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Somebody warn Eddie Vedder’s mother

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For the U.S. military, it apparently isn’t enough to rely on the intelligence gathered by the undercover agents at protest rallies. The campaign against dissent may now have added a common tactic–the use of investigation as intimidation.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

    Politically active artists have been shaken by the alleged visit of military investigators to the family of an outspoken San Francisco hip-hop band member, calling it one in a series of moves aimed at silencing dissenting musicians and actors.

    The incident surfaced a week ago when Michael Franti, the front man for the band Spearhead, told Pacifica Radio network’s “Democracy Now” that military investigators visited the mother of an unnamed band member in Boston. The woman also has a daughter stationed with U.S. military forces in the Middle East.

    The mother, whom Franti also declined to name for her safety, said plainclothes investigators appeared at her door on March 16, showing pictures of the band performing at an anti-war demonstration the previous day in San Francisco, Franti said. They questioned her about entries made in her son’s checking account, his travel records for the past several months, and his general whereabouts, Franti said.

Rolling Stone:

    “She’d spoken in an interview about her daughter who has been deployed in the Gulf, and her son who is in this band Spearhead,” says Spearhead frontman Michael Franti. “They showed her a picture of her son wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Unfuck the world’ on the front, and ‘Dethrone the Bushes’ on the back. They told her that was an un-American statement. She said, ‘That’s free speech,’ and they said, ‘Well, things are changing these days.'”

    The men who visited the frightened woman told her that her daughter’s CDs had been confiscated, and that her son had recently taken two flights to Japan. “Why would he do that?” they asked her, according to Franti.

    The men then showed her a list of names of people who worked in Franti’s management office in San Francisco and a photograph of her son performing with Spearhead at the peace rally one day prior. “It kind of put a scare into all of us,” says Franti. “The fact that people would be paying this close attention to what we’re doing as musicians is a bit freaky. We’re human rights workers — we don’t believe that people should be killed. We’re not about wanting to overthrow the government, but we want to speak out. It’s made us deepen our belief in what we do and work that much harder.”

Franti tells Democracy Now:

    “They had pictures of us performing the day before at the rally, they had pictures of us performing at some of our annual concerts that we put on that are in support of peace and human rights. They had his flight records for the past several months, they had the names of everybody who works in my office, our management office Guerilla Management. They had his checking account records. They asked his mother a lot of questions about where he was, what he was doing in this place, why he was going here. They confiscated his sibling’s CD collection that they had brought over to listen to while they were in the Gulf, and basically were intimidating – told her which members of the press she could talk to and which members of the press she should not speak to.”
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About Brian Flemming

  • san

    “Well, things are changing these days.”

    Hmm… Federal agents paraphrasing Bob Dylan… But I think they missed his point.

    This item is horrifying. But, until they cross the line between intimidation and prosecution, these illicit tactics only make the administration look like frightened little rabbits to strong Americans with a thorough knowledge of their rights.

    I’d be interested in meeting the judge who signed the warrants for those personal records. Oh, yeah: What warrants? Okay, I’d like to meet the guy who classified the activities of Spearhead “a matter of national security.”

  • This looks mighty suspicious. One contact by “military investigators” to the mother of someone in a band most people don’t know? Sounds like fiction to me. Was this woman aware that there are pranksters out doing nasty things like this to people just for the fun of it? (Like the idiots who called and claimed to be from the military to tell the parents of a soldier fighting in Iraq, that he’d been killed in combat.)

    I highly doubt this story is true. But good for publicity, of course.

  • san

    The SF Chron and Rolling Stone both have a history of journalistic integrity. I’ll have to give them the benefit of the doubt until someone can prove otherwise.

  • I’m not saying the printed stories aren’t real. I’m saying that the likelihood is slim-to-none that the military would bother to contact an “unnamed member” of a band that is unknown to the majority of people. Rolling Stone and the Chronicle are simply reporting what they picked up. I don’t doubt that for a minute. It’s the story that Franti, or the mysterious mother, is relating that is likely fiction.

  • Tom,

    If the story is true, do you find it chilling?

    Or is it no big deal?

  • IF it were true, of course, chilling, yes. At the moment, “comically absurd” is what I find it. And most likely, that will not change because I can almost guarantee that this is complete and utter BS. Do you really believe this?

  • Myth

    Whether the story is true or not (I don’t know; I would definitely like to see some more confirmation before betting on it) the point is there. Under the Patriot Acts, freedom is beginning- very slowly- to be undermined. Freedom of speech is one of the mainstays of the Constitution, and I cannot think of a good argument to put against it.
    If you come up with an idea of why free speech is bad, please email me.

  • Tom,

    I don’t know if it is true yet. However, the fact that there are specific details, that the mother has now been identified, and that Rolling Stone and the San Francisco Chronicle deemed it credible enough to report on makes it worthy of discussion.

    If it turns out to be as full of crap as other recent crocks (like aluminum tubes and Niger connections), then oh well. But for now there is enough credibility to talk about it, if not outright believe it. That’s why I wrote my original post this way:

    “The campaign against dissent may now have added a common tactic–the use of investigation as intimidation.”

    I will not be surprised if it turns out to be true. I think Bush, Ashcroft and others in the Administration have a plan, currently well under way, to erode civil liberties for those who express political views contrary to theirs. The historical precedents for this sort of behavior are well documented.

    I’m glad you agree that it is chilling if it’s true.

  • The Theory

    first off I would not put it past the government OR the military to do something like that. I would agree that rolling stone are not going to go and publish any crap story to cause a stir. Umm… though, i would like some confirmation somehow.

    But if it’s true, i say we get rid of this bush guy asap.