Monday, February 02, 2009

the FBI and "ecoterrorism"


From the rich pool of awesome that is Wikileaks comes two remarkable articles produced by the FBI. They both refer to "ecoterrorists"- that shadowy, international anarcho-syndicate responsible for so many deaths and so much destruction across the globe in recent years. The first document, "Tactics Used by Eco-Terrorists to Detect and Thwart Law Enforcement Operations", is somewhat bland as it simply relates the contents of an activist handbook called "Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching" that was written more than 20 years ago by some guy called David Foreman. Its interesting to see how seriously the security services take the advice in the book, detailing a variety of behaviours that might be perceived to be suspicious to a group an undercover officer was attempting to infiltrate.

The second document is far more interesting, very recent and relates, in extraordinary detail, the background to the Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts. Published by the Department of Homeland Security, its title is "Ecoterrorism: Environmental and Animal-Rights Militants in the United States". Any environmentally aware person should read this article, so as to gain an insight into just how far from reality US security policy has now come. They now seem to perceive any individual professing concern for environmental issues to be a potential threat.

"Mainstream organizations with known or possible links to ecoterrorism include the following:
• Greens
• People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
• The Sierra Club
• National Wildlife Federation
• Audubon Society
• Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
• Friends of the Earth
• Greenpeace
• Earth First!47
• Coalition to Save the Preserve (CSP)
• Environmental Task Force
• The Frogs
• In Defense of Animals
• New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance
• Fund for Animals"

More sinisterly yet, there seems to be no sharp delineation between legitimate protest and intimidation and violence.

"Shared ideology and a willingness to engage in illegal and violent activities in pursuit of environmental and animal protectionism provide independent actors with structural cohesion through a commonality of purpose. After all, any individual willing to take direct action in support of the movement’s overall aim—to counter environmental and animal exploitation—is automatically considered to be part of the movement."
(my emphasis)
Just in case you think I am being something of an apologist for "illegal and violent activities"- irrespective of the good intentions that motivate them, let me offer the definition of "direct action" contained within the document:

"The concept of direct action, as ecoterrorists practice it, is a euphemism for illegal and violent activities designed to halt the destruction of the environment and liberate animals. It is precisely this willingness to engage in illegal acts to further their sociopolitical aims that separates ecoterrorists from mainstream environmentalists and animal protectionists."
Now, irrelevant of the illegality of the crimes in question, the important point here is that "violence" is not a term that applies solely to living things. In US and EU law violence can be done to objects and possessions, thereby potentially criminalising any sort of obstructive or destructive action, as Matthew Harwood made plain in his CiF article:

"The US government's decision to call the ELF a domestic terrorist organisation owes largely to its definition of terrorism, which includes destruction of property, a characteristic out of step with more academic and international definitions of the concept.

The FBI defines terrorism as: "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

The British government similarly fetishises property, as attacks on property fulfil the concept of terrorism within the Terrorism Act of 2000. The EU also agrees that attacks on property constitute terrorism."

In direct contradiction, the UN awards attacks upon inert objects no such title.

The document is, quite simply, a pre-emptive case for detention without trial of anyone seen to be involved in any sort of active environmentalism on suspicion of terrorist offences. In case you think I am exaggerating somewhat, John Vidal wrote recently that:

"According to the FBI, "eco-terrorism", or "ecotage", is now the number one domestic terrorism threat in the US, greater than that of rightwing extremists, anti-abortion groups and animal rights organisations, and on a par with al-Qaida."

Yes. You did read that right. The FBI consider ecoterrorists to represent as significant a threat to US security as Al Qaida. At least in the UK and Europe they haven't yet resorted to the US policy of profiling everyone and everything passing through the country as potential meat for a program of arbitrary detention. Seeing as how desperate Brown and his corporate facefuckfest are to emulate every aspect of American policy it can't be long until some coal mining company tires of direct action against their assets and looks to raise their game a notch through some expensive but highly targeted lobbying or some cunning application of anti-harrassment law.

But what really, really makes my blood boil about this whole phenomenon of security services struggling to justify their enormous budgets through the invention of fantastical terrorism "threats" is the mortal insult it represents to the legitimate victims of terrorism. Lets just run over some of the appalling crimes attributed to the ALF listed in the document:

" . . . several Wachovia branches in California were vandalized, and ecoterrorists placed a small incendiary device in one of the bank’s after-hours deposit boxes. Ecoterrorist attacks against Wachovia were not limited to the bank’s facilities; ALF activists claimed responsibility for vandalizing a Wachovia executive’s vehicle in Portland, Oregon. Similarly, ALF activists hacked the web page of LaGrange Capital Management, another investment firm and Huntingdon Life Society shareholder, temporarily depriving three hundred mid-level managers of access to the company’s electronic communications. . . "
Yes, these inhuman monsters went as far as to deprive mid-level technocrats access to their email. SHOCK! HORROR!

In light of the well-documented atrocities committed by US forces or driven by US ideology around the globe this is the lowest insult imaginable to survivors of the plethora of crimes against humanity carried out in the name of US imperialism. Imagine what some raped survivor of the Chilean disappearances would think of this? Or a widow of a victim of the Madrid train bombing or an inhabitant of Omagh?

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