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animal rights activists or terrorists?
June 7, 2005 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Homegrown terrorists or animal rights activists? Our anti-terrorism laws are getting a bit out of hand.
posted by leftcoastbob (35 comments total)

 
Extensive previous discussion of SHAC and terrorism.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:10 PM on June 7, 2005


cue parisparasmus and...
posted by yonation at 12:12 PM on June 7, 2005


Oddly enough, bombing a gay night club or an abortion clinic isn't considered terrorism under federal law. But making a harassing phone call to an animal testing lab is.
posted by warbaby at 12:14 PM on June 7, 2005


How does one draw a bright line between free-speechish pestering and vandalism-type DDoS attacks? (serious question)
posted by Kwantsar at 12:18 PM on June 7, 2005


...meanwhile UBL sits back enjoying the Baluchistan sunshine, and Kim Jong-Il strikes a lonely pose in his office wondering what the f*ck he has to do to get a little international attention.
posted by clevershark at 12:19 PM on June 7, 2005


These people are dumbasses. And I don't even respect them like I vaguely respect the ELF ('cause blowing up Hummers is cool) - harassing a biotech company for testing on animals?!?! How do these people expect them to develop new cures and treatments for human diseases? Animal testing for cosmetics and other frivolous stuff is bad, I agree, but for pharmaceuticals, it is necessary.
posted by salad spork at 12:19 PM on June 7, 2005


"Other alleged incidents include overturning a Huntingdon employee's car in the driveway of his New Jersey home"

Sound to me like maybe it is SHAC that is "getting a bit out of hand."
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:49 PM on June 7, 2005


I've been waiting for years for malicious hackers and virus writers to be recast as economic terrorists.
posted by alumshubby at 12:49 PM on June 7, 2005


I wonder if these laws are going to further radicalize some of these groups. They aren't out there protesting for fun, they really believe in what they are doing. When it becomes a potential federal crime, with potential years in prison, won't some people just escalate? Instead of "interstate stalking" won't a few people take it to the next step? If the penalties for minor offenses are too high some people start commiting major offenses instead. Bad times...
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:51 PM on June 7, 2005


ter·ror·ist Pronunciation Key (trr-st)
n.

One that engages in acts or an act of terrorism.

ter·ror·ism Pronunciation Key (tr-rzm)
n.

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
Prosecutors say the activists, who will stand trial next week, used threats, intimidation and cyber attacks against employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences
Hrmm, seems pretty cut and dry to me. I'm all for free speech and protesting, but when it comes to threatening workers and disrupting the business? Well now, my friend, you are breaking the law. And when you break the law, you go to jail. Pretty simple concept.
posted by antifuse at 12:53 PM on June 7, 2005


How does one draw a bright line between free-speechish pestering and vandalism-type DDoS attacks? (serious question)

Easy. Are the pesterees corporations, shareholders or government officials of one sort or another? If it affects private or state entities, it isn't free speech.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:16 PM on June 7, 2005


antifuse, I'm glad the dictionary cleared that up. I guess we don't even need judges! But really, you don't see a distinction, with, oh, I don't know, planning to blow up a stadium and this?
posted by iamck at 1:19 PM on June 7, 2005


Antifuse: Good to see that some people still march in lockstep. Why? Because IT'S THE LAW!

This is one of those reasons that I thought the hate crime laws were a bad idea...
posted by klangklangston at 1:25 PM on June 7, 2005


SHAC is out of hand, and people who care about animals and advocacy of any kind should renounce their tactics, and any tactics, that involve personal threats or violent means.

HOWEVER, that doesn't alter the fact that yes indeed, our anti-terrorism laws are getting out of hand, at least if you're not on the right side.

This should not be news to anyone on Mefi. Remember, First they came for the Greens...
posted by soyjoy at 1:55 PM on June 7, 2005


Oddly enough, bombing a gay night club or an abortion clinic isn't considered terrorism under federal law.

Nice bit of fearmongering there. Too bad it's not true.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:07 PM on June 7, 2005


Why is the Reuters article headed: "Oddly enough news article"?
posted by hackly_fracture at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2005


Oddly Enough Reuters's "New of the Weird" category.
posted by fleacircus at 2:35 PM on June 7, 2005


Since the feds do (and always have) defined terrorism based on ideology, not behavior, terrorist means "people we don't like." Hence the problem with Bin Laden, originally he was somebody we liked...

DevilsAdvocate, the passages you quote have no application to charging anyone with a federal crime. They are "dicta" that repeat the administrative definitions the FBI has uttered but never applied. This definition was in use from 1984 through 1996 -- which was the first time ever the FBI described Eric Rudolph's Atlanta and Birmingham bombings as anti-abortion terrorism. Although, at the time, the Fat Boys Institute hid behind the term "single issue terrorism."

This moronic insistance on using ideology is a way to not addressing actions of the USG that might be construed as supporting terrorism (like the Contras) and also using terrorism as a means of isolating political opponents. This is why "ecoterrorism" was the #1 threat on April 19, 1995 (Oklahoma City) and September 11, 2001 (9-11). Both times, the FBI was ignoring the security of the nation while acting as the national political police -- the worthless idiots.
posted by warbaby at 2:36 PM on June 7, 2005


"Other alleged incidents include overturning a Huntingdon employee's car in the driveway of his New Jersey home and the destruction of putting greens at the Meadowbrook Golf Club in Long Island, New York, where some Huntingdon employees held memberships."

Yeah, I don't like this either, but these folks seem like idiots. They didn't even have the sense to confine their protests to the company. What's next, torching the houses of people who use shampoo tested on kittens?
posted by OmieWise at 2:43 PM on June 7, 2005


Hence the problem with Bin Laden, originally he was somebody we liked...

then the saudis hijacked planes and knocked down our buildings with them so we bombed afghanistan's rubble into gravel and kicked iraqs ass.
posted by quonsar at 2:48 PM on June 7, 2005


This definition was in use from 1984 through 1996 -- which was the first time ever the FBI described Eric Rudolph's Atlanta and Birmingham bombings as anti-abortion terrorism.

I'm not sure I'm following you--are you saying that since 1996, anti-abortion bombings have been considered terrorism? How do you reconcile that with your earlier statement? Or am I misunderstanding?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:53 PM on June 7, 2005


I'm thinking more in term of some of San Diego 9-11 crew rooming with an FBI informant. This happened while some of these guys were watchlisted. And the FBI was too busy doing things like the Portland ELF witchhunt (big grand jury hoohaw and nobody even charged) instead of doing real anti-terrorism.

This whole ecoterrorism nonsense was originally a right-wing smear job orchestrated by that fat Moonie tool, Ron Arnold. After a while, the stupider ecotwerps started breathing Arnold's exhaust and acting out in the ways that Arnold had originally fantasized. This became a circular confirmation and voila, the ELF was born.

On preview: DevilsAdvocate, I'm probably not being as clear as I should. 1996 (see the report I've linked to) was the first time the FBI took a slightly realistic approch to right-wing domestic terrorism. That was also the year we forced them to totally reorganize their domestic antiterrorism program and start forming the regional Joint Terrorism Task Forces -- these were modeled on the local/regional security programs for protecting nuclear installations. Prior to 1996, the FBI stuck with the notion that all the attacks on abortion providers were just a lot of lone nuts in isolated incidents.

The typical "ecoterror" case is more like the Phoenix Preserves arsonist (who was a garden variety psycho firebug who used the ecoterror line as a red herring. He was actually a Christofascist yuppie) or the early instances of small logging companies bankrupted by the raw log exports who torched their equipment for the insurance and blamed it on the hippies.
posted by warbaby at 3:02 PM on June 7, 2005


Just to be absolutely clear, IMO, the FBI couldn't find their own ass with a mirror and a flashlight unless they had a snitch shoved halfway up it.
posted by warbaby at 3:03 PM on June 7, 2005


Vandalising private property isn't free speech, its a crime.

I understand their passion but they did cross the line. But I'm sure the publicity and national noteriety will more than make up for their $250,000 each maximum fines. Though they'd get eaten alive in prison.

"What are you in for?"
"Harassing a lab that tested hair dye on animals."
"Well, why don't you come and sit on your new daddy's lap then, buttercup?"
posted by fenriq at 3:28 PM on June 7, 2005


Haw haw! Prison rape jokes are hilarious!
posted by trey at 3:42 PM on June 7, 2005


Almost as funny as people attacking someone who happens to work at a lab where they happen to have to test on animals. Almost.

Or when anti-abortion folks berate and scream at people who need to use the legal services the abortion clinic provides. Those folks are a hoot!
posted by fenriq at 4:26 PM on June 7, 2005


There's harassment & vandalism and then there's terrorism. Whether or not you agree with the tactics, (I, personally do not) there are other legal means of charging these people than under an anti-terrorism law.
posted by leftcoastbob at 4:35 PM on June 7, 2005


That's the problem, isn't it? More and more legislation gets passed expanding the government's power ... but they promise, cross their hearts and hope to die, that these powers will only EVER be used against those evil terrorists ...

Then they either a) Ignore their promise and use the act against regular old crime anyway or b) Expand the definition of terrorism to include the regular old crime ...
posted by kaemaril at 5:15 PM on June 7, 2005


Since the feds do (and always have) defined terrorism based on ideology, not behavior, terrorist means "people we don't like."

Game, set and match.
Why don't we have a well-defined definition of terrorism (not counting the dictionary, thanks)? Because we want to be able to use some of these methods when they suit us.

Under any kind of common-sense definition of terrorism, I think that this scenario fits. However, I do not think that the anti-terrorism laws, associated tools and punishments, were drafted with this in mind, so I do not think they fit the crime.

Oh, and I used to work for Greenpeace and we were on the "terrorism watch list" of the RCMP. Had our office bugged and everything. :)
posted by dreamsign at 5:47 PM on June 7, 2005


A large part of the problem is the desire to use terroristic methods against some opponents and still sanction those opponents who use those same methods against oneself.

There is a persistant myth that terrorism is a particularly cost-effective form of coercive politics. This is historically not true, but it doesn't prevent phoney tough guys who are safe behind their desks from waging terrorism campaigns as a deniable form of warfare. Then the flip side is the parallel belief that terrorist warfare is a way that the weaker party in a symmetrical conflict can obtain a force multiplier. Historically, this is also wrong -- if one views success in conflict as being able to end the conflict on one's own terms.

When terrorism is viewed as a form of uncivil behavior, and not as a "permissible" though extreme form of conflict, it will be possible to reduce the level of terrorism to the absolute basal minimum associated with violent political psychopaths.

But as long as an act is defined as terroristic by the political or ideological motivation of the terrorist actors, it will continue to be an unsolvable problem.

The hackneyed fallacy of "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" is a reflection of this attitude. To dispell the fallacy, repeat: "one man's cannibal is another man's anthropophagic gourmet."

But for us to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must cease to practise it and cease to support those who do.

Seen in this light, the FBI, the USAPATRIOT act and the farce of Homeland Security are the domestic terrorist's best friends.
posted by warbaby at 6:11 PM on June 7, 2005


The articles describing this leave out too many details to really tell what happened. It seems however, that these protesters are at least charged with some physical acts of destruction and intimidation of family members in addition to the other stuff. It is the other "stuff" which disturbs. Posting notices of future protests etc. Going after these actions as terrorist acts or as a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts seems a stretch. Where it veers into inciting true violence like the abortion site which posted doctors home addresses and then crossed out those who had already been killed then it certainly loses free speech protection. How far did these folks actually go? That is where the articles seem to fall down.
posted by caddis at 6:21 PM on June 7, 2005


From the SHAC website (take with a grain of salt):

At heart, this is a free speech fight. The specifics of the indictment
state that the seven are alleged to have run a website that reported on protests aimed at pressuring investors, stockbrokers and customers of the animal experimentation facility Huntington Life Sciences to divest from the facility. The indictment alleges the seven conspired to encourage the disruption of commerce at HLS. The government's interpretation of the AEP Act seeks to define as domestic terrorism any such third party action that has the effect of limiting commerce, whether criminal in method or not and no matter how peaceful, encompassing a variety of tactics such as civil disobedience, demonstrations and divestment campaigns.


and:

Key to these tactics are an aggressive, no-compromise stance. Activists do not simply protest HLS, they protest anyone who has any business dealings with HLS. In some cases, activists have sent black faxes to companies' fax machines, burning out print cartridges after 20 copies, a tactic the federal indictment cites as a violation of the FCC's indecency provisions. Other actions in the campaign have involved demonstrations at the homes of executives and investors. While these tactics are aggressive and rude, they simply do not fall into the category of violent terrorism.

Interesting article.
posted by leftcoastbob at 6:50 PM on June 7, 2005


Hmm....

Indeed. Keyser Soze.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:24 PM on June 7, 2005


And I don't even respect them like I vaguely respect the ELF ('cause blowing up Hummers is cool) - harassing a biotech company for testing on animals?!?!

Animal testing is not necessary for biotech development and manufacture. There are many different ways of testing products, and animal testing is fundamentally flawed as most living creatures do not react the same way to chemicals as humans do.
Aspirin: painkiller for humans, death for dogs.

The ELF (of which I am a member) is considered by most far more dangerous than SHAC. SHAC is an organised, respectable civilisation, whose protests can sometimes get slightly out of hand. The ELF is an underground group, which has no official leader, manifesto, or headquarters. However, its name is spread via individuals making acts and claiming them as ELF work. It is a radical group which cannot be charged or destroyed as it does not have an infrastructure.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 12:11 AM on June 8, 2005


And it has perfect non-accountability because as soon as you do something un-ELFlike, you're no longer a member of the ELF.

Convenient, isn't it?

By the way, I don't like your ideology, so I'm going to set fire to your house. I'll make sure to wait until you're outside, though.
posted by darukaru at 6:46 AM on June 9, 2005


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