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federal spooks back down on NLG subpoena

FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force operatives subpoenaed Drake University and the Des Moines chapter of the National Lawyers Guild for membership and attendance lists of people present at a university-sponsored conference on antiwar activism and related legal issues. After receiving unwanted publicity and facing a motion to quash the subpoenas, the officials have backed down and withdrawn them before a judge could rule on their requests.
The Feds on Campus
The Drake University Subpoenas
By ELAINE CASSEL

It took the "mainstream" media two weeks or more to get to the story of the grand jury investigation that involved an anti-war rally at Drake University on November 16, 2003, sponsored by the National Lawyer's Guild. I reported on it last week, because a reader sent me the story from the Des Moines Register. The Washington Post never even ran a story on it, except in the February 15, 2004 "Nation in Brief," section, where it takes up a tiny bit of space. The New York Times did not get to it until February 10, on the same day the federal prosecutors backed off.

Now, say prosecutors, they were only looking for "leads" into who scaled a security fence at Camp Dodge the day an anti-war rally was held there (November 15), the Iowa National Guard headquarters. Federal prosecutors, who had subpoenaed the financial and membership records of the National Lawyers Guild, subpoenaed four students who were also local members, and likewise subpoenaed Drake University records and security camera tapes, now say that they were not "prosecuting persons lawfully engaged in rallies which are conducted under the protection of the First Amendment."

That is a lame excuse, considering that they would have gotten the records and testimony they wanted had the recipients not filed motions to quash. Their motions, and at least the Des Moines Register coverage, might have intimidated the prosecutors into retreating. For they did not wait for a federal judge to rule on the motions to quash.

The transparency of the prosecutors' pretense is further seen in their trying to make the connections that (1) the Drake University protests were related to the Fort Dodge protest and (2) that someone who "trespassed" on precious Fort Dodge attended either rally. Clearly, the prosecutors are putting protestors on notice that they will be "persons of interest," in FBI parlance, in any "terrorist" investigation, if a link, no matter how absurd and tenuous, can be made.

Showing that he is as good as denying the facts as is his Commander-in-Chief in the White House, Des Moines U.S. Attorney Stephen O'Meara also denied that the investigation was an "anti-terroroism" investigation. Then, do tell, counselor, why the subpoenas were issued by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force?

In yet another example of critics of the Administration being targeted for "terrorism," a truck driver who maintains a website critical of the government's trucking regulations has been questioned in the investigation into the ricin found in Senator Bill Frist's office. Let's see, the man worked for a contractor of the post office, and that contractor delivered the mail that had the ricin. Sounds like he's guilty to me.

Lack of "intelligence" in Iraq is only the tip of the iceberg. The Bush Administration is wanting in intelligence on all fronts. Whistling in the dark, chasing phantoms, hoping that it will scare its critics into silence. So far, it's not working.

Elaine Cassel practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime's dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. She can be reached at:  ecassel1@cox.net