When the FBI launched an early morning raid on the home of local peace activist Mick Kelly last September, it was supposed to be a precision operation.
Backed by Minneapolis police officers, more than a dozen FBI agents in full SWAT gear, burst into Kelly's one-bedroom West Bank apartment. Provisions had been made for every eventuality -- a black Suburban idled in the ally, monitoring the back exit. Hostage negotiators were on hand if the situation turned ugly.
But the agents made one mistake: When they left Kelly's apartment, they accidentally left behind some of their secret documents.
And today, Kelly held a press conference to release the FBI's secret documents to the media.[jump]
Those documents include the operational plans for the raid, surveillance photos showing the apartment building, and 57 interrogation questions for Kelly and the eight other Twin Cities peace activists whose homes were being raided at the same time.
Taken together, the documents offer the first glimpse into a highly secretive government investigation into the activists, which has resulted in 23 subpoenas to a secret federal grand jury.
The activists claim the investigation, which concerns charges of "material support of terrorism," is an unjust and intrusive effort by the FBI to intimidate and stifle political dissent.
Neither the FBI nor the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is conducting the grand jury, will comment on the investigation.
FBI spokesman Steve Warfield confirmed the authenticity of the documents, except for the list of questions.
"We don't know about those," Warfield said. "There were a lot of people involved in the raids."
Apparently central to the investigation is the work of a secret undercover agent, known to the activists as Karen Sullivan. She befriended the activists and infiltrated their organizations over more than two years then vanished shortly before the raids.
According to the Operation Order, the raids and subsequent grand jury investigation were based on accusations that two of the local activists, Meredith Aby and Jess Sundin, were involved in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is considered a terrorist group.
Sundin says that allegation is ridiculous. Although she traveled to Colombia 11 years ago, she says has nothing to do with FARC.
Equally disturbing, Sundin said, is that the FBI's list of interrogation subjects includes questions about Liliana Obando, a Colombian trade-unionist who visited Minnesota as a guest of the activists and spoke about human rights abuses committed by the U.S.-backed Colombian government.
"It is not a crime to travel to Colombia or to criticize U.S. foreign policy," said Bruce Nestor, a lawyer representing the subpoenaed activists.
Nestor added that if the relaxed laws that allow FBI investigation into political dissidents had been in force in the 1980s, anti-apartheid activists -- including President Obama -- would have been subject to the same armed raids, seized passports, and grand jury investigations.
Mick Kelly said his partner discovered the misplaced FBI documents about two weeks ago.
"She was going through some files and she said 'I think the FBI left something behind,'" Kelly said.
Also included among the files were documents marked "Law-Enforcement Only" that Kelly's attorney has advised him not to release.
Here's a copy of the Operation Order:
- FBI searches six Minneapolis homes in terrorist probe
- New resolution slams FBI raids of Minneapolis activists
- Minnesota activists raided by FBI refuse to testify
- Activists raided by FBI won't be forced to testify -- for now
- Minneapolis activists raided by FBI called again to testify
- Secret government informer Karen Sullivan infiltrated Minnesota activist groups
- Who was Karen Sullivan? Minnesota activists remember the undercover government agent
- Peace activists protest FBI investigation
- Undercover informant Karen Sullivan may be subpoenaed