DENVER Three men who planned to participate in a protest at the Democratic National Convention instead were in court in St. Louis appearing before a grand jury after being interviewed by the FBI, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has been interviewing people in several states, including Colorado, to see if they have any information about plans to disrupt the Democratic and Republican conventions and other election-related events.
Two of the Colorado activists interviewed by the task force said yesterday they have not been subpoenaed.
The three men in their early 20s from Kirksville, Mo., planned to drive to Boston this week to participate in a demonstration yesterday, said their lawyer, Denise Lieberman of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.
“What’s so troubling about this is the chilling effect it has had. They literally were prevented from going to Boston, because they had to respond to this subpoena,” she said.
She said other people who had planned to go with the men decided not to once they learned about the subpoenas.
Lieberman said the men were asked if they knew of anyone planning “criminally disorderly behavior” at either national convention, at the presidential debates, the election or any other event. The agents also allegedly asked if the men would volunteer the information if they knew anything.
The agents also asked if they knew withholding such information was a crime, Lieberman said.
Two of the people interviewed in Colorado Paul Bame, a 45-year-old software engineer from Fort Collins, and Sarah Bardwell, a 21-year-old intern with the American Friends Service Committee said they were asked similar questions and refused to answer.
FBI spokesman Joe Parris said the agency is not trying to squelch anyone’s First Amendment rights. He said that such interviews are part of the preventive work the agency has focused on following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.