Feds Win Right To War Protesters' Records

In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge
has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war
activists.

In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served this
past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the
school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters
said.

Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas.

In addition to records about who attended the forum, the subpoena orders the
university to divulge all records relating to the local chapter of the
National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that
sponsored the forum.

The group, once targeted for alleged ties to communism in the 1950s,
announced Friday it will ask a federal court to quash the subpoena on
Monday.

"The law is clear that the use of the grand jury to investigate protected
political activities or to intimidate protesters exceeds its authority,"
guild President Michael Ayers said in a statement.

Representatives of the Lawyer's Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union
said they had not heard of such a subpoena being served on any U.S.
university in decades.

Those served subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry,
the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic
Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002.

They say the subpoenas are intended to stifle dissent.

"This is exactly what people feared would happen," said Brian Terrell of the
peace ministry, one of those subpoenaed. "The civil liberties of everyone in
this country are in danger. How we handle that here in Iowa is very
important on how things are going to happen in this country from now on."

The forum, titled "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!" came the
day before 12 protesters were arrested at an anti-war rally at Iowa National
Guard headquarters in Johnston. Organizers say the forum included
nonviolence training for people planning to demonstrate.

The targets of the subpoenas believe investigators are trying to link them
to an incident that occurred during the rally. A Grinnell College librarian
was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer; she has pleaded
innocent, saying she simply went limp and resisted arrest.

"The best approach is not to speculate and see what we learn on Tuesday"
when the four testify, said Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa Civil
Liberties Union, which is representing one of the protesters.

Mark Smith, a lobbyist for the Washington-based American Association of
University Professors, said he had not heard of any similar case of a U.S.
university being subpoenaed for such records.

He said the case brings back fears of the "red squads" of the 1950s and
campus clampdowns on Vietnam War protesters.

According to a copy obtained by The Associated Press, the Drake subpoena
asks for records of the request for a meeting room, "all documents
indicating the purpose and intended participants in the meeting, and all
documents or recordings which would identify persons that actually attended
the meeting."

It also asks for campus security records "reflecting any observations made
of the Nov. 15, 2003, meeting, including any records of persons in charge or
control of the meeting, and any records of attendees of the meeting."

Several officials of Drake, a private university with about 5,000 students,
refused to comment Friday, including school spokeswoman Andrea McDonough.
She referred questions to a lawyer representing the school, Steve Serck, who
also would not comment.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said a judge had issued a gag
order forbidding school officials from discussing the subpoena.

©2004 Associated Press