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Indybay Feature
A Suspected Terrorist Dates the FBI
by Joseph Buddenberg
Tuesday Mar 2nd, 2021 12:23 PM
In 2009, I, along with three co-defendants, was charged with violating an unused and unknown law called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
My friends and I were campaigning against the University of California’s practice of using live animals in painful and deadly research; known as vivisection. Our alleged crime was demonstrating in the neighborhoods and outside the homes of the vivisectors who tortured and killed animals in their laboratories.

We were arrested by a slew of FBI agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force. We faced up to 5 years in prison.

A team of experienced movement attorneys represented us and challenged the use of a terrorism statute to target protesters. In 2010, our indictment was dismissed by a federal judge, who ruled that the one-page indictment was void for vagueness.

The case would not go to trial. The FBI was not happy and the domestic terrorism unit of the San Francisco FBI kept me under an incredible amount of surveillance.

I had “met” this woman known as Desiree on the internet around 2010. We texted and stayed in contact, but we had never met face to face.

Fast forward to 2013 and my second major FBI investigation. Fur farms were raided by activists all over the U.S., with thousands of mink freed from captivity and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to the fur industry. I was the FBI’s suspect.

Prior to my arrest in 2015, the FBI would intensify their surveillance; utilizing GPS tracking devices, physical surveillance, aerial surveillance, and even going as far as installing a camera in my apartment complex lobby.

And then there’s the use of “confidential human sources"

The summer of 2014 “Desiree" randomly got in touch and told me she’d be in the Bay Area for a friends wedding. We made plans to meet at Flaco’s, a vegan Mexican restaurant in Berkeley. She paid for everything.

Halfway through dinner, she asked if it was ok if her friend "Andy" joined us. I found out much later via federal discovery that "Andy" was an undercover FBI agent from Chicago. That night, two FBI employees had a very long rehearsed conversation about Santa Cruz and meeting at a demonstration that never happened, and “Andy" visiting “Desiree" in San Diego.

Desiree and I spent time together the next day before she went to her friends wedding in San Francisco. Or that’s the story she told me.

It started raining while I walked with her to the BART station in Berkeley. She wanted to hold hands. We did. It was pouring rain. We stopped at the cafe and we sat side by side and warmed up.

We finished the walk to the BART station where we kissed on the platform. She got on her train and I never saw her again.

A name very similar to the alias she gave me showed up later on the "authorization for aerial surveillance" document in my case discovery.

But "Andy" and I had exchanged numbers that night at the restaurant. He wouldn’t leave me alone after that. Something about Andy just sketched me out. His eagerness and desperation for friendship.

He would ask if we could carpool together to local political events. Andy claimed to be a photo-journalist working for PBS on a documentary about the Bay Area. Andy always had some sob story to try and reel me in. A lie that his rental car was broken into and all his equipment stolen. He’d call me up flustered late at night, needing a friend.

We met one day and he bought beer. He told me lies about his days with Earth First! in Asheville. He wore a wire and asked me questions about activism and the FBI. Because the conversation was exculpatory, the FBI claimed the recording device "malfunctioned."

He needed constant favors. He needed a driver to show him around the Bay Area. And the FBI, I mean PBS, would be willing to pay for my services. He needed someone to live in his house and watch his recording equipment while he was out of town and that the FBI, I mean PBS, would cover my housing costs.

Andy wanted to tag along for Black Lives Matter protests in Oakland. I didn’t return his calls and so the FBI followed me very obviously around Oakland all night.

There were constant voicemails and texts from Andy. I never responded to him. I told Desiree that he creeped me out and to please tell him to stop contacting me. He texted me an apology and continued to contact me, trying to persuade me to meet. We never saw each other again.

Originally published at:
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