Monday, February 09, 2004

A terrifying development. This is, no doubt, only the beginning. Of course, the only way to stop such harassment is to organize even more, and bigger, shows of dissent. Ashcroft and his jackbooted thugs can jail and intimidate isolated groups of a dozen people. But they can't jail a movement of millions (and they can't jail the spirit either).

University Ordered to Turn Over Records on Anti-War Activists

by Ryan J. Foley

DES MOINES, Iowa - In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in
decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over
records about a gathering of anti-war activists.

In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were
served this past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15
forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury
Tuesday, the protesters said.

Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas.

In addition to records about who attended the forum, the subpoena
orders the university to divulge all records relating to the local
chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal
activist organization that sponsored the forum.

The group, once targeted for alleged ties to communism in the 1950s,
announced Friday it will ask a federal court to quash the subpoena on

"The law is clear that the use of the grand jury to investigate
protected political activities or to intimidate protesters exceeds
its authority," guild President Michael Ayers said in a statement.

Representatives of the Lawyer's Guild and the American Civil
Liberties Union said they had not heard of such a subpoena being
served on any U.S. university in decades.

Those served subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace
Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member
of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited
Iraq in 2002.

They say the subpoenas are intended to stifle dissent.

"This is exactly what people feared would happen," said Brian Terrell
of the peace ministry, one of those subpoenaed. "The civil liberties
of everyone in this country are in danger. How we handle that here in
Iowa is very important on how things are going to happen in this
country from now on."

The forum, titled "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!"
came the day before 12 protesters were arrested at an anti-war rally
at Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston. Organizers say the
forum included nonviolence training for people planning to

The targets of the subpoenas believe investigators are trying to link
them to an incident that occurred during the rally. A Grinnell
College librarian was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace
officer; she has pleaded innocent, saying she simply went limp and
resisted arrest.

"The best approach is not to speculate and see what we learn on
Tuesday" when the four testify, said Ben Stone, executive director of
the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, which is representing one of the

Mark Smith, a lobbyist for the Washington-based American Association
of University Professors, said he had not heard of any similar case
of a U.S. university being subpoenaed for such records.

He said the case brings back fears of the "red squads" of the 1950s
and campus clampdowns on Vietnam War protesters.

According to a copy obtained by The Associated Press, the Drake
subpoena asks for records of the request for a meeting room, "all
documents indicating the purpose and intended participants in the
meeting, and all documents or recordings which would identify persons
that actually attended the meeting."

It also asks for campus security records "reflecting any observations
made of the Nov. 15, 2003, meeting, including any records of persons
in charge or control of the meeting, and any records of attendees of
the meeting."

Several officials of Drake, a private university with about 5,000
students, refused to comment Friday, including school spokeswoman
Andrea McDonough. She referred questions to a lawyer representing the
school, Steve Serck, who also would not comment.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said a judge had issued
a gag order forbidding school officials from discussing the subpoena.


Drake University:
National Lawyers Guild:

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