During this year's May Day demonstrations, a pack of activists in black smashed out some windows. They smashed out a few windows at American Apparel, NikeTown, and several banks. Somebody also smashed out some glass doors on a federal courthouse.
Law-enforcement officials began kicking down doors in Seattle, Olympia, and Portland, throwing in flash-bang grenades on their way in and holding the occupants at gunpoint while they rifled through their bookshelves, looking for black clothes, sticks that might have been used in the smashup, and "paperwork—anarchists in the Occupy movement" and "anti-government or anarchist literature or material" (according to copies of the warrants obtained by The Stranger and The Portland Mercury, respectively).
Some were given subpoenas and ordered to appear today before a secret grand jury proceeding at the federal courthouse. (The federal government, it's safe to assume, would not be going to these lengths to find and prosecute a non-political vandal—say, a drunk who randomly threw a rock through the courthouse window at 3 in the morning.)
All grand jury proceedings are secret unless pried open in the course of a trial (and even that is tough). They were originally designed, in 1600s English law, as a way for witnesses to provide evidence without fear of reprisal. But, over time, they have evolved into another beast, where prosecutors can, with much rhetoric and low standards for evidence, convince the jurors—who are not selected with the same strenuousness as normal court proceedings—that federal charges should be brought against defendants.
The United States is one of the last countries to use grand juries. During the twentieth century, they have been abolished in England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other nations with similar legal systems. For more criticism and analysis of secret grand jury proceedings, see the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
"There's a danger with grand juries looking into issues that involve people's political views," said Doug Honig of our local ACLU chapter. "And if it's not carefully conducted, it can end up becoming a fishing expedition looking into people's political views and political associations."
Given the fact that law enforcement has been raiding houses looking for "literature" and approaching activists asking them about who they know and associate with—and the fact that law-enforcement agents have been collecting cell phones from occupants of the raided houses, presumably for social-mapping purposes—it would seem that they're already on a fishing expedition.