SCOTT SIMON, Host:
In the next few weeks, more than a dozen anti-war activists in the Midwest will face a federal grand jury in Chicago - an investigation related to terrorism. The FBI searched the activists' homes last week and confiscated computers, photographs and other materials that the search warrants suggests could be evidence of material support of terrorist organizations. From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.
DAVID SCHAPER: Early last Friday morning, before 7:00, Joe Iosbaker says he heard a loud, sharp knock on the door of his Chicago home.
Mr. JOE IOSBAKER (Labor Organizer) When I came down the stairs, there were, I don't know, seven, eight, 10 agents standing on our front porch, and I thought they were Jehovah's Witnesses and I opened the door and they showed me a search warrant.
SCHAPER: Iosbaker, a labor organizer, says the agents came in and started searching the house, every inch of it. Joe's wife, Stephanie Weiner, says as many as 25 agents came through their house that day, searching and removing stuff for 10 hours.
STEPHANIE WEINER: The house was turned upside down, tip to toe, to such an extent that boxes from the '70s and '80s in our attic were brought down and looked through.
Weiner, a community college teacher, says the agents went through their teenage sons' belongings too - notebooks, posters. They even went through the words and designs on their T-shirts.
WEINER: We were stunned. You know, I think I have to say I've suffered through a trauma.
SCHAPER: At first, the couple was perplexed about why they were being singled out. But as they day went on, they realized they weren't the only ones targeted. Another home was being searched in Chicago, belonging to the executive director of the Arab-American Action Network, and in Minneapolis-St. Paul, six more homes of anti-war activists were searched, along with the offices of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee. And an anti-war activist in North Carolina says his home was searched by the FBI last Friday too. The search warrants issued by the Joint Terrorism Task Force and signed by a federal judge sought, quote, "evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism."
Investigators appear to be looking for links between the activists and three overseas groups the government classifies as terrorist organizations. They are the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and in at least a couple of cases, Hezbollah. Iosbaker and Weiner say they've spoken out against U.S. foreign policy in Latin American and the Middle East, but they deny they've done anything that can be construed as material support for those groups. Weiner calls the searches an attack on a political movement.
WEINER: It was truly to intimidate, to divide, to silence and separate the movement.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
SCHAPER: After the searches, hundreds of anti-war activists protested outside of FBI headquarters in Minneapolis, Chicago, and other cities to denounce what they contend is an effort to squash free speech against U.S. policy. But Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice says that's not what's going on here.
ROSS RICE: The FBI investigates allegations of violations of federal criminal law. We do not investigate any person or group because of their political persuasion or beliefs, and we support and defend the right of every citizen to peaceably assemble and protest.
SCHAPER: Rice and the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago would only add that this is an ongoing criminal investigation and no arrests have been made. Several of those subpoenaed are to appear before a federal grand jury in the coming weeks, starting next Tuesday.
David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.