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Why won't the FBI release Peltier files?

By Joe Allen | September 8, 2006 | Page 2

LEONARD PELTIER, one of America's longest serving political prisoners, will turn 62 years old September 12. He has spent 30 years of his life behind bars for a crime he didn't commit--in one of the most infamous cases of political persecution in modern U.S. history.

On September 8, Peltier's lawyer Barry Bachrach will argue in federal court for the full release of all files maintained by the FBI's Minneapolis office relating to Peltier.

Peltier was an active member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1970s. He was framed for the murder of two FBI agents on the Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge reservation in June 1975.

AIM was a major focus of the FBI's notorious Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of the 1960s and '70s, which attempted to "neutralize" the leadership of civil rights and revolutionary political organizations.

Two other AIM members, Bob Robideau and Dino Butler, were also indicted with Peltier, but were found not guilty after a federal trial in July 1976. Peltier, who had fled to Canada to avoid prosecution, was later extradited to the U.S. and stood trial separately--he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Peltier's extradition from Canada and trial in the U.S. was rife with coerced testimony, manufactured evidence and prosecutorial misconduct. Lynn Crooks, one of Leonard's prosecutors, admitted in 1985, "We can't prove who shot those agents." Yet Peltier remains in prison because of the determined--even fanatical--efforts of the FBI.

So far, the FBI has released, partially or fully, 66,594 out of 77,149 pages related to Peltier's case. The other 10,555 pages were withheld from Peltier's defense team and could potentially provide crucial information in the campaign to free him.

The FBI has refused to release the additional pages on the grounds of "national security." Why a 61-year-old grandfather who has been behind bars for three decades and is plagued by chronic illness is a threat to national security has not been fully explained.

A look at the Minneapolis FBI's Web site gives an idea of the agency's strange view of the world--many times more space is devoted to Peltier and AIM than to Osama bin Laden.

In the waning days of the Clinton administration, when an effort was made to secure a presidential pardon for Peltier, hundreds of FBI agents responded by picketing the White House. Clinton backed away from a pardon. Since September 11, federal prison authorities have refused media access to Peltier. He has been unable to give an interview to the media in over five years. Only his legal counsel and a small number of supporters and family members can meet with him.

The FBI's latest actions are symbolic of its 30-year persecution of Peltier and his supporters--and are perpetuating a terrible injustice.

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