Tag Archives: animal rights

New Terrorist Threats: Greenpeace and Dead Elephant

The ongoing surveillance of environmental groups by state and federal governments under the rubric of routing out terrorists (which I wrote about last week) can have its comical side. This was the case with one dispatch uncovered by the Public Intelligence site.

Florida antiterrorist watchdogs, operating in the interests of  “domestic security,” issued Intelligence Report 6, August 2010, labeled SENSITIVE BUT
UNCLASSIFIED. It begins as follows:

This report is being created as an intelligence product for Region 5 of the Domestic Security Task Force. If you or your agency has any information or notice any trends that you would like included in this weekly report please contact the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange…

The report begins with a short account of two mosques expanding. There don’t appear to be any imminent dangers here, but unpredictable situations can always occur.

Of more general interest, Florida antiterrorist intelligence are keeping an eye out for disruptions following the death of a local zoo animal :

[A]n Asian elephant named Dondi died unexpectedly at the age of 36 at Southwick Zoo outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Although Dondi lived in Boston over the summers, she preformed at Flea World in Sanford, Florida in the winters. The group In Defense  of Animals (IDA) has filed a complaint with the USDA to urge an investigation into the death.

An anti terrorist analyst notes that this is of some interest because: “ARFF
has held numerous demonstrations at the Sanford Flea Market to protest on
behalf of Dondi, whom they wanted to be retired and moved to a sanctuary. Currently there are no known protests surrounding the death of Dondi.”

The report then proceeds to the more serious matters at hand:

During the week of 9 August 2010, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise will be heading to Gulf of Mexico for a three month expedition to “document the true impacts of the BP Deepwater Disaster.”

Greenpeace feels that “BP has devoted inadequate resources to the oil spill response, withheld information from the American public, and denied access to spill sites”. The Arctic Sunrise will leave from Tampa, Florida and visit the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas prior to going to the oil spill site. During the expedition, they will be examining the effects of the spill as well as looking for oiled marine life.

Analyst Notes: Although there are no known threats associated with this expedition at the time this report was created, aggressive tactics utilized by the Arctic Sunrise in the past may increase the likelihood of unforeseen incidents occurring. Since the beginning of the Gulf spill, Greenpeace have taken numerous actions against BP, including shutting down 40 BP stations throughout London, England in late July 2010. Members of the organization dropped off letters to each station and on their way out pulled a safety switch which cut off power to the station. They also covered BP signs with posters reading “Closed:Moving Beyond Petroleum.”

The report ends with the following warnings and provisos:

If you have or receive any information regarding a possible threat or have questions or comments please contact the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange (CFIX).

SENSITIVE  BUT UNCLASSIFIED

PUBLIC AND MEDIA RELEASE IS NOT AUTHORIZED

DISSEMINATION TO AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY

NOTE: The accuracy of this information is based solely on the sources from which it was derived.

Green Is the New Red: The Crackdown on Environmental Activists

One morning back in 2002, Will Potter, a young newspaper reporter on the metro desk at the Chicago Tribune, heard three heavy knocks on his apartment door. When he opened it, two FBI agents flashed their badges. They told Potter he could either come outside and talk with them, or they would visit him at work.

Downstairs in the alley, the agents brought up a demonstration that Potter and his girlfriend, Kamber Sherrod, had participated in a month earlier. They had joined in an animal rights leafleting campaign in the high-class suburb of Lake Forest, dropping flyers on the doorsteps of houses around the home of an executive in an insurance company that covered an animal testing laboratory. Both were arrested, along with numerous others, and charged by the local police with misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The charges weren’t serious, but the agents warned Potter of other possible consequences if he didn’t cooperate with them.

“He told me I could help them by providing more information about the other defendants and other animal rights groups,” Potter told me in an interview in Washington. “I had two days to decide.” Potter has described in writing what happened next: “He gave me a scrap of paper with his phone number, written on it underneath his name, Chris. ‘If we don’t hear from you by the first trial date,’ he said, ‘I’ll put you on the domestic terrorist list.’”

Potter was stunned. “I felt as if I was staring blankly ahead,” he said, “but my eyes must have shown fear. ‘Now I have your attention, huh?,’” Chris said. The agent went on to tell him, “’after 9/11, we have a lot more authority now to get things done and get down to business. We can make your life very difficult for you. You work at newspapers? I can make it so you never work at a newspaper again.’”

Potter left, and threw away the FBI’s number. The charges against him and the other demonstrators were dropped—but for years afterwards, small incidents recalled the FBI’s threats. When Kamber Sherrod went to the DMV in another state to renew her drivers’ license, “I was detained by several police officers as I was trying to leave the building, because, according to them, my name was ‘flagged’ in the system,” she told me. Before they finally let her go, they asked, “What happened in Chicago,?” and “I overheard one cop mention a ‘t-list.’” When J. Johnson’s car broke down years later in Arkansas and a cop idly ran his license plates, “flashing letters burst forth in bold: ‘member of terrorist organization, animal rights extremists, approach with caution.” And Kim Berardi, also arrested along with Potter, was blocked from boarding a flight at the Seattle airport, handcuffed, and questioned by “two SEATAC security officers, two FBI agents, two Homeland Security operatives, and two officers from the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

For Will Potter, the FBI’s visit marked the beginning of what would become a career as an independent journalist, tracking the government’s prosecutions—and persecutions—of environmental and animal rights activists, which one FBI deputy director, at the height of the war on terror in 2004, identified as “our highest domestic terrorism investigation priority.” Because of this campaign’s similarities to the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1940s and 1950s, Potter dubbed his blog on the subject, launched five years ago, “Green Is the New Red.”

Potter’s book, published last month and also titled Green Is the New Red, documents the scare tactics used by the government, often in concert with large corporations, against even patently non-violent activist groups, which they dub “animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists.” Prime targets were the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and especially Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). Far from targeting only their clandestine operations (which focused on corporate property damage), the FBI “argued that terrorism laws must be radically expanded to include the above-ground campaigns of groups like SHAC,” Potter writes. In November 2006, George W. Bush signed into law the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

Activists prosecuted under AETA have in several cases ended up in the “Communications Management Units” at two federal prisons. Created secretly during the Bush administration, these “experimental” units were supposedly designed to hold high-risk inmates, including terrorists, whose crimes warrant heightened monitoring of their external and internal communications. But the reality, as a current lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights asserts, is that many prisoners end up in the CMUs “for their constitutionally protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or in retaliation for challenging poor treatment or other rights violations in the federal prison system.”

 Even attempting to communicate with those in a Communications Management Unit can subject a person to surveillance and harassment, as Potter learned early this year when he received some documents from Public Intelligence, a Wikileaks-style organization. The documents included what appeared to be a running report to law enforcement officials around the nation from the federal Bureau of Prison’s Counter-Terrorism Unit, which monitors correspondence in and out of CMU’s. (Sample reports appear here and here).

On his blog, Potter wrote about the reports’ contents.  Acknowledging that even “mundane” prisoner letters could include “coded threats,” Potter argues “that’s not what’s going on with the reports on environmentalists labeled ‘eco-terrorists.’” In these documents, “government officials make clear they are much more concerned about bad PR.” In one instance, “The Counter-Terrorism Unit notes an August 7, 2009 email received by Daniel McGowan, an Earth Liberation Front prisoner, regarding a possible vigil to raise awareness” about the CMUs. McGowan is part of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ lawsuit against the prison units. The report also describes an email to McGowan from CCR attorney Matthew Strugar, discussing efforts to raise awareness about the CMUs and challenge them. And here, Potter discovered his own name. According to the report:

Strugar described attending the animal rights conference in Los Angeles two weeks prior, in which an individual identified as Will spoke about inmate McGowan and his co-defendants’ cases, as well as the Communications Management Units (CMU). Will is believed to be Will Potter, an independent journalist based in Washington, DC…

In his email, Strugar wrote to McGowan: “Will was on four panels, I think, and talked a bit about you and your co-defendants’ cases and the situation with the CMUs. He’s a good advocate on that issue. There is still a lot of organizing and discussion about the Green Scare generally, which is good, and I talked a bit about green scare speech repression and the like. It was interesting.”

Potter writes that “It’s unsettling to see my name in documents produced by the Counter-Terrorism Unit. What’s even more disturbing, though, is the thought of scarce government resources being wasted on such reports…Lectures, public websites and First Amendment activity by journalists and attorneys should not be the purview of the Counter-Terrorism Unit. And even if you think that it should be, and even if you think I am some kind of potential terrorist, this “intelligence briefing” is absolutely useless. Any intern could have created the same report using Google.”

When I phoned the Bureau of Prisons media relations office to ask about this report, a spokeswoman said I would have to request the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.  “I know what you mean,” she said, “but I can’t comment on it.”

The Puppy Protection Act Offers (Slim) Hope to (Some) Abused Pups

Congress.org reports today on bills recently introduced in both houses of Congress. The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act (S 3424 and HR 5434) would “amend the Animal Welfare Act to provide further protection for puppies.”

The bills, from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), were introduced at the end of May and tail a Department of Agriculture inspector general report regarding federal investigations of breeders.

The IG report, released May 25, says large breeders who sell animals covered under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA, PL 89-544) online are exempt from inspection and licensing requirements “due to a loophole in AWA.” The IG says there are “an increasing number” of these unlicensed, unmonitored breeders.

The bills would require licensing and inspection of dog breeders that sell more than 50 dogs per year to the public (including online) and would also outline additional exercise requirements for dogs at facilities – such as having sufficient, clean space and proper flooring.

According to a press release, Durbin said he would work administratively with the USDA to fix problems at its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, and then introduce addition legislation if needed.

Supporting humane treatment of puppies would seem like a political no-brainer, right? As Liliana Segura pointed out on Twitter earlier today, what could be better in the upcoming midterm elections than “to be able to say ‘our opponents HATE puppies'”? Mainstream groups like the Humane Society have been pushing for legislation action on puppy mills for years, to little avail. (Click here to see video of a Humane Society raid on a massive puppy mill in Tennessee, and here to read some gruesome details from the USDA’s report on puppy mills.) Yet the bills are not exactly barreling their way through Congress; both are waiting for attention from agricultural subcommittees, and after two months, the Senate bill has only seven co-sponsors.

In addition, when it comes to animals routinely used in cosmetic testing, and animals (including puppies and dogs) treated cruelly in drug testing and medical research, the federal government has pretty much sat on its hands–or worse. To take one particularly galling example, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine last year exposed an effort on the part of the National Institutes of Health to sell young constituents on the idea of animal experimentation. As Stephanie Ernst wrote on Change.org:

[T]he NIH promotes, on its Web site, a children’s coloring book that gives a skewed view of animal experiments. The coloring book implies that researchers are trying to cure animals that are already sick—rather than purposely infecting them with diseases—and ignores the fact that animals suffer and die in the process. The coloring book, entitled The Lucky Puppy, was produced by an industry trade group, the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research, whose members have a financial interest in the continuation of animal research…

The book erroneously portrays the lives of animals in laboratories as pleasant and carefree. Published scientific research and numerous undercover investigations clearly demonstrate that animals in laboratories suffer pain and distress from experimental procedures and routine laboratory practices. The coloring book also makes misleading claims about the benefits of animal experiments, implying that research findings from experiments on animals are directly applicable to both the animals used in research and to humans.

The federal government is also actively engaged in protecting animal testing and experimentation against animal rights activists. Anyone who chooses to take action against an animal testing facility is not, as one would expect, subject to charges of breaking-and-entering or vandalism. Instead, they are branded terrorists under the notorious Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act; for actions in which no human being were harmed, they can end up serving long sentences in a federal supermax Communications Management Unit.  (See the blog Green Is the New Red for the best information on AETA.)

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Obama’s Record on Animals

I know from comments and emails that a lot of Unsilent Generation’s readers care about animals, so I’m passing on this report card from the Humane Society of the United States on Obama’s first year in office. After noting that “This administration is far better than the last one on animal protection issues,” HSUS highlights some positive and negative developments in the last year.

Basically, it’s been a good year for polar bears (if you don’t count climate change) and a bad one for wolves (even without Sarah Palin). On most other points, it’s a mixed bag. But HSUS rightly focuses on one area where the U.S. government not only ignores animal cruelty, but subsidizes it:

This year, USDA has doled out hundreds of millions of tax dollars in subsidies to the factory farming industry, buying up pork, meat from spent hens, and milk, but requiring nothing of these industries yet in terms of reforms that would improve animal welfare and public health. These industries operate in a deregulated environment when it comes to animal welfare, and they essentially do as they please. The passage of Proposition 2 in California and similar initiatives in Arizona and Florida demonstrated that the American public wants to see an end to these intensive confinement practices, and the Administration should help push that along, rather than continue to prop up inhumane, environmentally destructive, and dangerous confinement systems.

The Farm Sanctuary, a rescue, education, and advocacy group for farm animals, notes Obama’s recent decision to ban the slaughter of “downed” cattle–animals too weak or injured to walk, who experience additional cruelty on their way to their deaths. The group currently has a “Petition for the Pigs” urging the president to do the same for pigs and other livestock. 

Keep in mind that these are pretty modest demands, which address only the most extreme brutal practices.  Anyone who takes a slightly more radical approach is subject to the wrath of federal law enforcement, acting on legislation that broadly defines animal rights activism as “eco-terrorism.” Will Potter’s excellent blog Green Is the New Red tracks the latest outrages and absurdities (including infiltrating vegan potlucks) that are committed under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, passed in 2006 largely at the behest of animal-related industries.

There’s no sign that anything has changed on this front since Obama came into office. Far right web sites may be alive with promises of armed insurrection and threats against the life of the president , but according to the FBI, it’s still the animal rights crowd that we really have to worry about when it comes to domestic terrorism.