Subpoenas began arriving last week seeking details about the sponsor of an antiwar forum at Iowa’s Drake University, including its leadership list, its annual reports, its office location, and the event itself, the New York Times reports. Yesterday, lawyers for the sponsor, the Drake University chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, asked a court to block the federal prosecutors’ demands.
At least four attendees received subpoenas to appear today before a federal grand jury today. They fear that the legal action is intended to quash protest. The United States Attorney’s office yesterday said the investigation was limited to learning more about one person who had tried to scale a security fence at a National Guard base in a protest a day after the forum. “The United States attorney’s office does not prosecute persons peacefully and lawfully engaged in rallies which are conducted under the protection of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen Patrick O’Meara.
Prosecutors delayed the grand jury appearances by a month, a move local civil libertarians interpreted as a sign that the government might be backing away from the investigation.
“I’ve heard of such a thing, but not since the 1950’s, the McCarthy era,” said David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. “It sends a very troubling message about government officials’ attitudes toward basic liberties.”