Breaking News: Grand Jury Investigation Targeting Pacific Northwest Anarchists Dates Back to March 2
New information has emerged about the grand jury targeting Pacific Northwest anarchists. Documents provided to Eugene, Oregon’s Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) indicate that the grand jury, which many had guessed had been convened as a result of May Day protests in Seattle this year, actually began in March.
In an e-mail obtained by The Portland Radicle, the federal district court which issued subpoenas that resulted in military-style raids and seizures of property in Portland said they empaneled the grand jury on March 2, 2012. The raids and subpoenas did not occur until July 25.
This would suggest that the scope of the grand jury is larger than previously thought.
“There’s some form of investigation that’s larger in scope than simply May Day vandalism. What the true nature of that investigation is, we don’t know,” said Lauren Regan, the executive director of the CLDC.
After the raids, the only comment given by the FBI is that the raids were part of an “ongoing violent crime” investigation. Federal agents seized electronics, clothing and political literature. A copy of a search warrant shared with The Portland Mercury showed that the federal warrants were in connection to crimes such as conspiracy to destroy government property, interstate travel with intent to riot and conspiracy to travel interstate with intent to riot. No affidavits or other any other documents have been made public by the government thus far.
Regan said the government will mislead the public while in pursuit of information.
“It is very common for the federal government to put out information that they want the general public to know either because it’s a red herring, a smokescreen for what they’re actually doing, or they want to hit the hive and watch the buzz,” she said. “Sometimes the government will intentionally set a trap. They’ll hold up their left hand and say ‘Look over here! This is what we’re investigating.’ Meanwhile, they’re holding up their right hand saying ‘Haha, this is what we’re really going after.’ The feds are sitting back collecting information that we’re not aware they’re collecting, then that can almost entrap people in other, different federal crimes.”
Regan said that one purpose of casting such a wide net is to map political movements using broad surveillance.
“In a lot of these grand juries that we’re seeing recently, one of the big things that they’re doing is they will contact someone and they will watch who that person goes to talk to, whose house they go to, what phone numbers they dial.”
Regan noted that, unlike the applicable rules for a normal jury trial, hearsay, for example, can be used by prosecutors before a grand jury. People targeted by the grand jury must usually withdraw from ongoing projects or be watchful of their public statements.
“There’s a reason grand juries are usually characterized as witch-hunts. They can start off investigating one thing and they can end up tapped into nine other things, in particular because grand jurors themselves can inquire into other areas of investigation. There’s no telling the full breadth of what a grand jury could investigate,” Regan said.
For this reason, Regan said it’s unwise for communities targeted by a grand jury to openly speculate as to what it is investigating.
“One of the worst things that activists can do under these circumstances is to sit around and speculate as to what the real investigation might be, because the government loves it when we do their work for them,” Regan said.
Regan said that the federal government was largely successful in targeting radical environmentalists around the nation with their Operation Backfire investigations, which led to the capture and prosecution of numerous individuals involved with property destruction in defiance of deforestation or fur-farming, an ongoing period generally referred to as “The Green Scare.” Numerous activists informed on one another or were scared into taking plea deals and, Regan said, it emboldens the government to try the same tactics until they’re proven ineffective.
“I think that we’re seeing repetitious investigations of the same types of things, quote-unquote ‘anarchists, socialists, communists, environmentalists, terrorists.’ They’re all being thrown into one pot at this point. The government is using broad and ambiguous definitions to try to target those political movements and philosophies,” Regan said.
Referring to the U.S. government’s 1960s and 70s Counterintelligence Program, which FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” civil rights and numerous radical political movements, Regan said, “We only have to look back at the COINTELPRO era to recall that the government is not really focused on investigating and solving crimes in order to make the public safer. When they’re going after political groups like this, the goal is to scare people into submission, they want to scare people away from being active. That’s their primary goal.”
Regan said that to resist a grand jury, people should not be intimidated.
“The most effective way to counteract that is to do the opposite; not be scared into submission and not disassociate yourself from people based on their political beliefs,” she said.
When asked if the proceedings were “Kafkaesque,” Regan laughed.
“If I started using that word, I’d probably be using it every single day,” she said.
The CLDC will be posting digital copies of the documents they obtained on their website.