Labor and U.S. Politics

FBI Repression in Boston

By Richard Hugus

Since before the raids on international solidarity and antiwar activists in the Midwest United States last September, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has also been steadily at work on a campaign of frame-ups and harassment of similar activists in the northeast, in Boston. On January 25, 2010, Boston’s legendary activist and leader, Chuck Turner, was sentenced to three years in prison for the crime of governing while black. Chuck Turner was a city councilor representing low-income and minority districts in Boston. He regularly spoke out against the U.S. war machine and worked hard to support the interests of his constituents. He was framed by the FBI in an overt political attack instigated by the Bush-era U.S. Attorney, Michael Sullivan.

In this attack, an informant was paid by the FBI to lie about giving a bribe to Chuck Turner. No evidence was introduced to corroborate the informant’s testimony. The prosecution never even met minimum standards of evidence: they played a grainy video of something unrecognizable changing hands. The alleged money was never counted before the camera. In the sentencing, Chuck Turner was punished for saying that he was innocent and for speaking out against the FBI and the U.S. Attorney—as both the prosecutor and the judge said openly. He was also punished for pointing out the obvious fact that his prosecution was based on race, as both he and Dianne Wilkerson, an African American state senator, were the only subjects of the FBI’s “investigation” in a city that is no stranger to corruption.

Michael Sullivan was rewarded for his efforts. He now works in an office in Boston set up by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who will go down in history as the head of the American Inquisition against Arabs and Muslims across the entire United States after the 2001 declaration of the “war on terror.” It was John Ashcroft’s Justice Department and FBI who went after Boston Palestinian activist Amer Jubran in 2002, jailing him without charges two days after a demonstration for Palestine in downtown Boston, and finally forcing him out of the country by means of judicial harassment.

It was John Ashcroft who was responsible for sending Lynne Stewart to prison for the crime of providing legal representation for “the blind sheik,” Abdul Rahman. This was a Justice Department not known for its professionalism. When John Ashcroft went after Lynne, he announced it personally on a TV talk show. When his shill, Michael Sullivan went after Chuck Turner, he immediately provided his phony photo evidence for page-one of the Boston Globe.

The same anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racism went into the FBI frame-up of Tarek Mehanna, an Egyptian American from Sudbury, Massachusetts, who was arrested by the FBI in October 2009 for the crime of refusing to become an informant at his mosque. The FBI told Tarek that if he didn’t co-operate they would make life “a living hell.” He didn’t cooperate. Moreover, he spoke up in support of another victim of the U.S. war on terror, Aafia Siddiqui. Tarek has now spent 15 months in prison in solitary confinement in a prison in Plymouth, Massachusetts. U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan was responsible for the attack on Tarek. In this case, Sullivan let loose his assistant Jeffrey Auerhahn, a prosecutor with an already established reputation for coercing informants into giving false testimony, and other flagrant misconduct. Auerhahn is in the Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office “anti-terrorism and national security” division—the perfect place for a man with experience in creating crimes where none exist.

FBI harassment didn’t end with the persecution of Amer Jubran in 2002. A 2003 FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request brought out extensive videotape surveillance of New England Committee to Defend Palestine demonstrations, clearly highlighting certain members. In 2010 the FBI came again to harass two activists working with the Committee, coming at different times to their doors to “ask a few questions.” Both activists knew enough not to speak with an FBI agent and referred them to their lawyer. As reported back by the lawyer, the FBI had come to ask about their political ideas and associations.

On February 10, 2011 an FBI agent using the name David George came to the door of this writer, a member of the Committee who lives on Cape Cod. They were once again referred to a lawyer. The FBI made it explicit to the lawyer that they were investigating ideas expressed in an article supporting the right of oppressed people to resist their oppressors (see “Lies of the Israeli Peace Movement,” by Richard Hugus11), and a personal letter of support to Aafia Siddiqui, a political prisoner at that point facing trial in New York in September 2010.

The Holder/Obama Justice Department has gone even further than Ashcroft/Bush in trying to make any expression of solidarity with resistance into the crime of “material support for terrorism.” They appear to be using the decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law to expand the definition of “material support for terrorism” more deeply into the international solidarity and anti-war activist community. This is the first administration that has openly declared it a matter of policy that they will assassinate U.S. citizens for speech, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki. Once the right to assassinate is established, investigation and harassment of people for things they’ve said or written is a matter of course. In Tarek Mehanna’s case, a man is being accused of “material support for terrorism” because of things he published and comments he made on the Internet. Like the notorious “free speech zones” established by the military and police at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, lines are being drawn to establish the boundaries of permitted discussion—where, when, who, and what people can legally say.

The expression of certain ideas is now being held out as valid ground for police intervention and criminalization. It is important for people to understand that the FBI and police are today on the offensive against critics of the U.S. government’s support of the occupation of Palestine, its waging of criminal declared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; it’s waging of criminal undeclared wars all over the globe, from Sudan to Colombia; its support of torture; its massive prison establishment; its long-term incarceration of political prisoners like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal; and its widespread attack on domestic civil liberties.

The good news is that a power acts in such fear because it is, after all, weak in its core. It is losing the war it created, and is going bankrupt with its own greed and moral emptiness. The bad news is that many truth-tellers have become the victim of the authorities who have been set up to protect the center of power. Some of these truth tellers have been murdered, some tortured, some are in solitary confinement, some have lost their careers, some are simply worried about the next knock on the door. They were, each one of them, right to do what they did. If they are able, they must maintain the courage to continue doing what they’re doing.

The people who will have trouble coping—mostly with themselves—are those like Ron Wilburn, the informant who took $30,000 from the FBI to help remove Chuck Turner from the Boston City Council; Bilaal McCloud and other unnamed informants who made deals with Jeffrey Auerhahn to smear Tarek Mehanna; Jeffrey Auerhahn himself, who knows he’s prosecuting an innocent man and is doing it anyway; Judge John Koeltl, the judge in Lynne Stewart’s resentencing, whose only excuse was to say he was doing what he was told; and the Boston Zionists who made the call to have Amer Jubran deported from the country.

If you are working for justice, keep up the struggle. Educate yourself and your community about the outrageous methods of Uncle Sam’s new thought police—the FBI.

—February 14, 2011