Animal Protection > ALF Foes

Stepping Up the Attack on Green Activists

By Kelly Hearn
September 30, 2005

Activists Versus Terrorists

A remorseless rapist in Hamilton County, Ohio is sentenced to 15 years in prison for beating and raping a 57-year-old woman. An environmental activist in California is sentenced to 22 years and 8 months for burning three SUVS at a car dealership after taking precautions to harm no lives.

The disparity helps illustrates what animal rights and environmental groups say is an expanding Orwellian attack on American environmentalism being waged under the pretext of eco-terrorism.

In recent months, conservative lawmakers, right-wing advocacy groups and law enforcement officials have ramped up efforts to dismantle eco-terrorist groups and their supports. But critics say vague wording in the USA Patriot Act, new eco-terrorist bills and aggressive law enforcement tactics are ways of quashing civil dissent and tainting law-abiding organizations.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is at the forefront of this movement. On June 21, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism John Lewis said eco-terrorists are one of the top domestic terrorist threats in the U.S., having chalked up some 1,200 acts of eco-terrorism since 1990 totaling $110 million in property damage. Eco-terrorist groups have caused no deaths.

As the FBI works to shut down elusive and decentralized eco-terrorist networks, civil rights groups say agents are going so far as illegally spying on activists. In June, a federal disclosure lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union forced the FBI to admit having collected 2,400 pages of files on Greenpeace, the most vocal critic of the Bush administration's environmental record, in addition to other groups.

In the courts, prosecutors work to convict activists charged with property crimes under vague and harshly punitive domestic terrorism laws. One activist, Tre Arrow, is facing life in prison for allegedly burning three logging and cement trucks in an Oregon forest. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer, in an interview in June, said Arrow's alleged actions are considered domestic terrorism because "it is a systematic attempt to use the threat of violence to instill fear for political or social purposes."

"Animal liberation movements are being demonized not just as whacko or extremist, but also as terrorist," says Steven Best, an animal rights activist and philosophy professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. "A collective insanity is sweeping the nation [and is] no less absurd, outrageous, frightening and irrational than the Red Scare of the 1950s. The USA Patriot Act expands government's law enforcement powers nationwide as it minimizes meaningful review and oversight by an independent judicial body."

Even though existing laws covering crimes such as arson, theft and trespassing are used to charge eco-terrorists, conservative lawmakers in several states are proposing laws that define eco-terrorism as a distinct offense -- something federal law does not do -- and deepen penalties for environmentally motivated crimes.

These states are each taking different approaches. Since 2001, 14 states have introduced laws directly addressing eco-terrorism, according to an association that tracks state legislation. California was the first state to pass such a law in 2003, and a New York law outlaws, for example, clandestine taping of animal facilities, a key tool for animal rights groups. One Ohio lawmaker wants to prosecute eco-terrorists under racketeering laws to let the state seize assets of convicted activists and sue those who are acquitted.

"I believe legislative efforts that brand activists as 'terrorists' are largely aimed at intimidating compassionate Americans from speaking out against institutionalized animal cruelty, such as the abuse and exploitation of animal by the multi-billion dollar meat, dairy and egg industries," said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy For Animals, an Ohio-based animal advocacy organization.

Larry Frankel, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, described a current bill in his state that ramps up penalties for criminal acts committed with a purpose involving animals or natural resources. Frankel says the measure restricts freedom of speech by boosting penalties for people who hold particular views.

At a June hearing, he told a Senate committee that under such a law "people who protest outside of an animal research facility and block the entrance to that facility may be considered eco-terrorists. On the other hand, people who protest outside of a weapons-manufacturing plant and block the entrance to that facility will not be subject to enhanced penalties even though they are engaged in essentially similar activities."

Washington State Sen. Val Stevens, a Republican, has sponsored eco-terrorism bills in the past and plans to do so again. She believes existing laws aren't enough to meet a rising threat in her state. She also said that targeting certain activities based on motive is reasonable. "Right now we use racketeering laws to prosecute people who harass abortion clinics," she said. "Why can't we do the same for eco-terrorists?"

Michael Markarian, a vice president at the Humane Society of the United States, says two conservative groups are behind the national push for eco-terrorism legislation.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, an association of conservative lawmakers, has developed model eco-terror legislation and argues that more laws are needed because the federal law used to convict eco-terrorists is too narrow. Likewise, the FBI has also asked Congress to revise federal statues to address criminal activity related to eco-terrorism, according to March congressional testimony by John Lewis, the agency's deputy assistant director.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, a corporate-sponsored right-wing group, is working to link mainstream environmental groups with underground extremists.

David Martosko, a CCF official, told the House Ways and Means Committee in March that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the United States Human Society (USHS), and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) have, to varying degrees, supported known eco-terrorists.

"I urge this committee to fully investigate the connections between individuals who commit crimes in the name of the ALF [Animal Liberation Front], ELF [Earth Liberation Front], or similar phantom groups, and the above-ground individuals and organizations that give them aid and comfort," Martosko testified. "I would also urge members of this Committee to prevail upon their colleagues to re-examine the tax-exempt status of groups that have helped to fund, directly or indirectly, these domestic terrorists."

The committee, chaired by California Republican Rep. Bill Thomas, was already investigating RAN for possible violations of its tax exempt status last year, a move RAN officials say is an effort by conservative politicians to stifle radical critics. Labeling legitimate acts of protest as "eco-terror" is made possible through fuzzy definitions in the USA Patriot Act, said UTEP professor Best.

"The Patriot Act creates the new legal category of 'domestic terrorist' and defines it in a chillingly broad manner," he wrote in an email. "According to the law, the crime of domestic terrorism is committed when a person engages in activity 'that involves acts dangerous to human life that violate the laws of the U.S. and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion.' Clearly 'intimidation' and 'coercion' could mean anything, and the government does not adequately distinguish between violent and nonviolent methods of persuasion."

Best, who has also been a target of CCF's allegations, says the act's vague definitions are a direct challenge to liberation groups like the ALF and ELF, which represent a top domestic terrorist threat for law enforcement. "Indeed, nearly any protest group can fit the definition of terrorists, for what is it to 'intimidate' or 'coerce' a 'civilian population' or 'to influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion'? Protests often are intimidating, and their entire point is to 'influence' policy."

Kelly Hearn is a former UPI staff writer who lives in Washington DC and Latin America. His work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, American Prospect, and other publications.


Gov't Trying To Brand Those Who Fight To Protect Our Planet
Posted by: decembrist on Sep 30, 2005 1:23 AM   

Our government - terroristic, right now responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq- is desperately seeking to brand those who work to keep this planet habitable as "terrorists". The branding is designed to discredit and marginalize any group that could be seen as having views in line with SUV arsonists.

On a local level, guys like the Flathead Valley, Montana whacko named Stokes, flare irrational anti-environmentalist hatred by filling locals heads with outlandish lies and going around trying to get attention by burning green swastikas (he claims that environmentalism sprang from the Third Reich).

The ridiculously harsh sentences that ELF and ALF members are receiving is case in point. By branding these men "terrorists" and "top threats" (give me a break) the feds are following the lead of conservative land rapists who wish to criminalize and further marginalize environmentalists. We've all heard Limbaugh spew on and on about environmentalism and how its destroying our country. Yesterday I heard that Michael Crichton got to testify to the Senate about global warming, at the invitation of Sen. Inhofe!!!! A novelist, at the senate, plugging the premise of his new FANTASY NOVEL, pretending to be a fucking SCIENTIST! If you haven't heard, his book's plot has global warming being a great hoax perpetuated by greedy environmentalists.

Environmentalists are being made the next target of the irrational, hatred-spewing right. By target I mean physical target - in line with gays and people of color.

welcome to god's country
Posted by: menckenman on Sep 30, 2005 4:17 AM   

the puritan impulse which shallowly lies beneath the veneer of civil society impels religious fanatics to jail anyone who might interfer with man's god-given right to kill and torture any living thing that gets in his way of fulfilling his god-given destiny, which is absolute dominion over all life forms to Christ's everlasting glory. Power is rightous.

Anyone who opposes the torture of animals or a christian war or a housing project is a heathen terrorist.

Look at the evidence
Posted by: Lincoln fan on Sep 30, 2005 5:15 AM   

It is evident that crimes against people are not considered as reprehensible as crimes against business in our society. The reason for this is because big business controls our government. Both parties are controlled by campaign contributors. The only way for voters to control the country is to force both parties to support effective campaign finance reform. Click on - join the revolution.

ok then
Posted by: crusty on Sep 30, 2005 5:23 AM   

Heres how I see it.... The government is being overealous in their punishment of eco-terroism. That said though there are those out there who will stop at nothing to save the planet. Burning buildings down and blowing cars up is the absolutely least intelligent way of making a point. Burning a building is terroism plain and simple. When ecoterroists burned down the ski area (cannot remember which one) in Colorado years ago, think about all the toxins and pollutants that were released into the air. It is along the same lines as the anti abortion crowd that thinks its ok to blow up an abortion clinic with the staff of such a place inside. (At least the ski area was empty of people)
The point I guess is the punishment should fit the crime.....22 years for blowing three cars up is just a weee bit on the steep side. I fully agree that the current administration is trying to sidestep our rights to protest and it is a damn dirty shame.

agitator church and state
Posted by: eileenflmng on Sep 30, 2005 5:36 AM   

Now that "nearly any protest group can fit the definition of terrorists" should WAKE US UP that the staus quo will label/demonize anything and anyone who holds a contrary view to their world view as 'terrorism.'

Feydehen is translated as Freedom Fighters.
We label others as terrorists while they view themselves as seeking liberation from oppressors, occupation and despair by choosing the way of violence.

How ever one chooses 'to influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion' will be labeled negatively by those in power because they upset the status quo.

The staus quo has got to go if we are to ever become fully human: compassionate and respectful of all beings and in awe, appreciation and nurturers of creation.

Watch the framing
Posted by: nanobubble on Sep 30, 2005 6:50 AM   

If you read articles like this one

the cries about orwellian government fall on deaf ears. These people are guilty before proven anything. And when you put someone in solitary for two months with no oversight, who believes their confession? If they get one, they don't have to present proof and convince a jury. Therein lies one of the many loopholes in the usapatriot act, and it took circumventing due process to achieve it.

No American should be proud of that.

Meanwhile, the real terrorists in Afganistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc ...
Posted by: maxpayne on Sep 30, 2005 7:08 AM   

are getting help from the insurgents in Iraq.

Oregon, not California
Posted by: radicalmum on Sep 30, 2005 8:44 AM   

Jeff "Free" Luers is the activist sentenced to 22 years in Oregon. You can help support and work for his release at You would get less time for arson involving schools and homes. Corporate rule must end and we all must unite to defeat it!

One thing...
Posted by: Robba29 on Sep 30, 2005 9:16 AM   


Don't Worry � It'll All Be Over Soon
Posted by: monkeywrench on Sep 30, 2005 9:44 AM  

How DARE that activist prematurely end the lives of three innocent SUV's?! We need all the SUV's we can get, the better to use up the world's oil, bring on Armageddon, and get us all to the The Rapture. ...Right?

Firebomb + Terrorism
Posted by: Rattlesby on Sep 30, 2005 9:48 AM   

It is indeed an act of terrorism to firebomb anything.

I like to e-mail many of the articles here to my less enoightened friends. The articles are well-written, they spark useful debate, and sometimes a changed mind. When I saw the title, and read the tease, I was excited about this artricle that must follow. The environment is indeed under attack by the Bush administration. How disappointing, then, to find out that this article is written in such a way as to prove the twisted point of the Republicans.
I am not thrilled that anyone would firebomb anyone's property. To try to make that act into something less than what it is, is obscene. Try as she might, the arsonist could have killed MANY innocent victims. What an arsonist INTENDS is not the point. After all, perhaps many other criminals are not consiously intending harm either.)
It is indeed an act of terrorism to firebomb anything.
I totally agree that the FBI and all other government agenices, have become little more than a means to carry out a Bush Vendetta agianst anything that gets in the way of corportate interests.
Why not look at the FBI as an agency that has been befouled in a similar manner that of FEMA, the FDA, Immigration, etc?

The Bush Idea of "Environmentalism" � Control Your Environment
Posted by: monkeywrench on Sep 30, 2005 9:53 AM   

I can't decide � are we under Fascism, that we fought a World War to eliminate, or are we under Stalinistic Communism, that we also fought a "cold" war (and prosecuted our own citizens in a witch hunt) to eliminate? Or is the Bush Administration both, in its bid to develop the only 'hybrid' it understands?

Unfortunately, property has been more important than persons since slavery
Posted by: Sojourner on Sep 30, 2005 10:08 AM   

Yes, it's absurd. Yes, it's wrong. Yes, it's stupid.

Still, the ruling class has always held property higher than persons in the US. (Although the ruling that corporations are legal 'persons' challenges my generalization.) Whatever there is legitimate title to (even if originally enslaved, stolen, fraudulently acquired, etc.) is protected by due process of law.

I don't like it, just as I don't like immigration policies. But a nation without borders ain't a nation. And a system of law without private property ain't a system.

Look at the lessons from the Weathermen of the 60s-70s. Their property violence prompted the Lewis F Powell memo (Google it and read it) that declared war on all threats to capitalism.

Even warriors must battle wisely. Get real.

How about this for a twist on their evil plans?
Posted by: chaoslegs on Sep 30, 2005 10:11 AM   

Since the conservatives are so hell bent on bestowing all the rights of person hood on corporations. We use these anti terror laws to penalize the coercion that corporations use (like extortion for tax breaks for new buildings) on local and state governments. I mean who wouldn't love to see WalMart labelled as a terrorist? Or how about professional sports with their extortion (here in MN both Twins and Vikings want new stadiums)?

Posted by: jeffrey7 on Sep 30, 2005 10:18 AM   

The Feds and their Corpie allies will stop at nothing to bring down environmentalists. The stepped up activities will no doubt include property damage, machine breakdowns,tree spiking,as well as acts of vandalisim to be blamed on the 'Activist of the Week'. The reason they do this is because we know the truth about their vision of 'The Modern Society'.
It's one where they get to poison every living thing for hundreds of years while we die so they can enjoy fabulous wealth and privlidge. Thruth is there is no amount of money that can take the place of clean air,pure water.and healthy productive soils.

Two-edged sword
Posted by: LouisFallert on Sep 30, 2005 10:28 AM   

"According to the law, the crime of domestic terrorism is committed when a person engages in activity 'that involves acts dangerous to human life that violate the laws of the U.S. and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion.'
Doesn't this pretty much define the Bush administration?
Someone (Scooter Libby) outed Valerie Plame in violation of US laws (the Espionage Act) to intimidate a civilian population (anyone who might follow Joe Wilson's example).
Where's a Kenneth Starr to investigate this administration?

Posted by: ssegallmd on Sep 30, 2005 11:34 AM   

Every day, I am more ashamed of my country. The American people are incompetent as citizens and allowed the most vile element in its midst to ascend to power. I don't trust the American people any more that I trust the criminals that they empowered.

I used to admire the U.S. Constitution, but now I see that it is just an inanimate piece of parchment with no more life to it than the American people. I wonder if the European democracies will be destroyed the same way this country was or if the nobler aspects of man can prevail anywhere.

I no longer believe in any 'ism'. Democracy and capitalism may be better than their alternatives, but they have both failed me and I don't trust them either. Religion is worse, at least the American form of it. Everything American is rotten and decadent now. In its current form, America is a threat to everything living. Its government is the ecoterrorist, and earth itself the victim. The counter-terrorists are something else.

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the earth had a way to protect itself from mankind. If it does, that would surely entail a great killing. I don't know if it's just America that has to be stopped or the entire human race, but I'm starting to see the merit in another asteroid driven mass extinction.

I suspect that it would be sufficient if just the largest part of mankind was exterminated by some natural disaster and a few survivors remained and got a chance to do better. Fortunately, it's not up to me. If I could make that asteroid appear, I would.


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