FBI conducts terrorism searches in Chicago homes

September 24, 2010 (CHICAGO)

No one was arrested, but search warrants were served on a total of eight homes. The subjects of those raids say the FBI is targeting anti-war activists, and the search warrants suggest that agents are looking for connections between anti-war activists and terrorist groups.

Although no arrests were made, some of the people whose homes were searched have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury.

Items were seized, but the FBI isn't revealing what it confiscated or specifically what it was looking for - other than evidence that might constitute "material" support for terrorism. Material support typically means money, supplies, aid and comfort.

The targets are people who are known, vocal opponents of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, disputes over Palestinian settlements, and U.S. involvement in Colombia, and they insist this is just an effort to muzzle the voices of dissent.

At least three of the homes raided in Minneapolis belong to prominent leaders of what's called the Twin Cities Anti-War Movement.

One of them is Jessica Sundin - a principal leader of the mass anti-war march on the opening day of the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The FBI also paid morning visits to two Chicago homes - one of them an apartment in Jefferson Park, and the second a home on the city's Northwest Side belonging to Joe Iosbaker and his wife, Stephanie Weiner.

"We're being singled out for intimidation," said Iosbaker, who is chief steward for SEIU Local 73.

Iosbaker and Weiner are longtime antiwar activists. They were at home when agents arrived Friday morning.

"This is a fishing trip for information that they want about where about how peace activists organize against wars and occupation around the world, and that this is intended not just to harass us in this little yellow house, but is to harass all peace and justice activists in Chicago and across the country," said Weiner.

As to what the warrant said or what might have been confiscated, they say they are at this point unclear.

"We feel that this is about harassment and silencing the voice of people who are angry about what's happening in countries like Afghanistan, or countries like Iraq," said Weiner.

The FBI says this is part of an ongoing joint terrorism task force investigation into "activities concerning the material support of terrorism."

Agents did not arrest anyone Friday, but they did confiscate items, including, Sundin says, her cell phone and passport. All the people whose homes were searched deny supporting terrorism.

"I have met with Colombian rebels in Colombia," said Sundin. "Those are all countries in which I have provided political act support to campaigns to get our government out and to end U.S. aid to repressive governments."

Asked if he has done anything beyond marching, talking and holding signs, Iosbaker said, "We've done nothing that we're not proud of, but I'm not gonna say any more."

Iosbaker and Weiner did not have their attorney present, and chose not to talk about specifics of the search, but they did speak publicly to make it clear that they will not be intimidated.

There was no answer Friday night at the Jefferson Park condo where Hatem Abudayyeh lives with his wife and young daughter, but he was there at dawn when the FBI came knocking.

Neighbor Sargon Tamo said that between seven and ten FBI agents came to Abudayyeh's condo.

"It took a few hours, easily four or five hours, just taking some fingerprints, investigating," said Tamo.

Abudayyeh is the executive director of the Arab-American Action Network, a Chicago-based community group which has been a critic of U.S. support of Israel.

"It's really our tax dollars that are going to support Israel's invasion of Lebanon and its occupation of Palestine," he said in a 2006 interview with ABC7.

Neighbor Sargon Tamo described Abudayyeh as a "very nice guy," saying that "he goes to work, comes home, typical American life - wife, family, that's it - never seen nothing suspicious."

Although most of the raids occurred in Minneapolis, one of the defense attorneys there says the search warrants are all pursuant to a grand jury investigation based in Chicago.

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