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AETA Questions/Rumors and Answers

11/16/06: Questions & Rumors About The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

A lot of questions and rumors are circulating the internet regarding the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) and its passage on Monday, November 13, 2006. I hope you find the information below useful, as animal advocacy and social justice orgs regroup for the continuing fight. Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle


1. QUESTION/RUMOR: I understand the House passed a version of AETA with language that varies from the Senate’s companion bill S. 3880. So, will a conference committee have to reconcile the differences between the bills and vote to approve AETA legislation all over again? DOES THIS MEAN AETA IS STILL AN OPEN ISSUE WHICH CAN BE DEFEATED?

1. CLARIFICATION: 11/15/06, from Alex Hershaft of FARM and Equal Justice Alliance, alex@equaljusticealliance.com  - Unfortunately, that is not true. The bill they voted on (Nov. 13, 2006) was S. 3880, without the ACLU provisions, so no reconciliation is required. James Sensenbrenner (R Wisconsin-5th) is an evil genius. He used Scott, the ranking Democrat on the Crime Subcommittee, HSUS and the ACLU to provide him cover. Then he rushed the vote to the afternoon of the first day, with five of his cronies outvoting Dennis Kuchinich (D Cleveland), when he saw us closing in on him.

We are doing some research to decide where to go from here, but we have decided to fight on. We should issue some clarification in a couple of days. We don't think it's worth our time to ask Bush to veto the bill...

11/15/06, from Peter Muller, PeterMuller@verizon.net  - What was voted on was S3880 and not HR4239. The bill that passed was the Senate version so there are no conference committees etc. required. Kucinich could have (and should have) called for a roll call vote and raised a point-of-order about a quorum but it would not have made any substantive difference since the bill presumably had the support of two-thirds of those present (4 out of 6). We would have to know the names of the co-conspirators but that and $3 will get you ride from the Greenbelt station to the airport. In sum Kucinich did what he could and should be thanked - we have to figure out how to mobilize the AR community to get something positive out of this.


2. QUESTION/RUMOR: Why didn’t the Big Groups -- HSUS, PETA, etc. -- take action to oppose AETA sooner?

2. CLARIFICATION: 11/15/06, from Alex Hershaft of FARM and Equal Justice Alliance, alex@equaljusticeal liance.com - Introduced at the behest of the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries, AETA was kept under wraps until last August [2006], when it was exposed by a freelance reporter at a national animal rights conference. Our ensuing national campaign opposing the bill gained the support of 160 organizations, including the Humane Society of the U.S., the National Lawyers Guild, the New York City Bar Association, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. No bona fide animal, environmental, or civil liberties protection organization supported the bill. For a complete listing, visit http://www.noaeta. org/opposition. htm


3. QUESTION/RUMOR: What in the heck happened last Monday? With so many groups and individuals rallying against AETA, how did it pass with no debate?

3. CLARIFICATION: 11/15/06 Letter To Congress, from Equal Justice Alliance
Dear Representative:

On Monday, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was passed by a voice vote of five representatives on the suspension calendar, generally reserved for unimportant and non-controversial issues.

AETA is anything but. It denies equal protection under the law and limits freedom of speech and assembly. It unfairly brands as 'terrorists' nonviolent animal protection advocates. It unfairly brands as 'terrorism' nonviolent civil disobedience, undercover investigations, and whistle blowing. It invokes excessively harsh penalties for comparable federal offenses. It is excessively broad and vague by implicating innocent par-ties. It may authorize unwarranted wiretapping of animal protection advocates. It has a chilling effect on all forms of social justice and life affirming advocacy. It deters investigation of federal laws by animal enterprises. It interferes with prosecution of real terrorism against the American people...
...Sensing the turning tide, Republican House Judiciary Chair Sensenbrenner placed the bill on a suspension calendar for the first evening of the lame duck session, when few of you would be present.

As Sensenbrenner sensed the mounting opposition over the weekend and Monday morning, he quickly advanced the vote to mid-afternoon, catching most of you unawares. Consequently, only six representatives were on hand to vote on an issue that generated thousands of phone calls and e-mails from concerned constituents, as well as thoughtful opposition statements from animal, environmental, and legal organizations.

We played the game by Congressional rules, generating an overwhelming outpouring of opposition to the bill on short notice. But the outgoing chairman of the Judiciary Committee managed to ignore the will of your constituents for his own self-interest. On Monday, Congress brought shame on itself by allowing him to subvert the democratic process.

We would appreciate any advice on how we can rectify this gross injustice. Your _expression of support would be welcome as well.

Sincerely, Peter Muller, Alex Hershaft, Odette Wilkens, Dawn Moncrief, for the Equal Justice Alliance, http://www.noaeta. org/

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4. QUESTION/RUMOR: The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) didn’t take a stand for free speech by opposing AETA.

4. CLARIFICATION: From D. Barber, Correspondence Manager, American Civil Liberties Union - The ACLU Letter to Congress Urging Opposition to the Animal Enterprise Act, S. 1926 and H.R. 4239 (3/6/2006) can be read at http://www.aclu. org/freespeech/ gen/25620leg2006 0306.html

If you are not already an ACLU member, we encourage you to help support our aggressive work on the issues you care about. To join please visit http://www.aclu. org/contribute/ contribute. cfm or call 1-888-567-ACLU. Once again, thank you for your interest in the ACLU.
Sincerely, D. Barber, Correspondence Manager, American Civil Liberties Union

11/14/06, from Karen Dawn, news@dawnwatch.com  - Actually, Sensenbrenner lied about lack of opposition from the ACLU. Sigh. ACLU did not oppose the whole bill but did ask for changes: http://www.aclu. org/safefree/ general/27356leg 20061030. html


5. QUESTION/RUMOR: Why should I still protest AETA? I've received letters from my senator and congresswoman stating that the parts of AETA restricting free speech, such as protests or boycotts, have been removed...

5. CLARIFICATION: From Kinship Circle, kinshipcircle@brick.net  - Most legislators are not wholly informed about the drastic expansions within AETA. The Animal Enterprise PROTECTION Act of 1992 and Animal Enterprise TERRORISM Act of 2002 already exist. Indictments and convictions have been based on these laws. There is no need for additional penalties outlined in the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006.

The National Lawyer’s Guild opposes AETA because it complicates prosecution for vandalism, trespassing and other crimes for which clear penalties are in place. While any activist who breaks the law should be punished -- we don’t need new laws/penalties for crimes that already fall under existing laws/penalties.

As part of the Equal Justice Alliance, I’ve heard arguments from lawyers, activists, a former Congressman, etc. who’ve poured over the text of this bill. It is vague and deceptive -- even with the exemptions mentioned above. It does not focus on the issue of whistle-blowers. AETA is so overbroad, honest citizens may not know if their activities fall within the law.

AETA is a dangerous precedent for free-speech rights. Consider:

AETA does not genuinely fight terrorism (but wastes taxpayer dollars under the guise of doing so). It unjustly singles out any group that advocates for animal protection simply because of political ideology, and silences lawful advocacy seeking to expose animal cruelty violations. AETA may divert valuable taxpayer money and resources away from real terrorism.
AETA's exceptionally severe penalties do not fit the crime. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, in 2005 the median sentence in federal courts for larceny was 4 months; for embezzlement, 4 months; for sexual abuse, 4.5 years; and for manslaughter, 3 years. AETA proposes up to 18 months for an offense involving no threatened or' actual economic damage or bodily harm, or up to life imprisonment for economic damage!

Several corporations that support AETA are repeat offenders. They have been cited for numerous animal welfare violations. These corporations have a vested interest in silencing lawful dissent.

You can find other AETA resources here: http://www.noaeta. org/resources. htm
 



6. QUESTION/RUMOR: Should I wait for the Big Groups to bring AETA’s sneaky passage to the media, or contact the media myself?

6. CLARIFICATION: Anyone is welcome to contact the media, which has downplayed AETA considerably. The average person has never heard of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. One Kinship Circle member asks, shirley_mondeaux@msn.com  - How about contacting Bill O'Reily to investigate into the number of people present to pass AETA and the underhanded way that it was done? He loves stories like this. If not him, then try Anderson Cooper? He also presents fair and just causes.

We say: Go for it. Write/call local and national media about AETA’s underhanded passage and assault on free-speech rights.
 


7. QUESTION/RUMOR: I am so mad about Monday’s passage of AETA. I want to know if my elected official voted in support of it.
 
7. CLARIFICATION: 11/14/06, from AnimalVoicesNews@earthlink.net  - There was no roll-call vote. Just AYES AND NAYS and done. There is no listing of how anyone voted. However, you can see if your legislator was an AETA COSPONSOR.

SOURCE: THOMAS/Library of Congress, http://thomas. loc.gov/cgi- bin/thomas
http://thomas. loc.gov/cgi- bin/bdquery/ z?d109:HR04239: @@@N
H.R.4239 / Title: To provide the Department of Justice the necessary authority to apprehend, prosecute, and convict individuals committing animal enterprise terror. SPONSOR: Rep Petri, Thomas E. [WI-6] (introduced 11/4/2005) - Republican

COSPONSORS:
Rep Issa, Darrell E. [CA-49] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep McCotter, Thaddeus G. [MI-11] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Cannon, Chris [UT-3] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Bonilla, Henry [TX-23] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Cunningham, Randy (Duke) [CA-50] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Calvert, Ken [CA-44] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Otter, C. L. (Butch) [ID-1] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Boren, Dan [OK-2] - 11/4/2005 - Democrat
Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Doolittle, John T. [CA-4] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [WI-5] - 11/4/2005 - Republican
Rep Emerson, Jo Ann [MO-8] - 11/8/2005 - Republican
Rep Edwards, Chet [TX-17] - 11/8/2005 - Democrat
Rep Kline, John [MN-2] - 11/9/2005 - Republican
Rep Pearce, Stevan [NM-2] - 11/9/2005 - Republican
Rep Larsen, Rick [WA-2] - 11/15/2005 - Democrat
Rep Hall, Ralph M. [TX-4] - 11/15/2005 - Republican
Rep Kuhl, John R. "Randy", Jr. [NY-29] - 11/15/2005 - Republican
Rep Cubin, Barbara [WY] - 11/16/2005 - Republican
Rep Duncan, John J., Jr. [TN-2] - 11/16/2005 - Republican
Rep Bishop, Rob [UT-1] - 11/17/2005 - Republican
Rep Ryan, Paul [WI-1] - 12/7/2005 - Republican
Rep Sullivan, John [OK-1] - 2/1/2006 - Republican
Rep Wilson, Joe [SC-2] - 2/7/2006 - Republican
Rep English, Phil [PA-3] - 2/15/2006 - Republican
Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] - 2/16/2006 - Democrat
Rep Green, Mark [WI-8] - 3/2/2006 - Republican
Rep Beauprez, Bob [CO-7] - 3/16/2006 - Republican
Rep Coble, Howard [NC-6] - 4/26/2006 - Republican
Rep Stupak, Bart [MI-1] - 5/15/2006 - Democrat
Rep Chocola, Chris [IN-2] - 5/17/2006 - Republican
Rep Norwood, Charlie [GA-9] - 5/17/2006 - Republican
Rep Peterson, Collin C. [MN-7] - 5/18/2006 - Democrat
Rep Conaway, K. Michael [TX-11] - 6/15/2006 - Republican
Rep Herger, Wally [CA-2] - 6/29/2006 - Republican
Rep Schwartz, Allyson Y. [PA-13] - 7/20/2006 - Democrat
Rep Andrews, Robert E. [NJ-1] - 9/6/2006 - Democrat
Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] - 9/6/2006 - Democrat
Rep Weldon, Curt [PA-7] - 9/12/2006 - Republican
Rep Rehberg, Dennis R. [MT] - 9/12/2006 - Republican
Rep Ferguson, Mike [NJ-7] - 9/14/2006 - Republican
Rep Graves, Sam [MO-6] - 9/19/2006 - Republican
Rep Hayes, Robin [NC-8] - 9/25/2006 - Republican
Rep Kind, Ron [WI-3] - 9/26/2006 - Democrat


ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY REGARDING AETA

From: Peter Muller, PeterMuller@verizon.net  Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Congratulations -- on Our Gains from the vote AETA

No - I’m not crazy (at least not any more than usual) – In spite of losing the vote to a sneaky procedural maneuver – we won more through this effort than through any other campaign in federal AR lobbying history.

We began our work on opposing AETA through the Equal Justice Alliance (founded by Alex Hershaft of FARM and myself, Peter Muller of the League of Humane Voters) in early October and were immediately supported by hundreds of diverse Animal Protective groups. In a very short time, we gathered and focused an Animal Rights political force that really had to be reckoned with by Congress and the industrial animal abusers who can (and did) out-spend us a thousand-fold.

Our first plan was to issue a strong, measured, rational response to Congress upon their reconvening on Monday November 13, 2006. The measure had been fast-tracked through the Senate with no opposition and we were not going to let that happen in the House. Monitoring the Congressional schedules, it looked on Thursday 11/9 and Friday 11/10 that no fast track or regular scheduling on AETA was contemplated until 12/4 at the earliest. We adjusted our scheduled actions accordingly.

On Friday 11/10, after hours (around 8:00pm) we were informed that AETA had been placed on the fast track calendar for Monday the 13th after hours. Everything had to be changed overnight. We immediately put out messages to various listservs, which urged AR activists spread the message to call their Representatives by and on Monday the 13th urging them to oppose AETA.

By Monday morning, we had gathered a team of twelve lobbyists from various groups including: Equal Justice Alliance, FARM, League of Humane Voters, Compassion Over Killing and various other groups as well as some unaffiliated individuals. While driving to our launch site we were informed that the proponents of AETA in the House has scheduled meeting to deal with our arguments. This was the first sign that they were no longer cock-sure that they could ram it through at will without opposition.

We walked the through the halls of the three office buildings that housed the Representatives each member of the team had a prioritized list in hand of members that had to be engaged. We reconvened for an interim debriefing around 1:00 o’clock. All lobbyist reported that the offices with whom they had made contact (about 10-12 each) had received a very high volume of calls from their constituents opposing AETA. This was true whether the Representative was inclined to vote for or against AETA – they all admitted to a high volume of constituent calls against AETA.

Through a procedural maneuver, which we will detail in a later post, the proponents of AETA were able to "debate" and vote on AETA with only six Representatives on the floor of the House. Dennis Kucinich from Ohio was the only representative who spoke against the measure (Please thank him with a call to his office Phone (202)225-5871) .

Our Victory consists in being able to mobilize these many calls in such a short for a very significant impact on Congress. I’m sure that given one extra day and being a little more savvy of the procedural chicanery – we could have stopped it. Had it come to the House Calendar allowing full debate and amendment we could have beaten an industrial force that spent millions of dollars.

We have shown that we have the power to enact or stop federal legislative action. Let’s not lose it. The Equal Justice Alliance will post specific programmatic legislative and organization proposal shortly. Let’s use this loss to galvanize our resolve to win legislatively by acting in concert on federal legislation. Peter


From: Chris Heyde, chris@saplonline.org
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 Congress Criminalizes Non-Violent Acts Against Animal Mistreatment

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 14 -- The government yesterday paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in an emotional groundbreaking ceremony for a memorial to recognize the iconic civil rights leader’s legacy and celebrate his advocacy of non-violence to achieve social change. Tragically, only a few hours later and at the opposite end of the National Mall, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) to criminalize many of the same legitimate and constitutionally protected tactics used by Dr. King when they are used to advance animal protections.

Following the Senate’s passage of the measure in late September, the House passed the AETA by a simple voice vote preceded by virtually no substantive debate. When signed by the President, this bill could be used to arrest, prosecute and imprison law-abiding citizens exercising their first amendment rights to peacefully assemble and protest.

"It is shameful that on the same day America honored the memory and legacy of Dr. King, Congress declared the millions of Americans who advocate for greater protection of animals to be terrorists and criminalized many of the tools used by activists to challenge industry abuse of animals," said Society for Animal Protective Legislation Legislative Counsel Tracy Silverman.
Under the terms of this industry-endorsed bill, a citizen who travels across state or county lines or uses the mail or Internet to protest the mistreatment of animals could be fined and/or imprisoned if his or her actions cause economic damage to companies that use, abuse or exploit animals – or if his or her actions, even if they were non-violent, are simply deemed to represent harassment or intimidation. Animal protection advocates could be prosecuted and labeled as terrorists for conducting these peaceful forms of social justice because the bill contains language that is vague and ambiguously broad.

Furthermore, the AETA is unnecessary because existing laws address extremist acts that result in property damage, bodily injury or death. This poorly written measure will eventually be subject to challenge and will likely be deemed unconstitutional.

Contact: Tracy Silverman, Esq. at the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, (703) 836-4300; http://www.saplonli ne.org ##30##

For over 50 years the Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL), a division of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), has been committed to improving the welfare of animals through non-violent means. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "[n]on-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man."
Christopher J. Heyde, Deputy Legislative Director
Society for Animal Protective Legislation (Division of the Animal Welfare Institute)
http://www.saplonli ne.org http://www.compassi onindex.org


From: centcom@war-online.org
Organization: Win Animal Rights
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2006
[WAR] UPI Article About AETA Passage

http://www.upi. com/HealthBusine ss/view.php? StoryID=20061114 -045942-5048r
Note from WAR: You can post a comment on this article by visiting the URL above.
Analysis: Bill targets animal activists
By STEVE MITCHELL, UPI Senior Medical Correspondent WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Congress passed an update to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and President Bush is expected to sign it into law, but animal rights activists say the new legislation will do little to inhibit their actions against pharmaceutical companies and other animal research firms and may even spur increased extremist activities.

The biomedical research industry was pushing for the bill because they wanted laws in place to thwart new tactics employed by activists, including harassing and intimidating individual researchers and companies that do businesses with animal research firms.

"Hopefully, this will give law enforcement the tools they need to address more quickly and swiftly that kind of campaign," Frankie Trull, president of Foundation for Biomedical Research, a group supported by industry, told United Press International.

In recent years, animal activists have begun targeting homes of individual researchers and executives of pharmaceutical companies, including threats to take further action if they do not cease their business with animal research firms, such as Huntingdon Life Sciences. Activists have also sent threatening letters to shareholders of pharmaceutical companies and waged a successful campaign to prevent Huntingdon from being listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

"Right now, a researcher who's under attack really has no where to go and this will help them get law enforcement attention," Trull added. "We're hoping this new law will help make the climate more friendly and those that seek to end all animal research will do so through legitimate means as opposed to this kind of intimidation and harassment."

Animal rights advocates, however, think the legislation may provoke the very activities it intends to prevent. "They could've taken a step that will create their worst nightmare," Camille Hankins, who represents Win Animal Rights, told UPI. "The thing they were afraid of was destruction, damage to labs and vandalism, but this could be the catalyst for a lot of that."

Hankins said the threat of penalties of up to 20 years or life in prison that the legislation carries may drive more people underground because there will be little incentive to remain "above ground" with one's identity revealed. "Why be above ground, why not go below ground?" she said.

The legislation carries various penalties, ranging from a fine or 1 year imprisonment for violations that do not instill a sense of fear of bodily injury or death or economic damages less than $10,000 to more severe fines or prison terms for actions resulting in injury or larger economic loss. The stiffest penalty is life imprisonment for violations that result in the death of a person.

Hankins thought the pharmaceutical industry used its influence to get the legislation passed and noted that several large drug manufacturers were cited as members of the Animal Enterprise Protection Coalition, which was a list of groups established by National Association for Biomedical Research that supported the bill.

"I think this legislation was bought and paid for, by the pharmaceutical industry primarily," she said.

Pharmaceutical companies listed as members of the Coalition included Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Roche and Wyeth. The Biotechnology Industry Organization was also on the list.

Hankins asserted that the legislation infringed upon rights of free speech and assembly granted by the First Amendment to the Constitution. "It's overly broad, overly vague and restricts freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, so no doubt someone will have to be a test case that will go all the way up to the Supreme Court," she said.

However, Trull said the law specifically states that it does not restrict any rights protected by the First Amendment. "Lawful boycotting, protesting and demonstrating is all protected," she said. The law is aimed more at preventing threats and intimidation of researchers and firms that conduct business with animal research enterprises, she added.

To make a charge stick, businesses have to prove that the actions caused them financial damage. "This is a very responsible piece of legislation, meaning everybody can't just prosecute for no reason," Trull said.

Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a trauma surgeon and spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, told UPI he thought the bill would have little impact on animal rights activists.

"As far as the underground liberation movement, it won't have any impact at all because they don't really care about those laws," Vlasak said. "Their activities -- sabotaging, liberating animals -- are already illegal so just adding one more law won't make much difference."

The legislation' s effect on the above ground movement would also be muted, Vlasak said. "I don't think it's going to make a huge difference in the above ground movement because they've (law enforcement) already gone after people who were conducting effective protest campaigns," he said.

The net effect on the above ground movement is that it could "make people more seriously consider going underground, " he said.

Vlasak may be one example of an activist targeted by law enforcement authorities. His house along with the homes of five other animal rights activists in California were raided by the FBI and the Santa Monica Police Department October 31. Thousands of dollars worth of items, including his computer, were seized, but Vlasak said he was never charged with a crime or informed of the reasons for the raid. His attorney has been trying to obtain a copy of the affidavit but so far the authorities have not complied.
 

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