From Indybay – by Ben Rosenfeld
A couple years ago, I asked people to pause before branding as a cooperator a person who gave pre-scripted testimony to a grand jury after a exhausting her legal options. Although some people construed my piece as advocating “partial cooperation,” I have never uttered those words except to disclaim them. Instead, I’ve spent hundreds of unpaid hours representing grand jury resisters or pairing them with other lawyers, coordinating joint defenses, advising colleagues how to give legal expression to their clients’ principled resistance, drafting and sharing motions, assisting with appeals, petitioning to open proceedings and unseal records, developing printed materials, and inveighing against the malignant grand jury system.
Perhaps I made a mistake in vouching for a person who had not debriefed to the community after testifying. I took that chance to protect her from denunciation, knowing her circumstances to be more nuanced than the term “cooperator” usually conveys, and because I hate seeing the government succeed in dividing activists. My aim was to spark deeper discussion in order to encourage more informed and effective resistance.
There are many good reasons to sound the clarion note of non-cooperation. It galvanizes resistance, honors the sacrifices of those jailed for contempt, keeps things straightforward, and is rooted in the critical fact that even innocuous sounding questions/answers can lead to harmful results. But other truths impinge on this ideal framework: Ostracizing every person who enters the grand jury chamber has personal, social, and security costs of its own. It creates rifts, spreads alienation, siphons resources, and serves the FBI’s political ends. (more…)