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Vilified as ‘Terrorists,’ Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business

News ArchiveAnalysts and advocates take issue with applying the term “eco-terrorist” to nonviolent animal- and environmental-defense activists and highlight the driving force behind the campaign to elevate the crimes and their perpetrators. Vilified as ‘Terrorists,’ Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business

by Catherine Komp
New Standard News

Analysts and advocates take issue with applying the term “eco-terrorist” to nonviolent animal- and environmental-defense activists and highlight the driving force behind the campaign to elevate the crimes and their perpetrators.

Feb. 7 – In an attempt to shield private property and development from saboteurs, business lobbyists are pushing new laws that would further criminalize the actions of radical ecological activists. Government officials and corporations are applying the rubric of anti-terrorism to penalize those who destroy company or government property when protesting mistreatment of animals and the ecosystem.

Last month, federal grand juries in Oregon and California indicted 14 people on various conspiracy charges for their alleged involvement in the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) or the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) -- underground groups responsible for dozens of acts of property destruction as a strategy for protecting vulnerable species.

While some federal officials and media reports liken the defendants to domestic terrorists, others, including some legal experts and free-speech groups, say the label is an intentional misnomer without legal basis.

The Actions
In Oregon, a 65-count indictment charges11 defendants with involvement in seventeen arson and property-destruction attacks between 1996 and 2001. The incidents involve meat processing plants, lumber companies and other public and private targets.

Defendants in California are accused of conspiring to use fire and an explosive to damage property of the US Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics, a fish hatchery, cellular telephone towers, and electric power stations. Though their alleged plot was reportedly foiled by a federal informant, two of the defendants face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Over the past quarter century, the ELF and ALF have taken responsibility for numerous crimes of arson, vandalism and property destruction against institutions the groups say harm people, animals or the environment.

The FBI says that these and related groups have committed more than 1,100 "criminal acts" since 1976, causing more than $110 million in damage.

In an October 2001 press release, the ALF claimed responsibility for one of the activities listed in the Oregon indictment: releasing 200 horses and setting four timed incendiary devices in Litchfield, California. The group accused the BLM of rounding-up wild horses for slaughter to clear public land for cattle grazing.

Similarly, ALF spokesperson Dr. Jerry Vlasak said the motive behind the arsons of a ski resort expansion in Vail, Colorado in 1998 was to prevent the destruction of land inhabited by the lynx, which was added to threatened species list after the attacks.

After the recent arrests, FBI Director Robert Mueller called animal rights and environmental "extremism" one of the Bureau's highest domestic terrorism priorities.

But the activists say they are on a mission to defend, not terrorize. Vlasak said property destruction is used after other avenues of environmental and animal-rights activism are exhausted.

"There are people working on legislation, there are people working on public education, there are people holding protest signs, but those things alone will not achieve the end result of animal liberation," Vlasak told The NewStandard.. "So people who are willing to break the law to stop animals being exploited are just one part of a liberation movement."

As a policy, the decentralized, anonymous groups do not harm humans during their activities. Rather than directly instilling a sense of fear in individual humans, the ALF and ELF engage in acts of property destruction as a means of raising the costs of doing business until they are a deterrent to conducting practices the activists oppose.

From Buzz-word to Legislation
The groups railing against so-called "eco-terrorism" cite the public interest in their campaigns, yet private interests influence their policy initiatives.

One of the originators of the term "eco-terrorism," Ron Arnold, is the founder of the "wise-use movement," a loose network of groups opposing environmental regulation and pushing for more industrial development on public lands. Arnold, who once told the Toronto Star that he wished to "eradicate the environmental movement," currently serves as vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, a pro-business research organization. He has pushed the concept of the eco-terrorist threat in his published writings, media appearances and congressional testimony.

Another industry-backed advocacy group, the Center for Consumer Freedom, heads the movement for ecological terrorism laws. Heavily funded by restaurant, alcohol and tobacco interests, the organization has pressed the FBI to investigate radical groups, like the ELF and ALF, as well as mainstream organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). David Martosko, the Center's research director, testified at a Senate hearing in May 2005, saying, "The threat from domestic terrorism motivated by environmental and animal rights ideologies is undocumented, unambiguous and growing." Among the Center's other priorities is fighting against healthy-eating and anti-smoking campaigns.

Business lobbies have also drafted model legislation to addresses radical environmentalist crimes. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative public-policy organization funded by more than 300 corporations, collaborated with the US Sportsmen's Alliance, an advocacy group for hunters, fishers, and trappers, to write the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act. If passed into law, the Act would consider arson, property destruction or trespassing acts of domestic terrorism – if committed by animal-rights activists.

The groups also wish to criminalize acts providing "financial support or other resources," including lodging, training or transportation to aid eco-terrorist activities. An online registry of convicted offenders that would include personal information and photographs is another recommendation in the draft bill.

So far, the lobbying effort against eco-terrorism on the federal level has failed. In 2003, Representative Chris Chocola (R-Ohio) introduced the Stop Terrorism of Property Act, which would have codified "eco-terrorism" as a federal crime, but with 54 co-sponsors, the bill died in committee. On the state level, however, lawmakers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, Arizona, Washington and Hawaii are pushing various versions of the ecological terrorism legislation.

Defining a Terrorist Threat
Though Justice Department officials publicly refer to the ALF and ELF defendants as "terrorists," none is formally charged under terrorist criminal statutes, nor are the terms "eco-terrorism" or "domestic terrorism" in either indictment. Legally, "domestic terrorist" refers to a specific category established in the federal criminal code, USC 2331, as enhanced by the USA PATRIOT Act.

The federal government's elastic public use of the term "eco-terrorism" has drawn some criticism from the public and officials.

According to William Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University, the legal framework for terrorist-related crimes as well as public perceptions of domestic terrorism have been redefined since the September 11 terrorist attacks. He noted that prior to the passage of the Patriot Act, what might now be considered "domestic terrorism" cases could be tried under conventional criminal laws – like conspiracy to harm others and conspiracy to commit murder.

But Banks commented that while ELF and ALF activists might be considered protesters and in some cases, criminals, they do not meet his threshold for domestic terrorism because they do not perpetrate violence against civilians in order to instill fear.

There is, however, some legal precedent for categorizing animal-defense groups as "terrorists" in the 1992 federal Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which defines "animal enterprise terrorism" as the "physical disruption to the functioning of an animal enterprise," including research labs, testing facilities, zoos, aquariums, and circuses.

This week, six activists with a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty will be tried under this Act in New Jersey, charged with using their website to incite violence against the animal research company Huntingdon Life Sciences, which reportedly kills about 75,000 animals every year for research.

The Magic Word
Some lawmakers, seeking to put eco-terrorism in perspective, have criticized the targeting of environmental activists as unwarranted.

At a hearing of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last May, Senator Barak Obama (D-Illinois) cited the FBI's own assertions that crimes by the ELF and ALF had been decreasing. Obama suggested that the FBI's 2003 statistics showing more than 7,400 hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, and 450 environmental crimes by industries violating clean air and water laws and improperly transporting and disposing of hazardous waste, demonstrated that there were much bigger threats.

"While I want these [ELF and ALF] crimes stopped," the senator said, "I do not want people to think that the threat from these organizations is equivalent to other crimes faced by Americans every day."

Free-speech advocates say that aside from misguided crime-fighting priorities, there are serious repercussions of the "eco-terrorism" dragnet, especially in light of the recent evidence of FBI and law enforcement surveillance of protest groups.

Larry Frankel, legislative director of the Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the language of the bill introduced in his state stigmatizes only certain political viewpoints. For example, he said, under the proposed statue, people who blockade a road to stop old growth logging could potentially be eco-terrorists, "but if an environmental law firm was preparing a brief to go to court, to file an injunction to stop [the logging], and someone came in and trashed their offices so they couldn't get the brief done, they wouldn't be guilty of eco-terrorism."

Frankel believes this is a pattern to stifle political activism. "People will not want to come out to engage in protest activity because they're afraid of being arrested as a terrorist and that the government will use these terrorist fighting tools to impose harsher sentences on people who are merely engaged in protest activity and not terrorist activity."

Betty Ball with the Boulder, Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center agreed, saying her organization has seen membership and donations drop since the FBI called one of their civil disobedience actions at a military base an "act of terrorism."

Stu Sugarman, an attorney in Portland, Oregon, who has represented numerous Earth Liberation Front defendants in the past, said the prevalence of the word "eco-terrorist" is an example of successful government propaganda. And he fears that use of the term by federal officials and the press could affect the judges and juries considering the fates of the current defendants.

He noted that another popular term for groups like the ALF and ELF, "saboteurs" suggests "somebody who's really not going to cause that much damage; certainly somebody who's not going to harm people... But a terrorist is somebody who goes out and tries to kill people."

"Terrorism is a magic word," said Sugarman. "It's like child abuse or drunk driver. It immediately conjures up the image of a really bad person who we want out of society."


***NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.***
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Vilified as ‘Terrorists,’ Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business | 17 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Vilified as
Authored by: Admin on Tuesday, February 07 2006 @ 10:41 PM CST
I sincerely think that we activists will win this fight against those who want to label us as terrorists. They tried to do this to us in the 1950s with blacklisting, red-baiting and more. Then the 1960s happened.

It's important for all of us to stand up for our rights. We American activists are privileged and have the freedom and space in which to speak up. The worst thing we can do is to engage in self-censorship or withdrawal from dissent.

I want the readers and supporters of this website to know that we haven't changed anything we do in fear of any government measures after 9-11. If anything, the recent revelations about government spying on activists has motivated me more to continue my work on this website. I am not afraid of the government or the FBI. They and their right wing cronies, like Ron Arnold, can go fuck themselves.

We outnumber them and they fear us. We need to stand up more than ever, fight for our rights, and save the planet from being destroyed by capitalism.

In order to save the planet, get rid of the bosses, and win social justice and anarchy for everybody, we will have to engage in some tactics that will be unpopular with the state, the ruling class and the authorities.

Too bad for them!

Vilified as 'Terrorists' Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 07 2006 @ 11:47 PM CST
<blockquote>In order to save the planet, get rid of the bosses, and win social justice and anarchy for everybody, we will have to engage in some tactics that will be unpopular with the state, the ruling class and the authorities.</blockquote>

Well said! Yes, recent "news" of gov't spying on civilians and "actions" against "terrorists" have enraged me further. It's been said a million times before, over and over, but it doesn't seem to stick with the Media: Terrorism is a Tactic, not a cause, not a religion nor is it a people. It's a tactic, but the Media keeps tossing the words around. But let them, because it just degenerates the word to something meaningless. Calling environmentalists and animal activists terrorists is a stretch, and most people aren't buying it. I'm not. Carpet bombing whole communities, that epitomizes TERRORISM. "Threats" of carjackers & home-invasions, to the point that we can't go out at night, I can't think of anything more terrorfying. Psychological warfare - using threats, intimidation and Scare-Tactics: Terrorism.

There is actually a new word being thrown around. I love it. They use it for the rebels in Iraq. Insurgent! Which means to RISE. One who rises. And Insurgency! The action of people rising!

We need more insurgencies in the US. And I'm not talking about suicide bombers and car-bombs, that's stupid. More Americans need to Rise Up against our increasingly oppressive government.

Stand Up for your rights!
Vilified as ‘Terrorists,’ Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business
Authored by: SiberioS on Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 12:59 AM CST
Fundraising particuarly to deal with bails and legal costs are increasingly necessary, and harder to come by considering the general lack of money in the anarchist community. That said, theres a need to exploit the fair trade buying progressive middle class.
Vilified as ‘Terrorists,’ Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 11:55 AM CST
a good way to raise money, or to handle a lack of money in anarchist communities is to keep money from leaving communities. Much the same way that small towns try to keep money from leaving the town through encouraging local shopping from local buissness owners, i believe it would be worth while for anarchists to look at what their comminuties spend money on and decide how to implement their own systems to cover those wants or needs.
Vilified as
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 03:25 AM CST
Chelsea Gerlach http://www.supportchelsea.org/ needs support in the form of encourageing letters and humorous books.

Write her!:
Chelsea Gerlach #1308678
Lane County Jail
101 W 5th Ave
Eugene, OR 97401

Darren Thurston http://www.freedarren.org/ also need support and letters.

Darren Thurston #701415
Multnomah County Inverness Jail
11540 NE Inverness Dr.
Portland, OR 97220

Also help Eric McDavid get vegan food http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/02/333337.shtml and write Zachary Jensen along with the many others locked up for standing up for what is right.

Not a great strategy...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 07:59 AM CST
Does anyone else think that these tactics are not smart? First of all, what about the workers at the plants that these people supposedly firebombed, etc? Is it fair to them to lose their jobs when their workplace gets burned down? Should't any action against a company involve organizing the employees of the company, and not just trying to impose your outside will on them by proxy?

Obviously, this is not even close to the terrorism that the officials and corporations say that it is, but wouldn't these people's time and energy be better spent trying to re-shape our economic system through organizing, so that regular people like us will have a voice in the workplace, and then use that leverage to improve conditions for animals and the environment?

Honestly, I see these people as the modern day weathermen, vanguardists with a violence fetish who see themselves as warriors against the system, etc, but in reality what are the accomplishing? Attacking the tentacles of the octopus without striking the heart will not change the way our society functions fundementally, but it may briefly alter a few company's behaviors. Is that really a good strategy to move forward?

Not a great strategy...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 10:22 AM CST
First off, regarding the employees of those factories: The fact that people are employed in destructive or exploitive endeavors does not justify the exploitation and destruction. Would you oppose nuclear disamement because physicists would be out of work? Getting rid of these destructive and superflous jobs should be of prime importance. More say in the workspace? Would that really make you happy? Eliminating pointless work--from cops to nukes to cell phone towers--means an end to workplaces period....the end of work, eh? On another tract, even the wobblies (ask them how their efforts to " re-shape our economic system" as you put it are going) know that direct action gets the goods.

And as far as vangaurdism goes, it is more like self-defense. Simplistically, I don't think these ____LF'ers want to lead a revolution in Maoist terms, but instead see the here-and-now, do-or-die situation facing us in terms of a personal affront against all the planet perpetrated by "the system." The fact that we can debate the need for such self-defense, the fact that it needs justification, is evidence that we are kept removed from connection with the planet and comfortable enough to not feel personally attacked. Fact is though, we--you and I both--are staring down the barrell of a gun, the poison corporations and criminal authorities are on the other end....Rolling over just gives the world to them...
Not a great strategy...
Authored by: Admin on Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 10:31 AM CST
Thank you. A good reply to the brainless workerism of the above post.

Not a great strategy...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 11:15 PM CST
I find it interesting how you put words in my mouth for the above post. I never said I would defend superflous workers in their workplaces; obviously nuclear power and weapons employ people, and both of those enterprises are not needed in any just society. How do you seek to change those industries? I'm not opposed to protests, proposing alternatives, and triying to phase those things out of our day to day lives. How do you propose that we get there? Is burning down the building really the best way to get there? Of course not, because then one group is seeking to impose their opinions on another group, and all this will do is turn one group against another.

I have but one question, if you seek an end to workplaces, how do you imagine the future world? What do you mean the end of workplaces? No one will work any more? Are you insane? What kind of world do you want to live in?

And direct action from the Wobbly tradition does not mean anything that you say that it does. It means that workers will dictate to the boss how much they will work, who else will be hired, and who will control the workplace. Direct action means job control for workers, and using strikes and slowdowns to get that. It has nothing to do with burning down the factory and putting a bunch of people that are supposed to be your comrades out of work against their will.

Maybe before you quote sayings you should actually know what they mean before you use them.

Not a great strategy...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 09 2006 @ 01:47 AM CST
First of all bunning down a building is one tactic among many(DoT). Obviously it will take a change of agency to fully change and ultimately destroy things, however these immediate earth n habbitat defending tactics should be applauded.

As for work, have you ever read Bob Black's definitive essay? Think Luddic localized life and play.

Not a great strategy...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 09 2006 @ 10:40 AM CST
That was my comment, and I didn't mean to put words into your mouth (and sometimes I think Chuck is abrasive, but whutever).
Maybe when I was talking about superflous employ, I should have mentioned hotdogs, cellphones and television...the theory goes that if all the labor put into that shit was cut out, then the work that was reallyneeded wpuld be so little it would not be like "work"....wolv. was on w/ bob black
As far as protesting vs. imediate da goes, I think about my daughter. I will talk to her about walking into the street until she realizes the way it ought to be done, but if shes stepping into traffic at this moment, I'm going to stop her--even using physical coercion. Thats where earth/animal liberationism comes in. There is destruction at work that cannot be reversed, and it will be too late if it is not stopped now.
So you don't wanna do it, dont! But, take a lesson from those that support the Zapatistas even though they're U$American, or those that support feminism even though they are men---solidarity is supporting (at least not getting in the way) of people who act from a place of opression, even if they do so in ways you wouldnt. And thats what I meant to get across, I find it telling that americans don't feel attacked by the real eco-terrorists. for reading here, check out pacifism as pathology.
As far as the wobblies go, maybe it was a bad example (I was using it to support contradictory pieces of my logic). the iww (i'm x359575) on the one hand has not re-organized the economy, but know well that their tradition includes, in addition to strikes, sabotage, dynamite, and arson.
Are they scaring you yet?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 01:36 PM CST
Somehow I doubt it--at least for frequenters of this site. But they have at least made some headway in their witchhunts--they've framed this "issue" in their favor.
Vilified as
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 09 2006 @ 02:17 PM CST
From the American Heritage Dictionary:

Vilified as 'Terrorists,' Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 09 2006 @ 02:28 PM CST
The question then is what is legal. Do you follow one definition that would make "legal" bombing of civilians but illegal bombing of missile factories,or would you follow the natural law that dictates that clearcuts are terrorism but felling a dam is legal.

Words are shit and its not "legality" that people should be concerned with but justice!
Vilified as
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 09 2006 @ 02:38 PM CST
Okay, so to be fair, that definition works equllay well for the
U.S. military as it does for the ELF.
Vilified as 'Terrorists,' Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 09 2006 @ 03:16 PM CST
So it is all relative, legal/justice/right/wrong, maybe it should be looked at in terms of relative harm...burning a building like a missile factory or a factory farm feedlot will cause harm but if in so doing it prevents a far greater harm, it can be justified without some subjective moral judgement....
Vilified as ‘Terrorists,’ Eco-activists Face New Offensive by Business
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 10 2006 @ 02:32 PM CST
I think ELFers are'nt under any illusions of the spook of the rule of law.

Terrorism is simply a moralistic definition made possible by the wonders of Master Morality.