The Israel Palestine Mission Network, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and National Middle East Presbyterian Caucus are apparently worried that some supporters of Palestinian terrorism will be caught and brought to justice. They’ve issued a press release calling for the Department of Justice to end an investigation into such activities in Chicago:

The Israel Palestine Mission Network* (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA), The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) and the National Middle East Presbyterian Caucus (NMEPC) oppose the misuse of the grand jury process by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the accompanying FBI raids. The DOJ served a total of nine federal grand jury subpoenas to Chicago area Palestinian solidarity activists in the month of December alone, raising the total subpoenas served to 23. These Presbyterian groups call upon their own denominational leadership, as well as Churches for Middle East Peace, The National Council of Churches and all concerned Christian denominations to join them in denouncing the DOJ’s bold attempts to suppress peaceful dissent on the part of those working for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Jeff Story, a Chicago attorney and member of the IPMN, points out “the time for all Americans to speak up about these encroachments on our constitutional right to dissent is now. We must not wait until Presbyterians who are Palestinian solidarity peacemakers receive the ‘knock on the door’.” Story, who is also a member of the National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee, adds that Christians, to our discredit, did not adequately “raise the alarm when the DOJ politically prosecuted Muslim charities and mosques in the recent past” and that “our present response is long overdue.”

The National Lawyers Guild is a long-time Communist front group, and therein lies the substance of what’s going on. It seems that some far-left and Communist organizations in the Chicago area have been supporting, not just the Palestinian cause in general, but the actions of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a Marxist organization that has been designated as a terrorist group since the late 1960s that has never wavered in its call for the destruction of Israel).

What the Department of Justice is trying to do in its grand jury investigation is determine if in fact Chicago activists have been lending “material aid” to the PFLP or other terrorists. To do that, they’ve subpoenaed a variety of people who have worked with the activists. To make clear: not everyone asked for information is being investigated, and those being investigated are being looked at in terms of specific violations of American laws prohibiting aid to terrorists. As former Assistance U.S. Attorney Cynthia Kouril of the left-wing blog Firedoglake points out, the hysteria is overblown:

First of all, summoning a witness to give testimony does not turn that witness into a criminal. If you happen to be on the street when a bank robber makes his getaway and you are summoned to a grand jury to tell what you saw, is that “targeting” you or “criminalizing” you? No, you are a witness. If you don’t have any relevant testimony, your appearance will be pretty short.

When you are summoned to the grand jury, you still have all of your Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and can invoke them whenever you feel that the answer to a question might incriminate you. In fact, if you notify the government, in writing, that if compelled to appear before the grand jury you will invoke your Fifth Amendment rights, the U.S. Attorney’s Manual suggests that your appearance should be excused.

If the government still needs that information, it will be forced to grant you immunity; which is why TARGETS of investigations usually don’t get subpoenas to testify (not NEVER, just not usually). Go read the link, it’s to the Grand Jury Manual for the Department of Justice; it explains this in great detail.

In fact, DOJ requires its lawyers to NOTIFY YOU if you are a target of the grand jury. You can find a sample “target letter” at section 160 of the DOJ Criminal Resource Manual. If you don’t get a target letter, guess what you are not?  . . .

Lastly, all this hyperventilating language about being “targeted” by the government and “witchhunts” and these protests and other publicity stunts may get you 15 minutes of fame, and are probably great for building your lists and pumping up your fundraising, but if you were even the tiniest bit serious about not wanting to testify, you would probably want to try something that actually has a snowball’s chance in hell of ending your testimonial obligation. It’s called a Motion to Quash. Here is a sample Motion to Quash a federal grand jury subpoena.

If you really and truly believe that this is just a fishing expedition, as opposed to an excuse to gin up controversy and try to make yourselves out to be martyrs, get a lawyer not a press agent.

So, to sum up: the IPMN, the PPF, and the NMEPC are essentially calling for the government to stop looking into possible assistance to terrorist groups by Americans, and proclaiming a “threat” to First Amendment freedoms, because of it is their ox being gored. If exactly the same process were underway aimed at finding out material supporters of the Jewish Defense League (Rabbi Meir Kahane’s racist anti-Arab group that was found by the FBI to be engaged in terrorist activities back in 2001), the Presbyterians would have not one word to say about it. It isn’t free speech that they are looking to protect, but those who would give aid to Palestinian groups that think killing Jewish civilians is a proper form of political expression.

(Hat tip: Methodist Thinker.)