Today’s Washington Post features a story by Peter Wallsten (the reporter who obtained the Obama-Khalidi video tape) noting that, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI is investigating prominent peace activists and labor organizers for possible ties to terrorism. According to Wallsten, some of the investigation’s targets include “Chicagoans who crossed paths with Obama when he was a young state senator.” This includes, for example, according to Wallsten, Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network, founded by Rashid Khalidi. (I tell the story of Obama’s ties to AAAN here.) According to the search warrants, investigators are tracking possible “material support” for “Columbian and Palestinian groups designated by the U.S. government as terrorists.” Wallsten suggests that the probe might be awkward for Obama, given his need for support from some of the leftist and labor groups involved.
This is just an investigation, of course, and all so-called targets should be presumed innocent. Also, the activists themselves are crying foul, with the help of close Obama ally, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). It’s important to protect the right of political dissent. At the same time, support for terrorism is a legitimate target of investigation. We’ll have to wait and see what, if anything, Fitzgerald comes up with.
The ultimate merits of this probe aside, there is no doubt that Obama was deeply immersed in a world where labor and socialist community organizing networks (that Jan Schakowsky was intimately a part of at the time) offered political support to revolutionary leftist movements in Latin America. I tell the story in Radical-in-Chief. Have some denizens of Obama’s old world crossed the line and offered “material support” for terrorism? That is as yet unknown. But because it’s so important to preserve the rights to even the most radical dissent, I hope that Patrick Fitzgerald had a solid basis for opening such an investigation.