Anti-war activists being investigated by a grand jury in Chicago have learned that an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent infiltrated their organizations and conducted extensive spying over a two year period. Speaking at a press conference on Jan. 12, 2011, members of the Minneapolis based Anti-War Committee (AWC) said the informant had access to the group’s financial records and undermined a solidarity trip to the Middle East in 2009. “Our democratic rights have been violated by a government operation of spying, infiltration and disruption of our anti-war movement,” said Jess Sundin of the AWC.
According to the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, conversations between the activists’ lawyers and the prosecutor’s office in Chicago revealed that the person known to the anti-war groups as “Karen Sullivan” was “a law enforcement officer working undercover.” She began her infiltration during the planning stages for protests aimed at the Republican National Convention in early 2008. Over the next year, she joined the AWC and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, an international solidarity group, and began undertaking many of the groups’ responsibilities. “For two and a half years, Officer Sullivan participated — sometimes even serving as chairperson — in weekly Anti-War Committee meetings,” Sundin said. “Officer Sullivan had a key to this office, which was later used by the FBI on Sept. 24 to enter the office, search it, seize our computers, financial records, and other materials.
The FBI has not commented on Sullivan or her identity. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago has said it will not comment on anything about the grand jury investigation related to material support of terrorism.
Sundin is one of the original 14 activists issued a subpoena during the FBI raids of Sept. 24, 2010. After triggering widespread protest the subpoenas were eventually cancelled. In late 2010, however, subpoenas were issued to 23 activists to appear before a grand jury in Chicago on Jan. 25. All of the subpoenaed activists have said they will refuse to testify and protests around the country in support of the activists are expected to take place on the same day.
Sundin also blames the undercover agent for undermining a solidarity trip to the Palestinian states in the summer of 2009. “[S]he was secretly working to sabotage the trip entirely. Through her work, reports were passed onto Israeli authorities, who then barred entry to the two Minneapolis women traveling with Karen Sullivan. Her action, on behalf of the U.S. government, deprived these women of their rights to travel, association and dissent.”
A September 2010 report by the Department of Justice Inspector General found the FBI had improperly monitored anti-war and environmental activists between 2001 and 2006. The report found FBI agents placed activists on terrorism watch lists for “factually weak” reasons and had “an impact on the First Amendment rights of those groups and their members.”
“This is exactly what the Inspector General’s report was talking about,” Sundin said. “The FBI doesn’t have the right to spy on us. It’s an abuse of our democratic rights. We’re supposed to have freedom of association, not, ‘You can associate but we’re going to spy on you.'”