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Justice Department Warned the FBI that Focusing on Environmentalists Ignores
More Violent Threats
Jan 11th, 2011 by
The Justice Department warned as early as 2003 that the FBI’s obsessive focus
on animal rights and environmental activists, the
“number one domestic
terrorism threat,” would leave more dangerous threats unchecked.
The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General audited the FBI and
provided recommendations for improving its terrorism investigations. [You can
Report 04-10 here.] The audit raised multiple concerns with the bureau’s
treatment of animal rights and environmental activists as terrorists, concerns
that take on a new urgency in light of the
recent shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others.
Are there institutional, systemic flaws within law enforcement that allowed this
The inspector general’s report focused on communications problems within the
FBI, and the quality of terrorism intelligence sent by the bureau to state and
local law enforcement. The audit revealed the FBI’s weekly Intelligence
Bulletins and Quarterly Terrorist Threat Assessments often focused on political
activists. The inspector general recommended that the FBI’s intelligence updates
focus on “domestic terrorist activities aimed at creating mass casualties or
destroying critical infrastructure, rather than information on social protests
and domestic radicals’ criminal activities.”
More importantly, the audit warned that the FBI’s focus on animal rights and
environmental activists placed public safety at risk. In one of its six
recommendations, the inspector general’s office advised the FBI to stop
investigating animal rights and environmental activists as terrorists and to
shift these cases to the FBI’s criminal division.
The FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism has become too broad, the report
said: “. . . a more focused definition may allow the FBI to more effectively
target its counterterrorism resources.”
The FBI refused.
Steven C. McGraw of the FBI’s inspection division responded in a letter to the
inspector general that these groups have “caused considerable damage to the U.S.
economy,” and that the Joint Terrorism Task Forces are the best way to
Although the inspector general’s office does not have the power to override such
refusals, the office wrote back and reiterated its concerns:
“We believe that the FBI’s priority mission to prevent high-consequence
terrorist acts would be enhanced if the Counterterrorism Division did not have
to spend time and resources on lower-threat activities by social protestors.”