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11-07-06 Convoluted Relationships of President Obama, FBI – Compilation of Media Reports
US President Barack Obama reacts a the gift of an FBI hat given to him by FBI Director Robert Mueller prior to speaking to employees at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC, April 28, 2009. Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Attached: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 08-12-26 Barack Obama questioned by FBI agents over Blagojevich Illinois senate seat scandal – Telegraph 09-04-28 FBI Director Robert Mueller III — Introduction of President Barack Obama 11-03-25 Who will become the next Director of the FBI _ NPR 11-04-26 Wanted New FBI director ‘ready to go’ _Reuters 11-05-12 Obama Seeks Extension of Mueller's Term as F.B.I. Director – NYTimes 11-05-14 Will Obama Turn FBI Director Mueller Into The Next J. Edgar Hoover_Government in the Lab 11-05-16 Federal Judge denies Blagojevich attempt to get Obama's FBI interview_Chicago SunTimes 11-06-14 Activists cry foul over FBI probe _The Washington Post
Barack Obama questioned by FBI agents over Blagojevich Illinois senate seat scandal
President-elect Barack Obama has been interviewed for two hours by four federal investigators about the scandal surrounding the alleged sale of his Senate seat by Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois.
Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois governor, with President-Elect Barack Obama Photo: AP
By Toby Harnden in Washington 4:24PM GMT 26 Dec 2008
Mr Obama has broken new ground by becoming the first US leader to face questioning by federal agents between election day and inauguration. "Here the guy hasn't even gotten his tuxedo for the ball yet and already there's a prosecutor who wants to talk him," Robert Bennett, one of Washington's top lawyers, told The New York Times. "It's the era that we live in." Mr Obama was interviewed last Thursday at his Chicago transition office by two assistant United States attorneys and two FBI agents. He was accompanied by his personal lawyer Robert Bauer and an associate. The president-elect willingly agreed to the interview and no objections were raised to any of the questions, his campaign staff said. He is not a target of the corruption investigation that threatens to engulf some of Chicago's most prominent politicians.
But the interviews underlined the dangers of the Blagojevich scandal dogging the early months or years of Mr Obama's presidency, just as Bill Clinton, who was interviewed by investigators at least 10 times, was distracted by the Whitewater land deal inquiry.
Caroline Kennedy: I will have to work twice as hard as others if picked for Senate (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/3965813/Caroline-Kennedy-I-will-have-towork-twice-as-hard-as-others-if-picked-for-Senate.html)
It came as Ed Genson, Mr Blagojevich's lawyer, asked the Illinois House of Representatives panel deliberating on whether to impeach the governor to subpoena Rahm Emanuel, Mr Obama's chief of staff, Mr Obama's close friend Valerie Jarrett and Representative Jesse Jackson Jnr, an Obama ally. Mr Emanuel spoke to Mr Blagojevich once or twice and his chief of staff John Harris, also facing corruption charges, at least four times about the vacant Senate seat, which the governor has the sole authority to fill. Mrs Jarrett, due to be a White House adviser to Mr Obama, was initially named by Mr Emanuel as the president-elect's preferred candidate. Transcripts of wiretaps indicate that Mr Blagojevich believed Mr Jackson was willing to pay up to a million dollars to become a senator. All three have also been interviewed by federal investigators. Patrick Fitzgerald, leading the Blagojevich investigation and who quizzed Mr Bush for 70 minutes about the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal, did not interview Mr Obama. Thus far, however, Mr Obama has not been tainted by the Blagojevich scandal, the major distraction for his staff during an unusually smooth transition in which his cabinet and senior advisers have been named in record time. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released on Christmas Eve found that an impressive 82 per cent of Americans approve of the way the Obama is handling his presidential transition, three points from early December. Just 15 per cent said they disapproved. In 2000, President-elect George W. Bush had an approval rating of 65 per cent, two points lower than President-elect Bill Clinton in 1992. "Barack Obama is having a better honeymoon with the American public than any incoming president in the past three decades," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director. "He's putting up better numbers, usually by double digits, than Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, or either George Bush on every item traditionally measured in transition polls."
In a CNN/USA Today poll, Americans chose Barack Obama as the man they admire most in the world, the first time a president-elect had been top in the annual survey since President-elect Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. President George W Bush, top for the past seven years, was a distant second. Hillary Clinton, due to be Mr Obama's Secretary of State, was the most-admired woman, just as she has been in 13 of the past 16 years. Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska was a close runner-up.
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2011
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Home • News • Speeches • Introduction of President Barack Obama
04.14.11 Robert S. Mueller, III Director Federal Bureau of Invest igat ion President Barack Obama’s Visit to FBI Headquart ers Washingt on, D.C. April 28, 2009 04.11.11 A Tribute to the Heroes of the Miami Shootout Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 25th Anniversary of the Miami Shootout, Miami, Florida Press Conference Regarding Barrio Azteca Arrests Shawn Henry, Executive Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Barrio Azteca Press Availability , Washington, D.C. HEAT/Strike Force Health Care Fraud Press Availability Shawn Henry, Executive Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, HEAT/Strike Force Health Care Fraud Press Availability, Washington, D.C. The Evolving Organized Crime Threat Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Citizens Crime Commission of New York, New York City, New York Update on Arizona Shooting Investigation Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Press Conference on Arizona Shooting Investigation, Tucson, Arizona Operation Broken Trust Shawn Henry, Executive Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Operation Broken Trust Press Availability, Washington, D.C. The Importance of Partnerships Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, Orlando, Florida Press Conference Regarding Operation Guard Shack Shawn Henry, Executive Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Press Conference on Operation Guard Shack, San Juan, Puerto Rico Countering the Terrorism Threat Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Preparedness Group Conference, Washington, D.C. The Post 9/11 FBI: The Bureau's Response to Evolving Threats Mark F. Giuliano, Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Washington, D.C.
Good m orning to all of y ou, and especially to our guest, President Barack Obam a. Mr. President, on behalf of ev ery FBI em ploy ee, it is m y priv ilege to welcom e y ou to the FBI. Before we begin, we would like to present y ou with sev eral special m em entos to m ark y our first official v isit to the FBI. And y ou should know that we are not abov e using this occasion for recruiting purposes. We are alway s looking for talented special agents. You are a wee bit past our age lim it. Howev er, it is not too early for Sasha and Malia to start thinking about joining the FBI. And so we would like to send y ou hom e with two official Bureau teddy bears for them . And m ay be one day , they too, will pass through this courty ard. Mr. President, on Inauguration Day , we were all honored that y ou stepped out of the m otorcade right here in front of FBI Headquarters to walk past our house on the way to y our house. We are just as honored to hav e y ou with us today . This m ay not be the m ost beautiful building in Washington, but it is one of the m ost im portant. It is the hub of the organization charged with protecting Am erica from crim e and terrorism , while also protecting the civ il liberties we all cherish. But though this m ay be the FBI’s Headquarters, there are thousands of FBI em ploy ees spread throughout the country and the world. Wherev er they are stationed, they represent the FBI’s tradition of Fidelity , Brav ery , and Integrity . It is a tradition that goes back m ore than 1 00 y ears…to President Theodore Roosev elt. Today , though, the FBI faces threats that are m uch m ore div erse and global. They range from terrorism to espionage and from public corruption to v iolent crim e. Yet today ’s FBI is uniquely equipped to address these challenges. As threats continue to ev olv e, so too will the FBI. But what has nev er changed—and will nev er change—are our v alues. For ov er 1 00 y ears, we hav e pledged to serv e and protect our nation and to do so while upholding the rights and liberties guaranteed to ev ery citizen by the Constitution. To the m en and wom en of the Bureau, Fidelity , Brav ery , and Integrity are m ore than just a m otto. They are a way of life. Mr. President, the m en and wom en standing here today , and their colleagues throughout the world, share a dedication to defending freedom that is unparalleled. It is the history of the FBI. And it is also the future of the FBI. We in the FBI appreciate the enorm ity of the task before y ou. We offer y ou our full support. And we will continue to do ev ery thing in our power to safeguard this nation. Thank y ou again for com ing here today . It is an honor to introduce to y ou the m en and wom en of the FBI—just as it is now m y honor to introduce y ou to them . Ladies and gentlem en, the President of the United States.
A ccessibilit y | eRu lem a kin g | Fr eedom of In for m a t ion A ct | Leg a l Not ices | Leg a l Policies a n d Discla im er s | Lin k s | Pr iv a cy Policy | USA .g ov | W h it e Hou se FBI. g ov is a n officia l sit e of t h e U. S. Feder a l Gov er n m en t , U. S. Depa r t m en t of Ju st ice
Who Will Become The Next Director Of The FBI?
by CARRIE JOHNSON
March 25, 2011
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Over the next several weeks, the Obama administration will have a big decision on its hands: choosing the next director of the FBI. The 10-year term of the FBI's current leader, Robert Mueller, expires in September. A committee is already searching for candidates to replace him.
Enlarge Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
FBI Director Robert Mueller, show n w ith National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter, testifies last September on Capitol Hill at a hearing called "Nine Years After 9/11: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland." Mueller's 10-year term expires in September. Leiter is reportedly among those being considered to replace him.
Mueller became the FBI director in September 2001, days before the terrorist attacks that would change the bureau's direction. President Bush had an order for his national security team back then: Don't ever let this happen
again. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said future FBI leaders will be judged on that same measure. "You kinda got to judge the success of the FBI based on the proposition that the FBI can make no mistakes or there's going to be Americans killed," Grassley said in an interview. "And you know, a terrorist only has to be successful one time out of a thousand, and they've done a lot of damage." Finding a person to replace Mueller represents one of the administration's most important law enforcement legacies. The new director will serve a 10-year term that extends well beyond the Obama presidency. Vice President Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder are putting together a long list of candidates. Sources inside and outside the government say that list includes current and former U.S. attorneys such as Patrick Fitzgerald, Mary Jo White, Jim Comey, Neil MacBride and Ken Wainstein. Also under contention, the sources said, are federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland and U.S. National Counterterrorism Center Director Mike Leiter. So are people with experience at the FBI, such as former agents John Pistole and Michael Mason.
The Obama administration is in the process of putting together of list of candidates to replace FBI Director Robert Mueller. According to sources inside and outside the government, that list includes the following:
U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; investigated the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame and prosecuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Mary Jo White Former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York; supervised the prosecutions of mob boss John Gotti and those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing Jim Comey Former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York; prosecuted Martha Stewart and WorldCom Chief Executive Bernard Ebbers; also served as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration Neil MacBride U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, overseeing the prosecution of suspected pirates captured off the coast of East Africa Ken Wainstein Former Justice Department official, oversaw national security prosecutions during the George W. Bush administration Merrick Garland Federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., and former Justice Department official; oversaw the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. Michael Leiter Director of the National Counterterrorism Center John Pistole Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration; former deputy director of the FBI Michael Mason Former assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office; current security chief for Verizon
Konrad Motyka is president of the FBI Agents Association. He says the next decade will determine the direction of the FBI. "The FBI has undergone a pretty serious transformation from being a law enforcement agency with intelligence responsibilities to becoming an intelligence agency with domestic law enforcement responsibilities," Motyka said. Over the next several years, people will learn whether the changes the FBI made after Sept. 11 will stick or fall by the wayside. Civil liberties groups say they wish some things about the FBI would do just that. Mike German, a former FBI agent who now works on policy issues at the American Civil Liberties Union, said he's worried about reports the FBI has investigated nonviolent protest groups in the U.S. — groups that want environmental rights or more protections for animals. "What we see is these groups are coming under surveillance by the FBI for no appropriate purpose," German said. "And that not only violates their civil liberties but also misdirects resources that should be targeted at people suspected of wrongdoing." The FBI says it follows the rules. On Capitol Hill last week, Mueller told members of the House Judiciary Committee that the bureau
has its hands full. "The challenges of carrying out this mission have never been greater, as the FBI has never faced a more complex threat environment than it does today," Mueller said. "Over the past year, the FBI has faced an extraordinary range of threats from terrorism, espionage, cyberattacks and traditional crime." The mission could get even more complicated. That's because budget problems are putting the squeeze on all federal agencies, including the bureau. Mueller told Congress that the FBI could
finish the year with more than 1,000 unfilled jobs because of money troubles. And those jobs matter. The FBI leader said as much last week in an exchange with Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL). "One last question: What advice would you publicly give to your successor?" Ross asked. For his part, Mueller laughed, before adding: "I would say that the bureau is its people — its agents, its analysts and its staff. You will never find a greater group of dedicated professionals across the country. Rely on them." Administration sources say they plan to decide on a successor by May. They need to get the nomination to the Senate by June to give Congress time to consider and vote before the August recess.
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Wanted: New FBI director ‘ready to go’
APR 26, 2011 18:12 EDT
ERIC HOLDER | FBI DIRECTOR | ROBERT MUELLER | U.S. POLITICS
The search for a new FBI director is under way, and Attorney General Eric Holder wants someone “ready to go” to fill some large shoes.
Robert Mueller, the current FBI chief who took office right before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, is limited by law to serving a 10-year term. The goal was to have somebody nominated and “ready to go” by the time Mueller steps down, Holder said. President Barack Obama’s nominee must be confirmed by the Senate. “Bob is a hard person to replace. He has done a really excellent job in transforming the FBI,” Holder said. “We want to make sure that the person who we pick to be his successor will be able to fill those really large shoes,” said Holder, who worked with Mueller in the U.S. Attorney’s office in prosecuting murder cases in Washington during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Holder said “the process is under way” and he will be working with the White House and Vice President Joe Biden’s office in searching for Mueller’s replacement. Possible candidates include former Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey; Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago; Kenneth Wainstein, a former White House homeland security adviser; John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration; and Michael Mason, a former top FBI official. Holder declined to discuss any names, but said, “I think there are a lot of good candidates out there.” He said the administration was moving at the “appropriate pace” and suggested it still had enough time to decide on a nominee and get the person approved by the Senate before Mueller departs.
Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Mueller at Senate hearing, Sept. 22, 2010)
MAY 12, 2011, 12:43 PM
Obama Seeks to Extend Mueller’s Term as F.B.I. Director
By JACKIE CALMES
Shawn Thew/European Pressphoto AgencyRobert S. Mueller III, who became the F.B.I. director just a week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will complete his 10-year term on Sept. 4.
President Obama is asking Congress to pass legislation that would extend the 10year term of Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, by two years, the White House said in a statement Thursday. Mr. Mueller’s tenure is scheduled to end on Sept. 4. Mr. Mueller, who took office a week before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has overseen the transformation of the F.B.I. from an agency dedicated to criminal investigations to one that is a major player in the nation’s global antiterrorism effort. “In his 10 years at the F.B.I., Bob Mueller has set the gold standard for leading the bureau,” Mr. Obama said in the statement. “Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the F.B.I. is critical at this time.” While it is unclear how Congress will respond, Mr. Mueller enjoys widespread bipartisan support on Capitol Hill — appointed by President George W. Bush, Mr. Mueller won unanimous confirmation from the Senate in 2001 and was appointed to previous jobs by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and President Bill Clinton, a Democrat — and Mr. Obama’s request is likely to get deference. The announcement comes after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. began conducting a high-level search for a replacement. F.B.I. directors are limited by law to a single 10-year term, and Mr. Mueller has been traveling globally on what has been characterized as his farewell tour. While a two-year extension would keep Mr. Mueller in place past the 2012 election, White House press secretary Jay Carney said considerations of
presidential politics were not a factor in setting two years as the length of the extension. He cited instead the difficulty of the director’s job, and the fact that Mr. Mueller had held it for nearly 10 years in particularly stressful times.
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Will Obama Turn FBI Director Mueller Into The Next J. Edgar Hoover?
Contributed by: AllGov on May 14, 2011.
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AllGov, Contributors: The director of the FBI is limited to serving one 10-year term in office according to federal law, a limitation born of the bureau’s early history when J. Edgar Hoover ruled for 37 years and amassed enough power to rival the president of the United States. When asked why he didn’t fire Hoover, President Lyndon Johnson told friends, “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.” With this legacy as a backdrop, President Barack Obama has requested Congress to pass legislation that would extend the current term of FBI chief Robert Mueller III by another two years. Mueller will have to leave office in September unless lawmakers approve Obama’s request. The decision to extend Mueller’s term surprised many in Washington, where no FBI director has exceeded the 10-year limitation since Hoover died in office in 1972. Administration officials say the search for Mueller’s replacement, which is being led by Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, has not yet produced a satisfactory list of potential successors, leading Obama to ask Mueller to stick around a little longer. Mueller reportedly has obliged. Mueller took office a week before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He has guided the FBI from an agency dedicated to criminal investigations to one of the federal government’s leading counterterrorism weapons. During that time, civil libertarians and Muslim leaders have criticized some of the FBI’s tactics aimed at thwarting another terrorist attack against Americans. The idea that Obama, Biden and Holder do not consider any current FBI officials good enough to be director seems somewhat insulting. The Washington Post reported that “some law enforcement sources expressed dismay that Mueller would not depart as planned, saying that agents have been looking forward to a ‘new face’ at the helm and that many careers have been on hold with so little turnover in the top job.” Mueller enjoys bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and it is expected Congress will support Obama’s request for an extension. -Noel Brinkerhoff Obama Seeks to Extend Mueller’s Term as F.B.I. Director (by Jackie Calmes, New York Times) Obama Seeks Extension for Robert Mueller as FBI Director (by Jerry Markon and Anne E. Kornblut, Washington Post) Agents’ Opinions Range from Good to Bad to Mixed on FBI Dir. Robert Mueller’s Proposed 2 Year Extension (by Allan Lengel, Tickle the Wire) Post Author: AllGov. Bio: AllGov.com provides up-to-date news about more than 300 branches of the U.S. government, most of which operate under the radar of the media, even when they have annual budgets of billions of dollars. AllGov tells you what each agency says it does, what it really does, and who is making a profit from the agency. It also gives a history of the agency, illuminates controversies relating to the agency and shares critiques and suggested reforms from both the left and the right. The Meet Your Government section provides profiles of hundreds of department and agency heads, as well as ambassadors to and from the United States. The section on Nations gives basic information about each nation in the world and its relations with the United States, including which products and services Americans buy from and sell to the nation. AllGov’s News Pages highlight controversies in which the U.S. government is involved and keeps you up-to-date with changing policies, as well as appointments and resignations.
AllGov.com is the place to find out everything about what the United States government really does. But it also gives users an opportunity to share their opinions and suggestions about what the government should be doing. http://govinthelab.com/will-obama-turn-fbi-director-mueller-into-the-next-j-edgar-hoover/
Federal judge denies Blagojevich attempt to get Obama’s FBI interview
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND LARK TURNER Chicago Sun-Times Last Modified: May 16, 2011 02:56PM A federal judge on Thursday denied a request from Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers to release a report on President Obama’s interview with the FBI. Agents interviewed Obama after Blagojevich’s 2008 arrest. At the time, Obama was president-elect and transitioning into the White House. He was interviewed as part of the investigation into Blagojevich because the ex-governor was accused of plotting to sell Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. While FBI notes for other witnesses were turned over — including interviews with advisers Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett — Obama’s were not given to the defense. U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he read over Obama’s report again after the defense made another attempt at seeing them. “There is nothing in the report that could be used at trial,” Zagel said. Blagojevich’s attorneys said they believed that witness Tom Balanoff, a union chief, had testified in Blagojevich’s trial last summer to something that was counter to what Obama had said publicly regarding his staff’s contacts with Blagojevich’s staff. However, Zagel said he didn’t find anything in the report that would help the defense “impeach” Balanoff’s testimony when he takes the stand in the retrial. Meanwhile, Zagel on Thursday also denied a defense bid to delay the former governor’s retrial, which is scheduled to kick off next week. Blagojevich was convicted of one count last year, but the jury deadlocked on the remainder of the counts, leading to the retrial.
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Activists cry foul over FBI probe
By Peter Wallsten, Published: June 14
CHICAGO — FBI agents took box after box of address books, family calendars, artwork and personal letters in their 10-hour raid in September of the century-old house shared by Stephanie Weiner and her husband. The agents seemed keenly interested in Weiner’s home-based business, the Revolutionary Lemonade Stand, which sells silkscreened baby outfits and other clothes with socialist slogans, phrases like “Help Wanted: Revolutionaries.” The search was part of a mysterious, ongoing nationwide terrorism investigation with an unusual target: prominent peace activists and politically active labor organizers. The probe — involving subpoenas to 23 people and raids of seven homes last fall — has triggered a high-powered protest against the Department of Justice and, in the process, could create some political discomfort for President Obama with his union supporters as he gears up for his reelection campaign. The apparent targets are concentrated in the Midwest, including Chicagoans who crossed paths with Obama when he was a young state senator and some who have been active in labor unions that supported his political rise. Investigators, according to search warrants, documents and interviews, are examining possible “material support” for Colombian and Palestinian groups designated by the U.S. government as terrorists. The apparent targets, all vocal and visible critics of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South America, deny any ties to terrorism. They say the government, using its post-9/11 focus on terrorism as a pretext, is targeting them for their political views. They are “public non-violent activists with long, distinguished careers in public service,
including teachers, union organizers and antiwar and community leaders,” said Michael Deutsch, a Chicago lawyer and part of a legal team defending those who believe they are being targeted by the investigation. Several activists and their lawyers said they believe indictments could come anytime, so they have turned their organizing skills toward a counteroffensive, decrying the inquiry as a threat to their First Amendment rights. Those who have been subpoenaed, most of them non-Muslim, include clerical workers, educators and in one case a stay-at-home dad. Some are lesbian couples with young children — a point apparently noted by investigators, who infiltrated the activists’ circle with an undercover officer presenting herself as a lesbian mother. All 23 of the activists invoked their right not to testify before a grand jury, defying U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, whose office is spearheading the investigation. A spokesman for Fitzgerald, the Chicago prosecutor whose past work has sometimes riled both political parties, declined to comment. It is uncertain whether Obama is aware of the investigation. A White House official referred questions to the Justice Department, where spokesman Matthew Miller said the agency will not comment on an investigation, but he disputed any assertion that people would be targeted for political activities. “Whenever we open an investigation, it is solely because we have a reason to do so based on the facts, evidence and the law,”Miller said. The activists have formed the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, organized phone banks to flood Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s office and the White House with protest calls, solicited letters from labor unions and faith-based groups and sent delegations to Capitol Hill to gin up support from lawmakers. Labor backers include local and statewide affiliates representing the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, two of the most influential unions in the liberal movement. So far, nine members of Congress have written letters to the administration asking questions. The major national labor organizations have not gotten involved in the case and are considered likely to support Obama’s reelection next year. But some state and local union organizations are expressing alarm about the case, saying that the government appears to be scrutinizing efforts by workers to build ties with trade unionists in other countries. “I am so disgusted when I see that so many union people have been targeted in this,” said
Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME Local 3800, which represents clerical workers at the University of Minnesota, including four members who are possible targets. The union’s statewide group, which says it represents 46,000 workers, called on Obama to investigate and passed a resolution expressing “grave concern” about the raids. Similar resolutions have been approved by statewide AFSCME and SEIU affiliates in Illinois. If there are indictments, the case could test a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that found the ban on material support for designated foreign terrorist groups does not necessarily violate the First Amendment — even if the aid was intended for peaceful or humanitarian uses. The ruling held that any type of support could ultimately help a terrorist group’s pursuit of violence. The probe appears to date from 2008, as a number of activists began planning for massive antiwar demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. After the convention, the FBI’s interest continued, apparently focused on the international work pursued by many of the participants. Several activists said they had traveled to Colombia or the Palestinian territories on “fact-finding” trips designed to bolster their case back home against U.S. military support for the Israeli and Colombian governments. In 2009, a group raised money to travel and deliver about $1,000 to a Palestinian women’s group, but the delegation was turned back by officials at the airport in Israel, organizers said. Search warrants, subpoenas and documents show that the FBI has been interested in links between the activists and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hezbollah. In the early morning of Sept. 24, 2010, agents raided homes in Chicago and Minneapolis, issued subpoenas to 14 activists, and tried to question others around the country, including prominent antiwar organizers in North Carolina and California. At 7 a.m., according to documents and interviews, about a dozen armed federal agents used a battering ram to force their way into Mick Kelly’s second-floor apartment, which sits over an all-night coffee shop in a working-class neighborhood of Minneapolis. Kelly, 53, a cook in a University of Minnesota dormitory and a member of the Teamsters, said he was at work and his nightgown-clad wife, Linden Gawboy, was slow to answer the door. Apparently by accident, the agents left something behind: a packet of secret documents headlined “Operation Order,” laying out detailed instructions for the FBI SWAT team to find clues of Kelly’s activism, including personal finances or those of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a far-left group he works with. The documents point to the FBI’s interest in Kelly’s foreign travel.
“We’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” Kelly said. “We don’t know what this is about, but we know that our rights to organize and speak out are being violated.” In Chicago, the raid at the home of Weiner, 49, also targeted her husband, Joe Iosbaker, 52, a University of Illinois-Chicago office worker and a union steward for his SEIU local. The couple are among the grassroots activists close to the world once inhabited by Barack Obama who have been caught up in the investigation. Like others, Weiner and Iosbacker have been fixtures on the local liberal political scene, protesting police actions, attending antiwar rallies, leading pay equity fights and even doing some volunteer work for Obama’s past campaigns. Tom Burke, who received a subpoena Sept. 24, had in 2004 discussed the plight of murdered Colombian trade unionists with then-state senator Obama. “He was a sympathetic ear,” Burke said, recalling that Obama told him the murders were a “human rights problem.” Hatem Abudayyeh, one of seven Palestinians to be subpoenaed in the investigation, recalls encountering Obama in the community during his years as a state legislator. Abudayyeh, 40, is executive director of the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago advocacy group that hosted then-state senator Obama for at least two events. The role of the undercover officer, which defense lawyers said was confirmed in their talks with prosecutors, became clear in the weeks following the raids. She had joined a Minneapolis antiwar group, then joined demonstrations at the School of the Americas military training site in Fort Benning, Georgia, and at one point flying with a group to Israel on the trip that was thwarted at the airport. “They were smart sending a 40-year-old lesbian,” said Meredith Aby, 38, a high school civics teacher and longtime organizer. “A good match,” added Jess Sundin, a university clerical worker. Aby and Sundin, whose homes were raided and who received subpoenas, had helped lead a group called the Anti-War Committee that had coordinated with antiwar activists across the country to plan the demonstrations at the Republican convention. Civil libertarians and other critics say the investigation fits a pattern for the FBI, pointing to a Justice Department inspector general’s report — issued three days before the raids — chiding the agency for monitoring the domestic political activities of Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups in the name of combating terrorism. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a close Obama ally, wrote Holder in April conveying the activists’ concerns that the probe was infringing on their rights.
“Clearly we need to have a bright line where people can exercise their civil rights, their civil liberties, to peacefully protest,” Schakowsky said in an interview. Holder experienced the activists’ anger first hand last month, when Tracy Molm, 30, an AFSCME organizer whose apartment was raided, stood to interrupt a speech he was giving at the University of Minnesota. Holder, unaware that she was a possible investigation target, agreed to meet with her after the speech. In a small room off the auditorium, with the attorney general flanked by aides and security, Molm demanded to know why the administration was pursuing the inquiry, she recalled later in an interview. “He said they had a predicate for the investigation,” Molm said. “I said, ‘The predicates after 9/11 are nothing.’” “We’re going to have to agree to disagree,” Holder replied, according to Molm. At that point, Molm revealed that her apartment had been raided as part of the investigation. Holder and Justice Department officials abruptly ended the discussion.
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