President Obama's executive order protects people like my grandmother.
“This is more than a story of personal betrayal but one of political repression. It sickens me.”
That was the reaction of Jess Sundin, a leader of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, after she found out about the FBI infiltration of her group by a woman who posed as “Karen Sullivan.”
At a press conference on January 12, Sundin denounced her as “a person we thought was a fellow activist and who had claimed to be a friend: Karen Sullivan. This woman not only worked with us in the Anti-War Committee and other groups. She involved herself in our personal lives, getting to know our children, joining in birthday celebrations, and paying visits on our family when someone was in the hospital. Everything we thought about Karen Sullivan was a lie. She was never a friend. Or a person of conscience working to help us build peace and justice.”
The FBI raided Sundins home on September 24. She was one of the 14 solidarity activists the FBI went after that day in the Twin Cities and Chicago. Sundin blames Sullivan for the raids. (For more information on those raids, click here.) Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is hauling 23 activists before a grand jury in Chicago on Jan. 25. (See stopfbi.net for more information.)
Sullivan joined the group in April of 2008, Sundin says, when the group was involved in organizing protests against the Republican National Convention.
“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.
For the last year or so, she has assisted with the bookkeeping for the Anti-War Committee and had unimpeded access to our financial records. On several occasions, officer Sullivan gave public speeches on our behalf, including on Colombia and Palestine.”
She also went to the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit with the group, Sundin says, and even joined the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which the FBI has showed particular interest in.
Sundin says Sullivan helped organize and raise money for the Anti-War Committee’s solidarity trip to Palestine last summer but surreptitiously undermined it. “She was secretly working to sabotage the trip entirely,” says Sundin. “Through her work, reports were passed on to Israeli authorities, who then barred entry to the two Minneapolis women traveling with Karen Sullivan.”
Sundin says the women were trying to meet with a group called the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, which works for women’s equality, supports women refugees, and runs child care centers.
“The Anti-War Committee has done nothing wrong, and nothing illegal,” says Sundin.
“The only crimes committed were the abuses of our rights carried out by Officer Sullivan herself,” says Sundin. “The government has no right to spy on the Anti-War Committee. These actions make a mockery of our democratic rights as outlined in the Constitution: the right to freedom of speech, freedom of dissent, freedom of association.”
Coleen Rowley, the former FBI agent who turned whistleblower after 9/11 and exposed the FBI’s failure to follow up on leads in Minneapolis that could have prevented the attacks, spoke at the same press conference as Sundin on Jan. 12.
“What we learned today is not only extremely creepy but it’s also alarming to our democracy and counterproductive to law enforcement,” said Rowley, who has become a peace activist herself.
For its part, the FBI refused to make a substantive comment.
“Grand jury proceedings are protected by law,” said special agent and spokesman Ross Rice in the Chicago office of the FBI, “and we’re prohibited from making any comment on any grand jury proceeding that might be ongoing.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his other "McCarthyism Watch" pieces by clicking here.
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter