Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Obama Administration Targets Environmental and
Animal Rights Activists as Eco-Terrorists
By Stephen Lendman
ccun.org, June 9, 2009
What began under George Bush continues under Barack Obama -
targeting dedicated activists with "one of today's most serious domestic
terrorism threats," according former FBI Deputy Assistant Director of
Counterterrorism John Lewis before a Senate panel in May 2005. Called
"eco-terrorism," it grew out of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that created the
federal crime of "domestic terrorism" and applied it to US citizens as
well as aliens.
In his February 2002 testimony before the House
Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, the FBI's
Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, Counterterrorism Division, James Jarboe
defined eco-terrorism as:
"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
As a result, innocent people are targeted, accused,
convicted and sentenced to hard time for constitutionally protected
non-violent environmental activism or supporting animal rights. The
so-called AETA 4 are four recent ones and face prosecution under U.S.A. v.
Buddenberg for conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism.
On February 19 and 20, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested
Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope, and Adriana Stumpo and
charged them with conduct relating to protesting, chalking the sidewalk,
chanting, and leafleting - constitutionally protected rights under the
First Amendment, but no matter.
In a February 20 press release,
the FBI called the four "animal rights extremists suspected of terrorizing
University of California researchers (and said they) used force, violence,
or threats to interfere with the operation of the (U of C) in violation of
the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act." More on that below.
cited specific "threatening incidents" beginning in October 2007:
-- on October 21, 2007, demonstrating outside a U of C professor's
residence in El Cerrito, CA; wearing bandanas to hide their faces;
trespassing on his front yard; chanting slogans; and accusing him "of
being a murderer because of his use of animals in research;"
January 2008, demonstrating outside the private residences of several U of
C researchers; dressed in black and wearing bandanas to hide their faces;
marched, chanted, and chalked "defamatory" comments on sidewalks outside
-- on February 24, 2008, "attempted to forcibly
enter the private home of a Santa Cruz U of C researcher; when her husband
opened the door, a struggle ensued and he was hit by an object;" one of
the individuals charged then yelled, "We're gonna get you;" and
on July 29, 2008, "a stack of flyers titled 'Murderers and torturers alive
& well in Santa Cruz July 2008 edition' was found at the Cafe Pergolesi in
Santa Cruz;" they contained names, addresses, and telephone numbers of
several U of C researchers and said "animal abusers everywhere beware we
know where you live we know where you work we will never back down until
you end your abuse;" the defendants were charged with producing and
distributing the fliers after which "two firebomb attacks outside
researchers' Santa Cruz homes (occurred), both of which are still under
investigation by the FBI."
Most often, what the FBI and DOJ charge
and what, in fact, is true is highly divergent. In this case, the AETA 4
did nothing more "criminal" than exercise their First Amendments rights,
and, in so doing, neither threatened nor terrorized anyone. Like many
other instances in a post-9/11 environment, and often earlier, the FBI and
criminal justice system targets innocent victims, portrays them as
criminals, manipulates evidence against them, prevents defense attorneys
from access to any called "classified," uses dubious paid informants, and
scares juries to convict. As a result, numerous victims of injustice
languish behind bars as political prisoners, some serving life sentences
despite having committed no crime.
That was true under George Bush
and a Republican Congress and is no different under Barack Obama and a
Democrat one. Enough police state laws were enacted to convict the most
saintly if authorities wish to do so. And it's happening with greater
frequency by manufacturing terror threats. The dominant media trumpet
them. Both parties use them for political advantage and try to silence
dissent. They also make false claims to convince the public that dangerous
"terrorists" are being arrested, charged, tried and convicted.
Nearly always, those affected are innocent victims of police state
injustice at a time we're all as vulnerable as the AETA 4.
Indictment of AETA 4 - United States of America v. Buddenberg et al -
Filed March 12, 2009 in US District Court for the Northern District of
California (San Jose)
Count One - Conspiracy
October 2007 - July 2008, "the defendants conspired to use and caused to
be used a facility of interstate commerce for the purpose of damaging and
interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise (and) did
intentionally place a person in reasonable fear of death of, and serious
bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family of that
person, and a spouse and intimate partner of that person by a course of
conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal
trespass, harassment, and intimidation...."
Count Two - Force,
Violence, and Threats Involving Animal Enterprises
used and caused to be used a facility of interstate commerce, for the
purpose of damaging and interfering with the operations of an animal
enterprise, and in connection with that purpose did intentionally" commit
the same acts described above.
Status of the Case
22, 2009, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) joined with defense
counsel from the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) in a motion to
dismiss the indictment and asked the Court to strike down the Animal
Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as unconstitutional on grounds of "overbreadth
(and) vagueness." CCR stated:
"These are doctrines that allow
individuals to challenge laws that chill speech and advocacy and require
people to guess at a statute's meaning and scope."
Matthew Strugar said:
"To characterize protest and speech as
terrorist activities is ludicrous. And it is not just animal rights
activists who are in danger here. The AETA is so broad and unclear it
could be used to suppress lawful protests and boycotts by any activists
across the spectrum, no matter what the issue. The law must be struck
CCR said the AETA 4 "actions are clearly and traditionally
protected by the First Amendment (yet) The Department of Justice brazenly
calls these young activists 'terrorists....' "
Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA)
On November 27, 2006, AETA became
law, replacing the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act. Using broad and
vague language, the new law criminalized First Amendment activities
advocating for animal rights like peaceful protests, leafleting,
undercover investigations, whisleblowing, and boycotts. These legal acts
are now crimes under AETA. It equates peaceful protest-related activities
with violence and terrorism.
Its proponents include prominent
industries that exploit animals for profit. They argued that animal rights
activism was increasing, their facilities were being targeted, and tough
laws were needed for protection. They claimed:
-- existing federal
and state laws were inadequate; and
-- activist "attacks"
disrupted "vital services" that millions of Americans require.
AETA expands the 1992 law by imposing far harsher penalties than for
comparable offenses under other laws and defines "disruptive" activities
to include peaceful protests for consumer boycotts, advocating harmful
practice reforms, and whisleblowing that results in "losses and increased
losses" exceeding $10,000.
It goes further as well. It legalizes
expanded surveillance of animal rights organizations, including criminal
wiretapping. It also lets courts find probable cause for the vague crime
of economic damage or disruption without requiring hard evidence that a
person or group planned to commit these acts.
AETA exempts "lawful
public, governmental or business reaction to the disclosure of information
about an animal enterprise," but that provision only applies to economic
disruption claims, not damage, so it makes it hard to distinguish between
The law also:
-- covers facilities that use or
sell animals or animal products;
-- includes any person, entity,
or organization connected to an animal enterprise;
-- applies to
any form of advocacy;
-- criminalizes claimed threatening conduct
and protected speech as well as communication with others who engage in
-- potentially includes any form of communication
such as emailing, telephoning, or distributing materials across state
lines in support of abusive animal activity boycotts; and
protects corporate animal abusers with a vested interest in silencing
Overall and in deliberately vague language, it equates
legal protests and civil disobedience with terrorism even when no violence
is involved and no physical harm caused. It claims First Amendment
rights don't apply in support of animals or when advocating against
abusive animal practices. It places profits above constitutionally
The Coalition to Abolish AETA
itself "a national grassroots network of activists, lawyers, independent
journalists and concerned citizens. (They) work collaboratively to more
strategically coordinate grassroots education and outreach, legislative
advocacy, media, litigation and public pressure to more effectively
reverse the erosion of rights enshrined in the AETA. (It) also works to
support animal protection advocates and other progressive activists to
continue their work despite the chilling effect of the AETA and other
The Coalition is a joint project of CLDC
and CCR and urges people nationwide to join with them in their effort to
"undermine (destructive) corporate interests."
It calls AETA
unconstitutional by criminalizing protected activities in support of
profits. It believes it's part of a larger corporate - government
conspiracy to stifle dissent, constrain social activism, and exploit
public fear of peaceful acts called "terrorism." It strives to build
grassroots activism to challenge the law and all other forms of
oppression. It supports open dialogue, mutual trust, patience,
transparency, respect, and a determination to achieve justice. It asks all
those who agree to join with them for a common purpose.
AETA a "dangerous, Sedition Act like law." It says it will be used to
criminalize lawful protests and turn petty offenses into major ones. It
believes it's critically important that the AETA 4 indictment be dropped
and AETA repealed to protect our constitutional right to dissent.
On June 8, the defendants have a status hearing in US District Court for
the Northern District of California (San Jose). If convicted, they face up
to 10 years in prison for exercising their First Amendment rights.
Another Criminal Injustice Witch-Hunt Prosecution
On December 1,
2008, this writer wrote about the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation Charity
(HLF), the largest US Muslim one until the Bush administration declared it
a terrorist organization, froze its assets, shut it down, and falsely
claimed it was funneling millions of dollars to Hamas.
HLF provided essential relief to Palestinian refugees in Occupied
Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan as well as aid for the needy in various
other countries, including Bosnia, Albania, Chechnya, Turkey and America.
Its major activities included:
-- financial aid to needy and
-- a sponsorship program for orphaned
-- various social services;
-- medical and other emergency work; and
community development, including help to rebuild Palestinian homes - ones
Israel willfully and illegally demolished.
Five HLF leaders were
arrested, indicted, tried, and on November 24, 2008 convicted on 108
counts, including supporting a terrorist organization, money laundering,
and tax fraud. It was a retrial after a jury in October remained
deadlocked on 197 counts against four defendants and acquitted the
fifth on all but one charge.
Sentencing was on May 27 and harsh:
-- for Chairman Ghassan Elashi - 65 years
-- President and
CEO Shukri Abu Baker - 65 years
-- volunteer Mufid Abdulqader - 20
-- New Jersey office director Abdulrahman Odeh - 15 years,
-- California office director Mohammad El-Mezain - 15 years.
The Court reaffirmed the jury's $12.4 million money judgment against
all the defendants, except El Mezain not convicted of money laundering.
From inception, HLF and its principals were unjustly targeted for
their charity and prominence as the largest Muslim charity in America.
Nancy Hollander, representing Abu-Baker, said the defendants will appeal
on a number of issues, including an anonymous testimony of an expert, that
she said was a first.
"Our clients were not even allowed to
review their own statements because they were classified - statements that
they made over the course of many years that the government (illegally)
wiretapped. They were not allowed to go back and review them. They were
statements from alleged co-conspirators that included handwritten notes.
Nobody knew who wrote them; nobody knew when they were written. There are
a plethora of issues."
Clearly it's the wrong time to be Muslim in
America as well as an environmental or animal rights activist. It was true
under George Bush and no different under Barack Obama.
Lendman is a Research Associate of the Center for Research on
Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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