MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Newly unsealed documents allege Minnesota war protesters told an undercover FBI informant they believed in violent, armed revolution against the U.S. and raised money for Colombian and Palestinian organizations the government considers to be terrorists.
The documents made public Wednesday shed new light on FBI searches of homes of several political activists in Minneapolis and Chicago in late 2010. They confirm FBI agents were looking into potential connections between the activists and the foreign groups. While many of the activists were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Illinois, none testified. No one has been charged in the case and authorities had provided little public information about the investigation.
The 104 pages include an affidavit by FBI agent John P. Thomas, assigned to the Minneapolis FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, who wrote that he was investigating criminal violations, such as providing material support to government-designated foreign terrorist organizations. The unsealed documents also include search warrants for the Minneapolis and Chicago raids, some of which the activists had released earlier.
The activists said Thursday that the documents are full of misinformation and show a disregard for the rights of free speech and association. Minneapolis FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said he could neither confirm nor deny whether the investigation was ongoing.
“The affidavit speaks for itself,” Loven said.
The only activists whose names appear in the redacted documents are Freedom Road Socialist Organization members Mick Kelly and Jess Sundin of Minneapolis, who both were organizers of the mass protests outside the September 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, and who went to court to get the documents made public. They said the searches and secrecy placed them under undue suspicion.
“The warrant material raises serious questions about the use of government resources to infiltrate dissident political groups,” said Bruce Nestor, an attorney for the two activists.
Sundin and Kelly deny providing material support to any group the U.S. government has designated as terrorist, Nestor said.
“Much of what’s in the affidavit takes things out of context and seeks to use evidence of political activity opposed to U.S. foreign policy as proof of criminal intent,” he said.
An undercover informant, identified in the affidavit only as a person who had been a law enforcement officer since 1997, was invited into an FRSO member’s home in July 2008. The informant recorded many conversations and meetings with FRSO members starting in September 2008 and formally agreed to join the group in April 2009, the document said.
Sundin said the fact that nobody ever has been arrested in the case shows the FBI never found “actual evidence of wrongdoing. Even raiding our homes and going through all our belongings, they didn’t find any evidence after 2½ years of an undercover agent working among us.”
FRSO has long been open about its Marxist philosophy and its support for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Sundin said she disputes the government’s classification of those two groups as terrorist.
“We’re not very secret-keepers,” she said. “People know us and what we believe.”
The affidavit alleges Kelly told the undercover informant in May 2010 that the group had a put together a map a few years earlier of areas in Minneapolis that they would need to seize as part of an armed revolution. It says Kelly told the informant they would need to “take over a government building, take over city hall, and infiltrate the unions.” But it also says Kelly states “we are not there yet” and that they needed to recruit more followers.
Kelly did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but Sundin called that account “one of the many lies in the document.”
According to the document, several FRSO leaders stated to the informant that members secretly provided material support to the FARC and PFLP. It also alleges the FRSO had used the Minneapolis-based Anti-War Committee — a group that helped lead the RNC protests — and its nonprofit education fund to steer money to the PLPF.
Sundin allegedly told the informant in a recorded conversation in September 2009 that the Colombian and Palestinian groups were like family. “Commies fighting for national liberation in other countries? We love those guys,” the affidavit quoted her as saying. She allegedly told the informant in a recorded conversation in April 2009 that the FRSO existed “to organize for revolution and socialism … you can’t write it down if you want to function, um, but by revolution we do mean armed struggle.”
Sundin and other FSRO members identified the person they believe was the infiltrator shortly after the raids.
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