Forest activists and others in Oregon have been served with subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury now sitting in Portland. An unknown number of individuals began to testify before the grand jury last week after receiving visits by FBI agents at their residences or workplaces.
As one local activist states, "This is not your usual grand jury, where a local district attorney gets indictments handed down."
Federal grand juries are commonly viewed as useful tools against popular political movements, such as environmental activists in Oregon. All grand juries are supposedly secret, with both proceedings and members being protected. However, frequent and selective leaks by the FBI have been a common practice in the past.
As attorney Brian Glick explained in the book War at Home (South End Press),
"A grand jury subpoena carries legal penalties for non-cooperation. Those who refuse to testify, despite immunity from direct use of that testimony against them, can be jailed for contempt of court..."
"This process has been manipulated to turn the grand jury into an instrument of political repression. Frustrated by the consistent refusal of trial juries to convict on charges of overtly political crimes, the FBI and U.S.Department of Justice convened over 100 grand juries in the late 1960s'..."
A number of political activists, notably Puerto Rican independistas, have refused to cooperate with federal grand juries in the last two decades. Several have been jailed for periods of up to eighteen months.
Oregon has seen several federal grand juries unsuccessfully attempt to slow the spread of environmental activism in the last decade. One activist, Craig Rosebraugh, has refused to supply useful information to seven grand juries (www.protectcivilliberties.com)
One veteran of previous FBI visits stated, "It should be obvious to anyone who has followed the civil suit by Earth First! organizer Judi Bari against the FBI that they are not friendly to environmental movements (www.judibari.org). Anyone who is served a subpoena should contact a lawyer who is familiar with grand juries, which usually means someone with the National Lawyers Guild (www.nlg.org). Anyone who is worried about this should read 'Security for Activists' (see Site Guide at www.publiceye.org). Remember, people have told the FBI and Justice Department to stick it in their ear and walked away free."