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Snitch Hunt
by Green Is The New Red (repost)
Sunday Mar 1st, 2009 5:56 PM
After reading the federal complaint for the arrest of animal rights activists on Animal Enterprise Terrorism charges, which I wrote about yesterday, this case still doesn’t add up. Some of you have posted comments that if these activists had actually assaulted someone, or if there was an imminent threat of violence, they would have been arrested long ago. Instead, the FBI spent time and money building a case based on supporting evidence that includes First Amendment activity like chalking, flier distribution, and protests.

Let’s look at this case from another perspective, though. Perhaps the activists arrested were never the intended targets.

I’ve written about the government’s seven-step process for convicting environmentalists as terrorists in property crimes cases. The recent Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act arrests are different from Earth Liberation Front or Animal Liberation Front arrests, though. These are above-ground and lawful—yet controversial–activists. However, I think the same model is being used.

The critical step in this process is for law enforcement to use what little evidence they have to scare the living hell out of those arrested. They use threats of outlandish prison sentences and terrorism rhetoric in order to create government informants, or snitches. They then continue that pattern of threats and fear-mongering with each subsequent arrestee, until they have enough to move forward with a case. This snitch-based model of police work (as opposed to gathering evidence, witnesses and leads) is notoriously unreliable and often illegal.

As this case moves forward, I have no doubt that federal prosecutors and law enforcement will, if they haven’t already, offer some kind of a plea agreement in exchange for cooperation. They’ll say something like: “We can offer you a way out of all this. Look, you’re facing prison time as a terrorist. And once you get out, you’ll always be a terrorist. We know you have good intentions, and you’re just worried about the animals. If you help us, maybe by wearing a wire, or offering up some names of others in this campaign, we can make it all go away.”

The FBI has shown it is completely inept at tracking down underground groups, including the people behind the destruction of vans at the University of California, and the incendiary devices left at a researcher’s home (which has been recklessly attributed to animal rights activists). So the feds go on snitch hunts.

That’s why it’s absolutely critical to not be intimidated into silence by these arrests. These activists need to know they have a strong community of people who support them, will look after them, and will not be afraid to speak up. The government relies on fear to create informants and snitches, and with a strong community of vocal supporters, it’s easier for activists to confront this fear head on. These activists, and all others, need to know that there is a way out of all of this, and it’s not by naming names or pledging loyalty oaths, it’s by organizing and fighting back.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Hate is the new Love
Sunday Mar 1st, 2009 6:38 PM
These people were picked up for hateful speech and disturbance of the peace. "Home demonstrations" of this type are like a KKK cross-burning. The claim is that they are harmless because they result in no real property damage, but the message and the intent to escalation of violence is clearly communicated. Such messages are not protected by the first amendment.

Animal welfare is a legitimate concern that will not progress by illegitimate tactics. It seems unnecessary to invoke a "snitch hunt" to explain why these folks are being prosecuted (and that is not the same as persecuted).
by .
Sunday Mar 1st, 2009 7:33 PM
Well - much of this observation is correct. What isn't being brought up is the early morning fire at Feldman's house, and the burning of the car (for some reason the name of the second professor has been obscured in the press, and it might have accidentally been the neighbor's car?). This, clearly, is why they are pressing elevated charges for the home demo, in contrast to many other home demos which have been held around the country last year during daylight. They suspect this circle of being involved, but because flyers were distributed with the list of addresses, there is this reasonable doubt that either anonymous others or some of their friends were really the ones who did it.
Probably, there are two possible situations. One would be what was described above, that they want to intimidate them into giving up new information regarding the firebombing or more names. Second would be that there is some additional evidence that hasn't been stated yet. Do you know if this complaint has to outline all the evidence that exists against them, or does that come up in a hearing?
by ahem
Sunday Mar 1st, 2009 9:48 PM
first, I presume you are referring to violence against people and not property, if I correctly get your gist here

but the KKK probably killed thousands of people over a hundred-plus years, and when they burned a cross on someone's yard the intent was extremely clear of a probability of escalation to violence, be it physical beatings or actual murder. much of the time, they didn't even bother with such cross-burning threats and just went out and beat, hung, and shot people. The KKK included cops and elected officials all the way from small towns on up to Washington DC, including FBI and congresspeople (they had a huge sanctioned march in DC in the 20s), meaning they had the full weight of the system backing up their *messages* of terror as well. cops allowed the Klan to pull the Freedom Riders off a bus and beat everyone on it or near it with pipes. cops actually killed people themselves. juries nullified cases against KKK bombers. (and let's not forget the FBI's own terror in refusing to take on the KKK until Pres. Johnson ordered them to, or more directly with their very own COINTELPRO)

to blur the differences between the *well-established* violent intent of the KKK and these disturbers of the peace is completely in line with the new attacks on radical activists as "terrorists" such as the RNC8, or the FBI defining the ALF and ELF as the #1 terrorist threat in American today. it's hyperbolic, to say the least, and a tremendous disservice to scores and scores of victims of real terror.

it seems to suit authorities' interests to continue blurring what they can get away with in the name of fighting "terror." it's probably best for us, agree or disagree with those arrested here, if we remain cognizant of the differences between people who fly planes into buildings, beat freedom riders, or execute jewish people by the millions and those who push the envelop of acceptable protest but have not orchestrated campaigns of mass murder
by A Guy
Monday Mar 2nd, 2009 9:00 AM
Of course it is not the same. The KKK is an evil racist group while the animal rights activists have only the welafer of the animals in mind. So even though their tactics are the same (and the evil researchers have no way of knowing when it will step up a notch) people need to realize that it is the intent behind the attempts to break in , the firebombs, the menacing notes, etc. that seperates the animal activists from terrorists like the KKK and others.
by Lazarus
Monday Mar 2nd, 2009 6:02 PM
So, the exercise of the snitches' First Amendment rights to snitch is illegal? :-)
by empathic
Monday Mar 2nd, 2009 9:52 PM
Exception has been taken to the comparison of the purportedly innocuous "home demonstrations" by animal rights believers to the KKK. Nice parsing by Ahem on this discussion, but one would have to be a victim to understand whether these actions are terrorism or not. Obviously the record of the KKK is well established, but that does not make less spectacular actions against property or people any less terrorizing to the people who are targeted.

The intent of these actions is obvious, and the message conveyed is not going to be parsed by the victims in the same remote and sterile intellectual way that Ahem argues that it should be. And be assured that is the whole point of these actions. Let's not pretend it is a legitimate form of free speech, and let's also not pretend it is harmless and that the word terror does not apply here.

These actions do the legitimate movement no service. The heat is coming down because it is being called down. Let's find better ways.
I did not make the case that home demos are "harmless"

but as for the quoted phrase above, I very much beg to differ. sure, the vivisectors targeted are not, by any means, comfortable with the home demos, but if they have an ounce of sense then they are aware that that there is a *huge* difference between whatever these demonstrators are saying and intending and what the KKK said and intended when conducting a front lawn cross burning

a nation that surrenders its greater common sense and begins applying the "terrorism" label to any and all home demos, or property destruction, or supporters of civil disobedience against political party conventions (like the RNC8), is a nation that has lost its collective mind. it's that type of thinking that has justified the pentagon spying on anti-war activists and so forth. what was it Ben Franklin said about safety and freedom?

and, to be clear and attempt to prevent straw man arguments that sometimes pop up in these threads, I'm not asserting that activists are free to demonstrate however they please. if someone breaks a law, such as trespass or destruction of property, then they are knowingly choosing to assume the legal risks involved. even passive civil disobedience involves breaking laws, and many willingly accept arrest as part of their political or social protest. but to tack on extra charges and penalties under the highly charged banner of "terrorism" as if there are few distinctions between mass murderers and protesters is a folly that does not serve our nation well. we, as a nation, are smarter than that and we should act accordingly
by reader
Tuesday Mar 3rd, 2009 3:06 PM
The actions do matter. And unfortunately, this stalking and personally attacking individuals or vandalizing their property at their homes, their workplace, or where ever, is all that it is -- terrorizing.

Leave the huge corporations alone and go after the academics? I guess it's like going for the soft targets when the Green Zone cannot be penetrated. Pretty sad, and pathetic.

Animals deserve better, frankly, than small useless actions of vandalizing and terrorizing that mainly demonize activists in general and certainly all animal activists to the public.

Even if an action closes one lab or has an effect on one business, or lands an handful more 20-something vandals to the cause, the damage done in terms of the public image is probably something the pharmas are drooling over. They win, animals lose.
by ahem
Tuesday Mar 3rd, 2009 8:33 PM
no one is leaving the huge corporations alone (that's a straw man), but corporations have the FBI at their beck and call as well. ever hear of the SHAC7? similar things are happening to SHAC in the UK right now as well (there was McLibel in the UK too, to add another example)

animal activists have many targets, and, yes, a great many animals suffer at the hands of those that you (I'd say euphemistically) call "academics." ever since the early days of the modern animal rights movement, universities, their labs, and employees have been targets in one way or another. labs have been raided and/or destroyed. vivisectors have been called out for their most atrocious acts against animals. ever hear of Britches or Silver Springs or the U of Iowa? people such as yourself have huffed and puffed about incidents like those as well for years. sometimes they even divide the animal rights community in debates about tactics (note that animal welfare is a whole 'nother thing). the point is that it is nothing new, these "attacks" on university vivisection, just as corporations have always been targeted, but in 30+ years of modern AR, no human has been killed

funny you say labels don't matter then head straight back to the label of terrorist, a word traditionally reserved for folks that threaten to beat or murder and then follow up with actual beatings and murders, or those who just go straight to beatings and murders as the threat to others. terror, terrorism, terrorist. words do matter, as many, including George Orwell, have made clear. and what authorities seem to be doing now across the board, from the RNC8 to the AETA4 is to stretch the legal definition of terrorist (with the aid of corporate-bought legislators) in order to target above-ground activists, albeit those using sometimes controversial and sometimes distasteful tactics, because the cops have so few successes in targeting underground activists. perhaps they are trying to drive a wedge between direct action activists and traditional pamphleteers, but there has always already been disagreement there, so odds are that's not it. the specific motive of authorities is unclear when they choose to use terrorism enhancements against people they could just as well prosecute for trespassing or harassing or whathaveyou

the outcome of this official stretching/blurring of the word "terrorism" remains to be seen, as far as where authorities go next with any perceived successes with this tactic, and in what it does to the world of direct action AR. as for direct action, POM juice was a corporation that was the target of traditional above-board protest for years with no results. then they got hit with direct action, illegal as well, and they stopped animal testing overnight. that direct action was underground and no culprits were ever identified by authorities. groups like the animal liberation press office take events like that, combined with the feds targeting of above-ground activists, and say the net result is the encouragement of activists to go underground to avoid the legal hassles and jail time experienced by people like the SHAC7 and possibly the AETA4
by Ahem indeed
Thursday Mar 5th, 2009 12:33 PM
Talk about an "ahem" statement.

Ahems arguments, as I read them and parse them down to their crux, appear to be "No one has been killed" so tactics of this sort are okay. I don't think so. In essence, our ends justify our means and so our means are permissible. They may include intimidation, and some violence, but no one has been killed, so it still hasn't crossed an unacceptable line.

That mindset reminds me, revoltingly, of Bush and Rummy and their justifications in using waterboarding. Lots of parallels there.

Heck, it's not torture (insert "terrorism" for the sake of this thread), its just getting our point across and achieve our objectives, because less intrusive methods have failed, and attempts to sway hearts and minds via education and discourse didn't work, so this is our next step.. And hey, no one has been killed, so...

Slippery slope, that I want no part of and will happily stand against.

The Santa Cruz crew is being tried in a court of law for their alleged crimes. IF found guilty, they should be punished. Hopefully, Bush and Rummy will be tried for theirs as well.

Oh, and if anyone is interested? I'm willing to accept any and all side-bets that the individuals currently charged with chalking in the earlier case will soon be connected with firebombing in the latter case. Feel free to explain to me how firebombing someones house or car isn't terrorism; I'm all ears.
Never said such a thing. In fact, I have repeated that what the folks arrested here have done may be repulsive or whathaveyou as well as possibly prosecutable for things such as trespassing. Please, stop making straw man arguments and putting words in my mouth.

My objection, since it appears I must spell it out clear as day for you, is legally defining home demos and so forth as terrorism. THAT is skewing things as Bush/Rummy/et at did, when they went after and illegally spied on peace activists as potential threats to America. THAT is what the Republican sheriff in St. Paul is doing in trying the RNC8 as terrorists right now for doing logistics in a civil disobedience campaign last September. THAT is the true slippery slope, when the State begins to lump together home demonstrators or political protesters with the KKK, al Qaeda, or Timothy McVeigh and pretend that all crimes are equally heinous and deserving of the same draconian prison sentences. My objection is that we collectively lost our minds and allowed the Bush folks get away with far too much for far too long after 9/11 -- it's high time we as a people regain some sense of scale and perspective rather than slipping further down into the cycle of abandoning our civil liberties for a false sense of security.

I understand you can look in a dictionary and define what the AETA4 are accused of as terrorism, but I feel strongly that the more loosely we use that word, especially in legal matters -- when traditionally it has been used to describe people that, yes, KILL other people as a part of their message -- then the more we ALL stand to lose the civil liberties many of us took for granted until recently when Bush/Woo/etc thought they would attempt to dismantle the U.S. bill of rights.

Lastly, I'll stick to publicly known facts about this case rather than armchair speculation and guilt by association. You are free, though, to run around with your figurative pitchforks, torches, and lynch mobs and convict people of things they haven't even been charged with.
by Ahem indeed
Friday Mar 6th, 2009 3:33 PM
I appreciate your response; it is objective and clear. You've clarified your position on demonstration vs. action.

I will defend/clarify my original post to you by pointing out that I never put words into your mouth; I said that that was my interpretation of your post and sentiment in reading your viewpoint.

It would seem to me that you and I have, and will continue to have, very different viewpoints and interpretations of what is a demonstration and when the moment transitions from appropriate and legal demonstration and turns into illegal intimidation. (Perhaps that word will be more acceptable to you than terrorism?).

I"m not looking to label someone as akin to Al Quaeda. I'm stating my opinion that when you start banging on someones front door/private property and scaring children that you've moved beyone demonstration. You say you'll stick to publically known facts and avoid the pitchforks, and so will I. I read in several newspaper accounts, and a first-hand report by the homeowner, that his property was entered, his door banged on, and he himself assaulted by this group. That isn't lynchmob rumor; that's what the victim reported.
by so much for subtlety
Saturday Mar 14th, 2009 9:48 PM
"The day after online footage revealed the presence of police provocateurs at the Montebello SPP summit protest the Quebec police have been forced to admit that the rock wielding men initially confronted for being in the agreed 'family friendly' zone by a union leader were indeed police agents."

It's a way of discrediting activists - and chances are, it's the new COINTELPRO in action - a smear campaign aimed at promoting UC policies by associating any dissent with masked, bomb-throwing assholes.

The UC also has an FBI agent assigned to it full-time, at least one, and probably a larger group of informants and provocateurs - gotta stop those eco-terrorists, don't they?

Ask the UC to deny it - see what they say.