The FBI executed six search warrants in Minneapolis this morning, including homes of political activists, in connection to a terrorism investigation.
The warrants were "seeking evidence related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism," said FBI Special Agent Steve Warfield, spokesman in the Minneapolis office. "There is no imminent threat to the community and we're not planning any arrests at this time."
One of the warrants was executed at the home of Mick Kelly, an anti-war organizer, according to his attorney Ted Dooley.
"I have no idea what all this is about," Dooley said. "Mr. Kelly is an activist, he's a socialist or perhaps a communist and has been forever. He never hides his political views. They're fishing. They're casting big nets into the sea of political activism."
Before agents confiscated his cell phone, Kelly told the Associated Press: "The FBI is harassing anti-war organizers and leaders, folks who opposed U.S. intervention in the Middle East and Latin America."
Warrants were also signed to search the homes of Jessica Sundin on Park Avenue and Meredith Aby in South Minneapolis, Dooley said.
Five of the warrants were executed at residences and one at an office, Warfield said.
Warfield said he couldn't say much in response to the allegations of attorneys and the people searched. "It's an ongoing criminal case and these warrants were signed off by a federal judge," he said.
Kelly, Sundin and Aby were organizers of a mass march on the first day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul two years ago. They recently appeared at a news conference to announce plans for another protest if Minneapolis is selected to hold the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Police estimated the peaceful march drew 10,000 protesters; organizers put the figure at 30,000. Other protests were marked by destructive acts by anarchists. More than 800 people were arrested during the four days of the convention, including Sundin and Kelly.
Sundin said they've already sought permits for 2012, "something I don't think terrorists would do."
Sundin called the suggestion they were connected with terrorism "pretty hilarious and ridiculous." She said she wasn't certain exactly what kinds of information the FBI was after or who else had been searched in either city.
An FBI SWAT team entered first "and looked for pointy things. And then they left and the FBI agents came in and looked through everything in the house," she said. The agents took "computers, several boxes of papers, everything related to data like discs," Sundin said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Nelson signed the warrant at 3:30 p.m. Thursday authorizing entry and seizure at Kelly's home on Riverside Avenue, Dooley said.
The warrant for Kelly's home said that the items to be seized were evidence concerning the violation of a federal law that prohibits "providing, attempting, conspiring to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations," Dooley said.
It allowed for the following to be seized: "documents, files, books, photographs, videos, souvenirs, war relics, notebooks, address books, diaries, journals, maps, or other evidence, including evidence in electronic form relating to Kelly's travels to and from and presence and activities in Minnesota and other foreign countries, to which Kelly has traveled as part of his work for FRSO (Freedom Road Socialist Organization)," Dooley said.
Also, the warrant was seeking information about Kelly's "ability to pay for his own travel within the United States or to Palestine or Colombia from the year 2000 until today. And this has to do with any contact with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and Hezbollah, all of which are FTOs (Foreign Terrorist Organizations)," Dooley said.
Asked whether Kelly had any contact with FTOs, Dooley said: "I have no idea. I guess it's possible with six degrees of separation that he knows Obama."
Dooley said the agents were also "looking for everything related to Kelly's potential co-conspirators, including Kelly's personal contacts in the United States and abroad, which means absolutely everybody that Kelly's ever been in contact with, anywhere. I'd say it's kind of unconstitutional and hideous, myself. It's very broad. It's disgusting."
The warrants were executed about 7 a.m., with six carried out in Minneapolis and two in Chicago, Warfield said.
A SWAT team, accompanied by the FBI, knocked on Kelly's door about 7 a.m. and Kelly's partner answered, Dooley said.
"They said they had a search warrant," he said. "She asked to see it, she couldn't read it through the peephole, so they busted down the door. The door flew across the room and broke a fish tank. There are now eight FBI agents in the apartment, going through every piece of paper in there, and all the books."
Dooley said he had information that a number of people were receiving subpoenas to a grand jury in Chicago on Oct. 12, and that simultaneous warrants being executed in North Carolina and upstate Michigan.
The FBI's spokesman in Chicago, Ross Rice, would only say two searches were conducted today in Chicago and that there were no arrests. He declined further comment.
Asked about the reports, the U.S. Attorney's office spokesman in Chicago, Randy Samborn, confirmed warrants were served in the city "in connection with a law enforcement investigation." He also declined to provide details.
Attorney Bruce Nestor said he's not representing any of the people whose homes were searched, but he has in the past.
"I'm really profoundly troubled by it," he said of the searches. "Overwhelmingly they're people who are doing public political organizing, so I think it's shocking to have heavily armed federal agents show up at their homes. ... It's all people involved in anti-war activity and it appears to be focused largely on opposition to the U.S. policy in Colombia and Palestine."
The federal law about material support of terrorism dates to 1996 and "has been interpreted so broadly to really endanger the rights of U.S. citizens to oppose the military and foreign policies of the United States," Nestor said.
"This is a direct attack on people who are strong, dedicated advocates of freedom, of the right of people to be free from U.S. domination," Nestor said. "It is an attack upon anybody who organizes against U.S. imperialism and U.S. militarism abroad."
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