Radical media, politics and culture.

The Criminalization of Ecology

http://www.earthfirstjournal.org/feature.cfm?ID=96 &issue=v21n7

The Criminalization of Ecology

by Warcry

As the assault on the environment intensifies, so does
the criminalization of the resistance to that assault.
Crafted under pressure from various right-wing
elements and the corporate lobby, recent
"eco-terrorist" legislation seeks to neutralize all
forms of direct action that interfere with industry

As the assault on the environment intensifies, so does
the criminalization of the resistance to that assault.
Crafted under pressure from various right-wing
elements and the corporate lobby, recent
"eco-terrorist" legislation seeks to neutralize all
forms of direct action that interfere with industry
production. Additionally, Congress has steadily
fattened the FBI's counter-terrorism budget from $78.5
million in 1993 to $301.2 million in 1999.

Illustrating this increasingly repressive climate,
Joint Terrorism Task Forces have now been set up
throughout the US with the goal of organizing local
law enforcement agencies into effective
counter-terrorism units. By establishing surveillance
and information sharing on activists, the FBI can
empower and encourage the subsequent prosecution of
"eco-terrorists." The result is an increasingly
dangerous climate for activists. Free's case is a wake
up call. We must re-strategize and evolve our tactics
if we hope to survive and maintain an effective
defense of the environment despite these treacherous
political developments.

The Juvenile Justice Bill

After the Columbine High
School shootings, the US Senate passed the May 1999
Juvenile Justice Bill. Though unrelated in any way to
"juvenile justice," several provisions were included
that directly target animal rights and environmental
activists. Reflecting industry pressure and influence,
the Juvenile Justice Bill condemns people who commit
politically motivated nonviolent offenses with
exceedingly disproportionate prison terms.
Unfortunately, this law is only one example of a
systematic attempt by industry and government to
discourage direct action by punishing activists with
jail time that far exceeds time given to truly violent
and dangerous people. Such sentencing preferences
illustrate the priority the state gives to property
over human life. The Juvenile Justice Bill also:

Makes it a federal crime to distribute information on
how to make bombs (over the Internet or otherwise) or
other weapons of mass destruction if the "teacher
intends" for the information to be used to commit a
federal violent crime, or knows that the recipient
will use the information to commit such a crime.

Enhances penalties under the Animal Enterprise
Terrorism Act by changing a minimum sentence to a
mandatory five years instead of one.

3. Creates a
"National Animal Terrorism and Ecoterrorism Incident
Clearinghouse" to "accept, collect and maintain"
information on crimes against animal enterprises or
commercial activities because of their “perceived
impact” on the environment. Records of such incidents
are available for all law enforcement agencies.

Enhances sentences for "gangs," defined as the
assembly of three or more people. These sentencing
guidelines promote selective and politically biased
prosecution by applying more serious penalties against
those who commit crimes in defense of animals or the
environment. The courts are being asked to evaluate
the actions of an individual and the thoughts behind
an action instead of simply evaluating the actual
crime. The bill also undermines the First Amendment
protection of websites and publications.

The RICO Act

In May 1999, Senators Orin G. Hatch
(R-UT) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced an
amendment to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organization (RICO) Act, aimed at "Animal Enterprise
Terrorism and Ecoterrorism." RICO was originally
designed to combat traditional organized crime and its
infiltration of legitimate enterprises; however, its
most innovative, and controversial, aspects are
provisions which allow the state to seize property
owned by anyone charged with being part of a "criminal
enterprise." RICO targets illegal activity organized
across state lines. Thus, if you "organize" using
email and telephone, you can potentially be prosecuted
under federal laws. In the past, RICO has been
employed primarily against white-collar criminals,
anti-abortion protesters and mobsters. Now, target
groups can include just about anyone.

Oregon Declares War on Activists

On March 12, two
bills intended to stiffen penalties for
"eco-terrorists" were unanimously approved by the
Oregon House of Representatives. Under HR 2344 and
2385, Oregon’s organized crime laws would be expanded
to include activities such as tree spiking and
sabotage of animal research, livestock or agricultural
operations. Convictions under the laws would be
punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $300,000
fine. Reflecting the hysterical attitude and culture
of propaganda currently prevailing in the Oregon
legislature, Representative Bob Jenson claimed he
received threatening letters and phone calls a year
ago when lawmakers were first considering HR 2344 and
2385. He stated, "I will do everything to ensure that
if you break the law as part of those protests, that
you will get free room and board for 20 years." The
process of attacking social movements in Oregon fits
into a larger pattern of criminalizing dissent with
respect to the anti-globalization movement, which is
made up of anarchists, environmentalists, animal
rights activists, students, Unions, teachers and
others concerned about the fate of the planet and each
other. David Helvarg, author of The War Against the
stresses how difficult it is for ecologically
destructive industries to “look good” and publicly
justify their actions; therefore, their strategy has
been "to make us look bad, demonize us and make
themselves look respectable as a result." If one were
to compare a cancer-causing industrial polluter to a
teenage monkeywrencher, it would become glaringly
apparent to the public as to who is the real

Groups to Watch Out For

"A growing network of
pro-technology activists is making sure that the
message of my book, EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to
Save Nature,
will produce results. By results, I mean
congressional hearings and legislation to protect the
public from environmentally motivated violence," says Ron
Arnold in a Christian Science Monitor interview. Arnold is
a spokesperson for the right-wing Wise Use movement
and the executive director of the Center for the
Defense of Free Enterprise. In a 1992 interview, he
said, "We’re out to kill the fuckers. Our goal is to
eliminate environmentalism once and for all." He is a
former spokesperson for Dow and Union Carbide and has
financial support from corporations such as Exxon,
DuPont, Georgia Pacific and Boise Cascade. Public
relations firms, lobbying groups and think tanks work
with and fund the Wise Use movement. Included amongst
these institutions is the Heritage Foundation, which
published a report entitled, Ecoterrorism: The
Dangerous Fringe of the Environmental Movement.
report is a typical Wise Use mixture of truth, fiction
and innuendo which targets Earth First! as a violent
terrorist group. The report concludes with a strong
denunciation of the use of violence as a tactic and
claims that radical environmentalists are locked into
an ever-increasing rampage of terrorist activity which
is maiming, and which will inevitably result in the
killing of innocent people. The report goes on to
identify EF! as the enemy and pleads with the
environmental community to isolate EF! and other
so-called violent radicals from the environmental
movement. It is interesting to note that this report
was released in April 1990 and spread quickly through
the Wise Use network. A think tank linked to the CIA,
the National Strategy Information Center, operates a
Counterterrorism Study Group (CSG). The CSG has
identified all the possible sources of terrorism in
the world today. Along with Iraq, Syria, and Lybia, it
has concluded that a new source of terrorism exists
within the "ecological movement," especially the
elements of the movement which espouse biocentric
views. The mission of the CSG is to identify the
nature of various terrorist threats, devise new
methodologies to analyze them and to implement
responses through legal, military, political and
intelligence means. The CSG has an international
composition with academics, corporate officials and
former government specialists in terrorism.

Disinformation campaigns and psychological warfare
against environmentalists are only some of the
techniques that are practiced—not only by the FBI, but
by a whole alphabet soup of federal organizations,
along with the participation of local police forces,
private security firms, local government and Wise Use
sympathizers. "The environmental movement is being
subjected to obvious surveillance, intimidation,
anonymous letters, phony leaflets, telephone threats,
police over-reaction and brutality, dubious arrests
and other threatening actions unfamiliar to most
activists," says Chip Berlet in his article "Hunting
the Green Menace." Berlet continues that the "labeling
of a group as violent, terrorist or pro-communist is
often a first step toward the delegitimizing of that
group. Such labeling undermines public support and
thus sanctions the use of aggressive surveillance and
harassment by government agencies or private security
firms. There is also a self-fulfilling prophecy with
labeling, as police are likely to respond with
unjustified force when they have been trained to think
of peaceful protesters as violent terrorists."