Dr. Tiller’s Murder and the Government’s Pursuit of Anti-Abortion Terrorism

On Monday, we posted about the murder of Dr. George Tiller–an abortion provider who offered critical services to women–and how the media is covering the case and how the government has responded. We noted that it hasn’t been labeled “terrorism,” even though the action was clearly aimed at intimidating doctors and abortion rights advocates.

Environmental writer Will Potter–who has written extensively on the radical environmental and animal rights movement–wrote a thoughtful piece earlier this week that asks why the murder isn’t being called terrorism. Potter points out that even though the chief suspect in the case was arrested back in the 1990s ammunition, gunpowder, a blasting cap, and a fuse–the government is not calling this shooting “terrorism.” Potter says that this is due to the fact that clinics do not have the lobbying power of multi-national corporations, that it’s not a threat to profits, and that it doesn’t “threaten the American way of life. Potter argues that companies that exploit animals have sought and won protective legislation, but doctors and pro-choice advocates have been unable to make similar gains.

Sadly, news has also come out that the FBI was warned about Dr. Tiller’s shooter within the past week. Democracy Now reports:

New information indicates that Scott Roeder, the man arrested and charged with first-degree murder for Dr. Tiller’s death, was seen vandalizing a Kansas City women’s health clinic called Aid for Women on two separate occasions last week, a week before Dr. Tiller was killed and a day before his murder.

The clinic manager, calls himself “Jeff Pederson” to protect his identity, says he called the FBI and local law enforcement, but the vandal, Scott, was not arrested.

The first incident was discovered on Memorial Day; the second, this past Saturday. That’s May 30th. Pederson and other clinic staff recognized the vandal as “Scott” from anti-abortion protests and gave the FBI his first name, his license plate number, and video footage of the incidents from a security camera at the clinic.

However, the FBI allegedly did not act on the tip according to the manager of Dr. Tiller’s Aid for Women clinic.

Democracy Now! also interviewed one of Tiller’s colleagues about law enforcement’s unwillingness to pursue anti-abortion protestors. In addition, The Michigan Messenger published a piece looking at how few prosecutions are pursued against anti-abortion groups.

To be sure, there is a lot to focus on with this murder–the radical anti-abortion movement, the need for the government to take this crime seriously (as it hasn’t done in the past with anti-abortion terrorism), the critical importance of the abortion services offered by Dr. Tiller, and the need to support women’s access to abortion–the media’s coverage of the murder is just one facet.

FBI Infiltrated Iowa Anti-War Group in Advance of RNC Protests

Republican National Convention (RNC) Protests

The legal fallout from the protests surrounding the Republican National Convention (RNC) last year has been intense. Eight activists from the Twin Cities have been charged as being a part of a criminal conspiracy, while at the same, extensive infiltration of protest groups by local and federal law enforcement has been documented. This attention didn’t just focus on activists in the Twin Cities as activists in Texas who were planning to participate in the protests were monitored for months beforehand by an undercover FBI informant.

Now news has come out of still more infiltration, this time of a protest group in Iowa City. According to the Des Moines Register, an FBI informant was used to spy on a group of anarchists from Iowa City. The local police department was not familiar with the FBI surveillance, but they have indicated that they were aware of an undercover officer being sent to the city by Ramsey County (where St. Paul is located) to spy on activists.

According to the newspaper, the FBI agent collected detailed information regarding Iowa City activists planning to attend the RNC:

The FBI documents provide in-depth descriptions of more than a dozen Iowa political activists. This includes personal information such as names, height, weight, place of employment, cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The documents also include individuals’ plans for the convention demonstrations.

Some of the surveillance occurred when the activists met last year at the Iowa City Public Library.

The FBI documents show the investigative reports were written in August 2008 by Special Agent Thomas Reinwart, who is assigned to Cedar Rapids, based on reports from a “confidential human source” in Iowa City.

Individual names of protesters were blacked out of the copy of the FBI documents obtained by the Register, but the dossiers included personal facts.

For example, one woman was described as white, 5 feet 10 inches, 140 pounds, with blond hair and glasses. The report said she lived in Cedar Rapids, and it provided her cell phone number. She was characterized as a member of a specific subgroup who had interests in medic training and as a legal observer.

“She drives a little, dark green four door hatchback,” the report said.

A white man in his 20s who had recently moved to Iowa from Mississippi was also profiled by the FBI informant. “He is planning on attending the RNC and participating with the ‘Queer Block’ and ‘Bash Back,’ which are groups affiliated with the lesbian, bi-sexual, gay and transgender movement. Several hundred people associated with these two groups plan on doing their own thing and blocking an unknown (intersection),” the document said.

According to law enforcement officials, it was a fear of possible “crime” at the RNC that motivated the spying. And just what was the crime? Non-violent civil disobedience. Activists from Iowa City planned to organize a non-violent street blockade to disrupt access to the convention in order to have their political grievances heard. It’s a time-honored tradition that dates back centuries and something that has a rich history in the United States. The Civil Rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the labor movement, and many other movements in United States’ have all used civil disobedience.

FBI Places “Animal Rights Extremist” on Most Wanted List

Animal Research Bombing

Today, the FBI announced that it has placed an animal rights activist on its list of “Most Wanted” terror suspects. The activist, Daniel Andreas San Diego is the first “domestic terrorist” to make the list. San Diego is wanted for the bombings of two companies conducting animal research. The bombs caused only “minor damage” according to news reports. The FBI has issued a $250,000 reward for information leading to the capture of San Diego, an amount that is five times higher than rewards offered for other so-called “eco-terrorists” and “animal rights extremists.”

The bombings were undertaken as part of an international campaign called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). SHAC was an international direct action campaign that sought to put Huntingdon Life Sciences–Europe’s largest contract animal testing corporation–out of business. Activists targeted not only Huntingdon, but also investors, business partners, and other companies that had a relationship with Huntingdon. Over the years, SHAC almost brought the company to the bring of collapse.

Bombing was Notable Escalation of Rhetoric

The bombing was claimed by a group called “The Revolutionary Cells” in a strongly-worded communique that marked an escalation in rhetoric by animal rights activists:

It is time for this war to truely have two sides. No more will all of the killing be done by the oppressors, now the oppressed will strike back. We will be non-violent when the these people are non-violent to the animal nations.

The communique was full of references to personal harm towards the scientists engaged in animal research. At the time, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) wrote:

Never before has the otherwise completely nonviolent animal rights movement witnessed such threatening rhetoric and explicitly aggressive intentions. SHAC does not materially, vocally or strategically support the use of violence against any human or animal. SHAC does not support terrorism.

Since 2003, other actions claimed by The Revolutionary Cells–an autonomously and loosely structured group that likely has no defined membership–have also targeted scientists doing animal research at UCLA, but no lives have been harmed.

The radical animal rights movement has also largely continued to use its traditional tactics–harassment and economic sabotage–rather than adopting the more violent approach advocated by The Revolutionary Cells.

Animal Rights Arrests Target First Amendment Activity

Animal Rights Activists Arrested Last Week for Legally Protected Activity

In California, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced the arrest of four animal rights “extremists” last week. The FBI is charging the activists–who are part of an ongoing campaign to stop animal research at the University of California system–with the “use of force, violence, or threats to interfere with the operation of the University of California in violation of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.”

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is a piece of legislation that was passed in 2006 that allows the federal government unprecedented power to stifle political speech and charge activists engaging in legal behavior with terrorism.

This is certainly what is happening in this case, with the four activists being arrested for four actions that are either protected by the First Amendment, or in the worst case, misdemeanors. The FBI says the four:

  • Held a protest at the home of a UC researcher: “The group, some wearing bandanas to hide their faces, trespassed on his front yard, chanted slogans, and accused him of being a murderer because of his use of animals in research. The professor told police he was afraid, and felt harassed and intimidated by the extremists.”
  • Held a series of protests at the homes of UC researchers: “At each residence, extremists dressed generally in all black clothing and wearing bandanas to hide their faces marched, chanted, and chalked defamatory comments on the public sidewalks in front of the residences. One of the researchers informed authorities he had been previously harassed and the incident had caused him to fear for his health and safety.”
  • Scuffled with a researcher’s spouse at the researcher’s home: Details of what exactly happened at this event are sketchy, but there appears to have been a minor scuffle between activists and the spouse of a targeted researcher. The FBI is hyping the action as a “home invasion” with “forced entry.”
  • Distributed fliers: According to the FBI, the four activists were tied to the “production and distribution” of fliers that criticized animal research at UC and listed the home addresses of researchers. The FBI is says this preceded two unrelated firebombing attacks.

The events described above–at worse misdemeanors–are far from being “terrorism.” However, the arrests reflect how animal researchers, corporations, and the federal government plan to use the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act–which bans a broad range of activity–to disrupt activism and criminalize First Amendment activity.

FBI Investigating Fire and Anti-Obama Graffiti in Kentwood

'Die Obama' Graffiti Near Fire in Grand Rapids

Yesterday, the Grand Rapids Press reported that the FBI and the ATF are investigating a fire and three instances of anti-Obama graffiti in Kentwood. According to the newspaper and other media reports, graffiti was found on three homes, including the one that was burrned. The graffiti read “die oboma [sic].” The newspaper reports that all of the homes targeted were occupied by African-Americans and WOOD TV 8 reported that at least two of the homes had Obama signs in their yard during the election.

The FBI is not calling the fire a hate crime and the Kentwood fire inspector has not ruled out all accidental causes.

Racial Attacks and Harassment since Obama’s Election

Since his election in November of last year, there have been several instances of anti-Obama graffiti mixed with racist symbols. Earlier this month, media in Texas reported that he Secret Service was investigating graffiti of Swastikas and the phrase “Obama will die” on homes under construction .

The Southern Poverty Law Center–which tracks racist groups–says that in the wake of Obama’s election there were over 200 racist incidents. These have included graffiti, harassment, and assaults.

Earlier this week, the federal government announced a plea in the case of a man attacked three African-Americans on election night. Ralph Nicoletti will serve twelve years in prison for the assaults.

Witch-Hunting the Environmental Movement: The Politics of Green Scare

Mediamouse.org is reprinting this article by Stephen Lendman because it offers important background information and analysis on the targeting of environmental activists in the United States. This is of particular importance with the recent indictments of four individuals for an Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson at Michigan State University.

Mediamouse.org is reprinting this article by Stephen Lendman because it offers important background information and analysis on the targeting of environmental activists in the United States. This is of particular importance with the recent indictments of four individuals for an Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson at Michigan State University.

In May 2005, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism John Lewis told a Senate panel that ecoterrorism is “one of today’s most serious domestic terrorism threats.” Then the FBI’s James Jarboe estimated that two organizations (the Earth Liberation Front – ELF and Animal Liberation Front – ALF) committed over 600 criminal acts since 1996, causing over $43 million in damage. For his part, Lewis said both groups committed more than 1100 such acts since 1976, “conservatively” resulting in around $110 million in damages.

What’s going on, and is there anything to these charges? Coming from FBI sources makes them highly suspect, especially when there are two types of documented cases:

— people guilty of non-violent offenses called “terrorism” and given excessively harsh sentences; and most disturbing

— innocent people targeted, accused, convicted and sentenced to hard time for environmental activism or supporting animal rights; and that’s on top of hundreds of other political persecutions and many thousands of innocent people (or petty criminals) in US prisons.

This behavior isn’t new in America, but things heated up after 9/11 with the administration wasting no time getting going. That evening, George Bush addressed the nation and declared a “war against terrorism,” asked for world support, and began the government’s “emergency (preventive war strategy) response plans.” It was planned and ready before 9/11 as a “war of terrorism” to defile the law, wage aggressive wars, usurp unprecedented powers, destroy our civil liberties, and convince the public to sacrifice freedom for the security they never got. In addition, the October 2001 USA Patriot Act (written well before 9/11) created the federal crime of “domestic terrorism” that broadened the definition and applied it to US citizens as well as aliens.

When John Lewis addressed another Senate panel in May 2004, he stated that “the FBI divides the terrorist threat facing (the country) into two broad categories, international and domestic….and during the past decade we have witnessed dramatic changes in the nature of the domestic terrorist threat.” For a while “right-wing extremism” (loosely defined as the militia movement) overtook left-wing terrorism (but in) the past several years….special interest extremism (from groups like) the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and related extremists, has emerged as a serious domestic terrorist threat.” That view is amplified on the FBI’s web site that states the Bureau “is part of a vast national and international campaign dedicated to defeating terrorism” with ecoterrorism a key part of it.

The FBI defined it in 2002 to mean: “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.”

Activists refer to a tactic called “monkeywrenching” from the 1985 Dave Foreman/Bill Haywood-edited book “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching.” It describes it as:

— “nonviolent resistance to the destruction of natural diversity and wilderness (and) never directed against human beings or other forms of life;

— strategic….thoughtful (and) deliberate in order to succeed;

— individual or very small (group actions) of people who have known each other for years (and have) trust and a good working relationship;

— targeted (because) mindless, erratic vandalism is counterproductive as well as unethical;

— timely (and) not….when there is a nonviolent civil disobedience action;

— dispersed (to) hasten overall industrial retreat from wild areas;

— fun (even though it’s) serious and potentially dangerous;

— not revolutionary….to overthrow any social, political, or economic system;

— simple (with) elaborate commando operations generally avoided; and

— deliberate and ethical (by being) the most moral of all actions: protecting life, defending Earth.”

The Earth First Journal defines the practice as: “Ecotage (environmentally-motivated sabotage), ecodefense, billboard bandit(ry by sawing offensive ones down), road reclamation (to remediate environmental damage), tree spiking (with nails to discourage destructive logging), even fire.” These are unlawful sabotage acts “of industrial extraction and development equipment, as a means of striking at the Earth’s destroyers where they commit their crimes and hitting them where they feel it most – in their profit margins.” It goes “beyond civil disobedience. It is nonviolent, aimed only at inanimate objects. It is one of the last steps in defense of the wild….by an Earth defender when almost all other measures have failed.”

In May 2004, Republican George Nethercutt targeted them by introducing the Ecoterrorism Prevention Act of 2004, but it didn’t pass. If it had, it would have made a federal crime: “certain violent, threatening, obstructive, and destructive conduct that is intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with plant and animal enterprises, and for other purposes.”

Republicans tried again in July with the Terrorism Against Animal-Use Entities Prohibition Improvement Act that would have amended the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act and made it harsher. It also failed to pass, but defeat was only temporary.

On November 27, 2006, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) amended the 1992 act and became law with very harsh provisions. It’s language is broad and vague, but it criminalizes First Amendment activities that advocate for animal rights like peaceful protests, leafleting, undercover investigations, whistleblowing and boycotts.

The new law updates the earlier act with penalties far exceeding comparable offenses under other laws. It also goes much further. It allows expanded surveillance of animal rights organizations, including criminal wiretapping, and makes it easier for a court to find probable cause for the vague crime of economic damage or disruption than for one requiring hard evidence a person or group plans to commit these acts.

The bill exempts “lawful public, governmental or business reaction to the disclosure of information about an animal enterprise,” but that only applies to economic disruption claims, not damage, and makes it hard to distinguish between the two. It also:

— expands the kinds of facilities covered by adding ones that use or sell animals and animal products;

— covers any person, entity or organization connected to an animal enterprise;

— applies to any form of advocacy;

— criminalizes threatening conduct and protected speech as well as communication with anyone engaging in these practices;

— protects corporate animal abusers with a vested interest in silencing dissent; and

— targets any form of civil disobedience or protest activity and designates animal advocates as terrorists even when they cause no physical harm; in addition, the bill’s language is so broad and vague (by design), it’s hard to know the difference between legal and illegal behavior; it’s an act of green scare state terrorism that, in fact, can be used against anyone.

Green Scare – A Definition

Activists equate it to earlier Red Scare periods after WW I and II when the government used various schemes to incite fear, sanction witch hunt prosecutions, and win widespread public approval for them. The term may first have been used in 2002 and refers to legal and extralegal government actions against animal liberation and environmental activists. The Spirit of Freedom prisoner support network defines it as “tactics the government and (their enforcement agencies use) to attack the ELF/ALF (Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front) and specifically those who publicly support them.”

The term also refers to the 2005 arrests, indictments and convictions from the FBI’s Operation Backfire against alleged ELF/ALF activists. It charged them with damaging property, conspiracy, arson and using destructive devices.

The Operation was the FBI’s code name for its ten year domestic “war on terrorism” that’s, in fact, a war on dissent. It resulted in 17 Pacific Northwest arson indictments with evidence that was very suspect. It came from a heroin-addicted self-professed serial arsonist whose former girl friend mentioned him in a grand jury proceeding. On December 7, 2005, it culminated when federal and local law enforcement agents began the largest ever roundup of alleged environmental and animal liberation activists. Seven arrests were made in four states, others got grand jury subpoenas, and people seized were charged with various acts of destroying property as part of ELF and ALF efforts.

Those arrested faced potential unprecendented sentences for non-violent acts from which no one was harmed. In some cases, they could be mandatory 30 year periods and in others life if found guilty on all counts. That compares to a median sentence of five years for arson.

With that as a threat, all but four defendants testified against the others in return for leniency. The remaining four struck plea bargains to admit responsibility but incriminate no one else. At sentencing in June 2007, the presiding judge was harsh. He included Terrorism Enhancements (TE) that are used when the justice department decides a crime aimed to influence or coerce government policy. It means sentences may be longer, and the Bureau of Prisons gets greater latitude in assigning prisoners that may be to “supermax” facilities for the most violent offenders.

In this case, sentences ranged from three years, one month to 13 years with most defendants getting added TEs. In addition, on October 26, 2007, FBI informant and serial arsonist Jacob Ferguson pleaded guilty to one count of arson and an additional count of attempted arson. According to his plea bargain, he won’t be charged for his other offenses. Further, he’s required to make no restitution, his formal sentencing keeps being postponed, it may come up ahead, but prosecutors recommend he spend no time in prison, receive no fines, and be able to keep the $50,000 or more he was paid for cooperating.

That’s the state of things today where anything goes in the “war on terrorism” and publicizing arrests and convictions takes precedence over justice. Unless stopped, things will only get worse.

ELF and ALF – A Brief Description

On its web site, ELF describes itself as “an underground movement with no leadership, membership or official spokesperson” and uses its site “to inform and chronicle issues related to ELF.” It further states:

— “Any individuals who committed arson or any other illegal acts under the ELF name….choose to do so….and do so only driven by their personal conscience;

— These choices are not endorsed, encouraged, or approved of by this web site’s management, webmasters, affiliates, or other participants;

— The intention of this web site is journalistic in intent only to inform and chronicle issues related to ELF;

— The owners, management, webmasters, affiliates, or other participants of this website are not spokespersons, members, or affiliates of The Earth Liberation Front in any way; nor do the opinions of anyone acting in the name of The Earth Liberation Front or ELF, represent the opinions of” those affiliated with this site.

Others refer to the ELF as a collective of autonomous individuals or cells that use “economic sabotage and guerrilla war to stop the exploitation and destruction of the natural environment.” The organization was founded in Brighton, England in 1992, spread across Europe by 1994, and is now an international movement in over a dozen countries. The FBI designated ELF its top domestic terror threat in March 2001 and called the group “ecoterrorists.”

The ALF is an international animal liberation organization with roots in the 19th century and with no formal membership or leadership. Its web site defines “animal rights” as “the philosophy of allowing nonhuman animals to have the basic rights that all sentient beings desire; freedom to live a natural life, free from human exploitation, unnecessary pain and suffering, and premature death.” It believes animals aren’t property any more than humans are and asks if animal rights will become the “next great social justice movement.” It cites President of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) David Weisbrot saying treating animals is increasingly becoming a social and legal issue as well as an important economic one.

Its members engage in direct action on behalf of animals, including removing them from laboratories and fur farms (they call liberation, not theft) and sabotaging animal testing and industry animal-based facilities. Its statements affirm it supports any acts that further animal liberation where reasonable precautions are taken not to endanger life. Its covert cells operate in dozens of countries clandestinely and independently of each other. In January 2005, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated ALF a domestic terrorist threat.

Examples of Witch Hunt Convictions

Many can be cited, but Jeff Luers’ case is typical. In June 2001, he was sentenced to 22 years, eight months for burning three SUVs to raise awareness of global warming and how these gas-guzzlers contribute to it. No one was hurt, $40,000 in damages resulted, and the vehicles were refurbished and subsequently sold. Jeff is a political prisoner, and his sentence exceeds that for murder, kidnapping and rape under Oregon law where he resides. He appealed in January 2002, the hearing was held in November 2005, and on February 14, 2007 the Appeals Court remanded his case to the Circuit Court for resentencing. The case was heard on February 28, 2008 after which his sentence was reduced to 10 years.

Josh Harper is another political prisoner who committed no crime. He’s an activist believer in animal liberation, preserving the wilderness, and participated in human freedom projects for over 10 years. In 1997, he co-created Breaking Free Video magazine and went on speaking tours in 1999. He also sabotaged a whale hunt, defied grand juries, and contributed to confrontational protest campaigns. It made him a target and got him indicted for violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).

Evidence at his trial was mostly from two of his speeches in 2001 and 2002. He spoke about already committed political sabotage acts as well as European anti-vivisection campaigns he supported. He also ended one speech by demonstrating how to participate in a form of electronic civil disobedience called “black faxing” that involves sending multiple black paper sheets through an opponent’s fax machine. It got him arrested, charged and convicted.

He was one of six animal rights activists in the so-called SHAC 7 (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) case. Charges against one of the original 7 were dropped. SHAC is an international animal rights campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) – one of the world’s largest contract research organizations, UK based, and operating on three continents. It’s also Europe’s largest contract animal-testing laboratory and uses around 75,000 animals each year in its operations.

UK-based activists established SHAC in 1999 and successfully closed down two animal-testing operations in their country. It’s now a worldwide campaign, the first of its kind, and it operates in the UK, US, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy as well as many other countries. It calls its campaign “innovative” and states it doesn’t “encourage or incite illegal activity.”

On March 2, 2006, Harper and his co-defendants were charged and convicted of conspiracy to violate AETA (and several other charges) and got sentences of from four to six years. The case was an appalling miscarriage of justice for violating the defendants’ First Amendment rights that AETA repealed for these activists. The defendants weren’t charged with violent or threatening acts. Instead, the case was based on the notion that animal rights organizers are responsible for actions others take that the prosecution equated to a global conspiracy.

Briana Waters is another example of gross injustice. She’s an innocent woman charged and convicted. On March 30, 2006, she was arrested and accused of being a lookout in connection with an alleged 2001 arson at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture. Waters is a California resident, violin teacher and mother of a young child. She was indicted, then reindicted with other defendants on May 10 on charges that included using a destructive device that carries a mandatory 30 year sentence.

On December 26, 2007, her lawyers filed a motion accusing the Justice Department of concealing vital exculpatory information as well as producing a fraudulent FBI report. The agency is infamous for creating “evidence” out of whole cloth and getting manipulated informants to state it. Nonetheless, a hostile federal judge denied defense’s motion and went further as well. He ruled against allowing a defense expert to rebut government “evidence” that a delayed incendiary device was a bomb.

One of Waters’ attorneys expressed outrage over a common federal practice of “The government hand-picking (the) judge (and) manipulating court procedures. This is a classic case of a corrupt prosecution, and a judge who apparently chooses to look the other way.” It’s no surprise at a time two-thirds of all federal judges are from or affiliated with the extremist Federalist Society. It advocates rolling back civil liberties; ending New Deal social policies; opposing reproductive choice, government regulations, labor rights and environmental protections; and subverting justice in defense of privilege.

Waters was up against this when her trial began on February 11, 2008. She was further disadvantaged by the government’s case being based on two informants who struck a plea bargain by pleading guilty to conspiracy, arson and destructive devices in return for leniency. On March 6, Waters was convicted on two arson counts, but the jury deadlocked on the more serious charges of a destructive device and conspiracy. Despite prosecution claims, no devices were found nor was there evidence of conspiracy. That raises serious questions of the government’s falsifying evidence and lying to the jury about it. Again, no surprise under witch hunt justice with innocent people like Briana being harmed.

Her case also featured circumstantial evidence, including a folder containing radical pamphlets with a note on the cover from Waters to one of the informants. She testified that she didn’t write them or subscribe to their views. The prosecution claimed otherwise. Her defense also argued that Waters knew nothing about the materials, they were substituted for ones she put in the folder, and her fingerprints weren’t on the ones in it for proof.

Civil rights attorney Ben Rosenfeld said the “government’s case was primarily based on character assassination and guilt by association (and that) evidence of other people’s writings should never have been allowed to be used against her.” He also denounced former Attorney General Gonzales for proclaiming Waters guilty in the media after she was indicted. He harmed her chances at the outset and showed convictions count more than justice, especially when charges of terrorism are raised. Waters strongly defends her innocence and will likely appeal the verdict. Sentencing is on May 30.

A Look Ahead

Post-9/11, future prospects look grim with fear prevailing over reason, a bipartisan effort exploiting it, and convictions more important than justice. If friends of the earth and animal rights champions are targeted, so can anyone. Governments today won’t protect us and neither do courts that defer to their lawlessness. As a result, expect lots more innocent people hurt because those in power want unlimited amounts of it and won’t let anyone stop them from getting it. It means hard times ahead when the law won’t protect us, dissent is a crime, and the greater good is sacrificed to benefit the privileged.

What to do? Get active, organize, speak out, resist, and use the law for whatever justice is still under it. Things are very dire, change isn’t coming next year, and, more than ever, apathy isn’t an option. In America’s “war on terrorism,” we’re all potential targets.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Michigan Ranked 3rd in Hate Crimes

For the third year in a row, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) ranks Michigan third in the United States for the number of hate crimes. Michigan reported 653 hate crimes in 2006, placing it behind California (1,297) and New Jersey (759). While part of Michigan’s ranking may be due to the fact that it does a better job reporting hate crimes than many other states, an official with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights quoted in the State News said that the number is related to a rise in neo-Nazi/Ku Klux Klan groups in Michigan combined with longstanding patterns of segregation. Seventy-five percent of the hate crimes reported in Michigan were racial in nature. In Grand Rapids, thirty-five hate crimes were reported, twenty-six of which were racial in nature (four were based on sexual orientation).

The FBI defines a hate crime as:

“…a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.”

FBI Raids Home of Michigan Activist

According to the Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) raided the home of an Earth First! activist in Detroit, Michigan on April 10. The activist–whose name is not being disclosed–was raided by ten FBI agents who claimed to be investigating a failed arson attempt by the Earth Liberation Front at a Nestle water bottling operation in Michigan. According to the activist:

The 10 agents who searched my house were looking for incendiary devices (or components or receipts), and were looking for computer files (they copied my hard drives). Anyway, the pretext was the failed arson attempt 3+ years ago at the Ice Mountain (nestle bottled water plant here in Michigan). At that time, a grand jury subpoenaed my then wife and myself to give DNA and hand prints shortly after the incident. At the time they said they found hair or something and a hand print on the device. Obviously there was no match or the grand jury would have indicted one or both of us. They took a bunch of campaign literature, some t-shirts, a couple of firecrackers and some other miscellaneous stuff.

The activist has maintained his innocence and is stating that he had no involvement in the incident. Furthermore, this is the second time this activist has been targeted by the FBI. The activist was previously targeted seven years ago for involvement in a tree-spiking action in Indiana, although the charges were eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Statements of support can be sent to ELP4321@hotmail.com clearly marked “For the attention of the Michigan Earth First! Activist.”

Why Government Spying Doesn’t Bother Me

In the days before the holiday break the news was filled with stories about current US government spying. Some reactions were critical, while others, like Representative Pete Hoekstra, defended the President’s decision to spy on US citizens, even without the FISA court’s approval. On December 23, the Press editorial basically supported the governments’ policy to spy on its own people, as long as the “law was followed.” The Press also framed its support of government spying with the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US. While I disagree with that assertion I will not argue that point here as I am not an expert on international terrorism any more than the Press editors.

What I would like to address is the issue of the US governments’ current practice of spying on its own people. I do know something about this as my personal activities and those of some of the organizations I work with have been targeted by this state-sponsored surveillance. With the help of the local branch of the ACLU we were able to get some 400 pages of documentation on local police monitoring of our anti-war activities from early 2003 through 2004. Several of us sifted through the documents and posted what was thought to be most relevant at the local Indy media online source Mediamouse.org.

We found that from the time that Bush came to Grand Rapids in late January of 2003 through the November 2004 elections the GRPD was monitoring and in some cases infiltrating efforts to oppose the US war in Iraq. Several organizations’ web sites were monitored as well as e-mail list serves that were communicating anti-war updates and plans. In more than one of the declassified documents it states that some of protesters were planning “more violent type of demonstrations,” even though there is no evidence that anything more than meetings, marches and civil disobedience was planned. The groups that were planning “peaceful events” were also being monitored by the police as is reflected in the declassified documents. So even the groups that went out of their way to let the police know what their plans entailed, were still subjected to state-sponsored spying.

At this point one is tempted to just shake their head in disbelief or disgust over these documented instances, but that may be due to the fact that there exists a historical amnesia when it comes to US government spying on its own citizens. US government spying on its own citizens is not an anomaly, but a part of our country’s history. Nearly one hundred years ago several thousand US citizens and residents were targeted for harassment, surveillance, being thrown in jail, and in many cases even deported. In what were known as the Palmer raids many people were targeted either because they spoke out against the US entry into World War I or because they were associated with international labor groups, particularly the International Workers of the World (IWW).

Most of us are familiar with the McCarthy “Red Scare” years, but US government spying on its citizens doesn’t as easily bring to mind the round up of Japanese-Americans during WWII or the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign of the late 1950s through the 1970s. One reason for this indifference is because while the McCarthy hearings focused on White liberals, the FBI’s campaign focused on the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, the Puerto Rican Independence movement and the American Indian Movement. When minorities are targeted as subjects of government spying or harassment, it seems to garner less indignation, even when this COINTELPRO campaign involved the wiretapping of Dr. Martin Luther King and the assassination of Black Panther organizers like Fred Hampton. The same seems to be the case today, where the monitoring of White anti-war organizers in Grand Rapids by the police raised some eyebrows, (even a feature story by Salon.com in February of 2004), but the profiling and government monitoring of Arab, South Asian, and Muslims doesn’t seem to rally sufficient public opposition.

Back to my own case of government monitoring. The anti-war activities of the past few years are not the only time I have been subject to such spying. When the household I live in, the Koinonia House, became a sanctuary for political refugees from Central America in 1987, the authorities showed up at our door. My household was part of the Sanctuary Movement, which consisted mostly of faith-based groups who were willing give safe haven to refugees who were fleeing political violence. Within two weeks of refugees coming to live with us, federal officers were at our front door asking questions. This too was a nation-wide campaign that particularly targeted religious groups in the Southwest and the US-based solidarity group The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).

Several questions come to mind at this point. Maybe the most obvious is “how can our government do this?” Well, as I mentioned it is neither new nor surprising if you understand the difference between paper agreements (legal) and policy. We are all taught that we have certain rights, the right to free speech and the right to assemble, but these are meaningless, particularly in times of war. Spying on dissident voices is what governments do. This is exactly why I am not surprised or bothered by the recent admission of the Bush administration about spying on US citizens. What bothers me more than the spying is the amount of resources and energy expended to monitor the behavior of people like me. How much money did the GRPD spend of taxpayer money to monitor anti-war groups? How many police hours were spent trying to monitor our behavior instead of tracking down sex offenders? Let’s face it I am not a threat to the system, nor the organizations that I belong to, so why did the police spend so much time and money on us?

Last month we celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., so we could reflect on the fact that King was being monitored as early as 1958. Just after the 1963 march on Washington the head of the FBI’s counter-intelligence program William Sullivan sent a memo stating:

We must mark King now, if we have not before, as the most dangerous Negro in the future of this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security….it may be unrealistic to limit our actions against King to legalistic proofs that would stand up in court or before Congressional Committees.

Again, I ask you why would our government do this? Why would they spy on a man who was a firm believer in nonviolence? I would submit it was because he was a threat to power. So government monitoring seems to be the norm for when people are publicly critical of their actions. If King were alive today he would most certainly be a subject of government spying. If we are to take seriously his example in the struggle for justice we too should expect to find ourselves amongst those whom the government considers a threat.

Jeff Smith is the director of the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) and has been a 21 year resident of Koinonia House. jsmith@grcmc.org