean the university can't hold conferences that deal with political issues?" he said. "This is certainly a stark contrast to the notion of a university being a place for the wide open exchange of ideas and debate."

Other employees and students had not heard about the inquiry.

Law student Nicholas Cooper, president of Drake's Student Bar Association, said he'd heard little discussion about the investigation. "Students don't know what's going on," he said.

A couple of other articles dealing with the story:

Group fights anti-war inquiry
Lawyers move to block subpoenas



Judge's gag order silences Drake campus
Register Staff Writer