U.S. government intensifies spying on animal advocates

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2006:

WASHINGTON D.C., NEW YORK CITY–Pending federal legislation
may intensify covert U.S. federal government surveillance of animal
The Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006 was introduced on
March 16, 2006 by Republican U.S. Senators Mike DeWine of Ohio,
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and
Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Deemed likely to pass easily through the Republican-dominated
Senate and House of Representatives, and to be signed by President
George W. Bush, the bill was described by DeWine’s publicist, Mike
Dawson, as “a measure that would provide a statutory framework, with
Congressional and judicial oversight, for the President to conduct
electronic surveillance on the international communications of
suspected terrorists, while protecting the rights and liberties of
American citizens.”

But Secrecy News, published by the Government Secrecy
Project of the Federation of American Scientists, described the
Terrorist Surveillance Act as “a bill that would authorize
warrantless intelligence surveillance for up to 45 days, after which
it could be renewed upon review by the Attorney General. The bill
would require notification to Congress of various aspects of the
program,” Secrecy News acknowledged. “But significantly, it would
impose no external constraints on domestic surveillance by the
executive branch.”
The FBI has tracked “domestic terrorism” done in the name of
animal advocacy since the 1992 passage of the Animal Enterprise
Protection Act. But before December 2005, fewer than a dozen animal
advocates had ever been charged with related offenses.
At least 11 people have been indicted since mid-December 2005
in connection with arsons and break-ins carried out in the name of
the “Animal Liberation Front” and “Earth Liberation Front.” Several
of the arsons did more than $1 million worth of damage. One, the
1998 ski lift arson at Vail, Colorado, did $12 million worth.
Rod Coronado, 39, who in 1995 was convicted of arsons
committed in the name of the ALF, was indicted on February 22, 2006
for allegedly teaching a lecture audience how to make firebombs [see
page 16]. Coronado spoke about 15 hours after a nearby arson
attributed to environmental activists caused more than $50 million in
Six persons whose actions associated with Stop Huntingdon
Animal Cruelty allegedly did millions of dollars worth of economic
harm to Huntingdon Life Sciences and the company’s suppliers were on
March 2, 2006 convicted of a variety of criminal charges [see page
With the SHAC Six trial looming, and aware that California
bombing suspect Daniel San Diego, 27, was an acquaintance of at
least one of the suspects, the FBI in January 2006 quintupled the
reward for information leading to San Diego’s arrest, from $50,000
to $250,000.
San Diego is wanted, the FBI said, for allegedly
coordinating bombings of the Chiron Corporation in Emeryville,
California, and the Shaklee Corporation, in Pleasanton,
California. Both companies use animals in research and testing.
The FBI warned that “San Diego wears eye glasses, travels
internationally, has a 9-millimeter handgun, and is a strict vegan.”
The stakes involved in “direct action” are clearly rising–
and so is the pressure on law enforcement to arrest enough alleged
terrorists to rationalize renewal of extended authority and increased
budgets authorized by Congress after the terrorist attacks on the U.S
of September 11, 2001.
The Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006 would impose penalties
of up to $1 million and/or 15 years in prison for “for disclosure of
classified information related to the Terrorist Surveillance
Program,” wrote Senator DeWine’s publicist Mike Dawson.
“Stung by criticism that this approach could be used to
punish reporters who write about illegal government surveillance,”
said Secrecy News, “the Senators declared that the proposed penalty
“does not apply to journalists.”
But that raises the question of who a journalist is, already
before the courts in several animal advocacy-related cases. The FBI
so far has accepted the Bite Back contention that published approving
accounts of bombings and arsons is protected free speech [see above].
A New Jersey federal jury, however, did not see similar material
posted to the SHAC web site in the same light, especially when
accompanied by the names and personal details of Huntingdon Life
Sciences staff.
Also of note is that much information about alleged illegal
government surveillance of animal advocates has recently been
disclosed by lawyers, not journalists. The lawyers have obtained
the information while representing activists who have been harassed
and even arrested without actually being accused of criminal activity.
For example, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia
on February 1, 2006 “released copies of government files that
illustrate the extent to which the FBI, the DeKalb County Division
of Homeland Security, and other agencies have gone to compile
information on Georgians suspected of being threats simply for
expressing controversial opinions,” said Jon Shirek of Channel 11
News in Atlanta.
“More than two dozen government surveillance photographs show
22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and
other vegans, picketing against meat eating in December 2003,”
Shirek continued. “They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked
Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County. An undercover DeKalb
County Home-land Security detective was assigned to conduct
surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the
photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another pro tester
after he saw Childs approach him and write down the license plate
number of his unmarked government car,” documenting the man’s
identity exactly as police typically advise young women to do if they
suspect they are being stalked.
Said Childs at an ACLU press conference, “They told me that
if I didn’t give over the piece of paper I would go to jail. I
refused and went to jail. The piece of paper was taken away from me
at the jail, and the officer who transferred me said that was why I
was arrested.”
Five police reports shared in March 2006 with Jim Dwyer of
The New York Times by New York City attorney Daniel M. Perez, and
shared with ANIMAL PEOPLE by one of his clients, Mary Finelli of
Silver Spring, Maryland, document the use of “proactive arrests” as
a crowd control tactic during the World Economic Forum, held in New
York City from January 31 to February 4, 2002.
Heavily redacted to avoid disclosing the names of police officers,
the reports indicate that protest activities were thoroughly
One report recommended that the New York City police should
in the future “Utilize undercover officers to distribute
misinformation within the crowds.”
Responded New York City Police Department chief spokesperson
Paul J. Browne to Dwyer, “The N.Y.P.D. does not use police officers
in any capacity to distribute misinformation.”
Added Dwyer, “Browne also said that the ‘proactive’ arrests
referred to in the report–numbering about 30–involved protesters
with pipes and masks who he said presented an obvious threat.”
Perez’s 16 plaintiffs, who were arrested at an “Animals &
Earth Liberation March” on the third day of demonstrating, contend
that they do not fit that description. Co-plaintiffs include
Adrianne Ace Allen, Glenn Brightwell, Nancy Draper, Carol Marcus,
Carol Moon, Cary Robyn, and Sara Young.
Reported Gail Robinson of the Gotham News in June 2004,
recalling the 2002 arrests, “In 15 years of protesting, Mary Finelli
had never been arrested until she visited New York, and took part in
an animal rights protest scheduled to coincide with the meeting of
the World Economic Forum.”
“It was quite an organized march,” Finelli told Robinson.
“Everyone was walking single file. It was very well-behaved.”
Wrote Robinson, “Police were out in full force, Finelli
said, and demanded that the protesters disperse, but then blocked
them from leaving.”
“The next thing we knew, everybody was being arrested,”
Finelli said. She and the other arrestees spent the next two days in
crowded jails. The charges against them were eventually dropped.
Robinson listed instances of the New York City mayoral
administrations of Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg allegedly
using memories of the “9/11” attacks to repress dissent.
“Days after Bloomberg took office,” Robinson wrote, “the
police department went to court, asking that it be allowed to
increase surveillance of political activity, even when no law was
being broken. The department said the rules adopted some 18 years
earlier were ‘not workable in the context of terrorism.’ The court
largely agreed.”

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.