Democrats & Liberals Archives

There Must Be Limits On What Is Considered Terrorism

The government is stretching the legal definition of terrorism way too far. First it was extended with the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. Then a number of states jumped on board with ecoterrorism legislation. Now the we have the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (S. 1926.IS, S. 3880.IS, and H.R. 4239.IH) introduced by Inoffe in the Senate (4 cosponsors) and Petri of Wisconsin in the House (44 cosponsors) which Bush signed into law on Monday (11/27/06).

An analysis of the bill at Philadelphia's Indy Media states that the legislation covers a wide range of activities from impeding business to property damage to releasing animals. We can probably rest assured that it will be extended to those who support these "terrorists."

The issues at play with both ecoterrorism and with the AETA is to protect commercial interests and research facilities. The "terrorism" under AETA includes "blockades" and "trespassing." Those pushing for this legislation have primarily been biotechnology interests, corporate agricultural, and pharmaceutical companies. The concerns are primarily with interruption of their business activities.

On "Black" Friday in downtown Portland, demonstrators picketed stores selling furs. Would AETA stretch so far as to cover these types of activities? Certainly it will extend to some of the activities of groups such as Greenpeace who "interfere" with whaling operations. Or the some of the political strategies of groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Of course, those who economically support groups such as Greenpeace and PETA are by extension likely to be considered material supporters of terrorism under such sweeping legislation.

All of this is stretching "terrorism" into areas that it should never have gone. The liberal use of this term extends extra-legal surveillance and detention to a broader and broader percentage of the population. It also is clearly a slippery slope. If terrorism extends to primarily interference with economic activity, then almost anything falls into that category. Boycotting a business because of its labor practices, marching in a demonstration that temporarily restricts business access, writing a letter to the editor that speaks poorly of a business or industry, all of these can interfere with "economic activity."

Destruction of property and trespassing are already against the law. Why in the world is it necessary to make those offenses "terrorist" activities? There is absolutely no reason to do so unless one wants to extend the aggressive anti-terrorism legislation more broadly. In other words, to use the law to squash dissent and dialog.

The ongoing expansion of the legal bounds of "terrorism" should give all of us pause. Personally, it scares the hell out of me. It is a sneaky way of subverting our constitutional and civil liberties. It also raises the anti significantly for how much we are willing to risk in order to raise our voice in this country. It is one thing to participate in an activity which deliberately impedes a business doing business - a picket for example - realizing that one might get arrested for trespassing. It is quite another if the consequences of that are indefinite detention without access to counsel or courts. Also, supporting a group like Greenpeace is both a political and social statement. Being indefinitely detained without counsel or courts for that support is an effective way to quash such groups.

All of this raises even more questions about the detention facilities for which Halliburton has a $385 million contract

See also:
Megan Tady, 11/15/06, News Standard, House Passes 'Terrorism' Act Against Animal Activists

Check the Thomas legislative guide for Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (S. 1926.IS, S. 3880.IS, and H.R. 4239.IH)

Gitmo Grows and Halliburton Gains

Posted by Rowan Wolf at November 29, 2006 10:52 AM
Comment #196846

This truly is a very scary time in our country’s history. Unfortunatly, too many people in the country have allowed themselves to be dumbed down to civics and scared by the boogyman. This has been a long time coming, terrorism was simply the catalyst to excelerate implementation. What we are witnessing today are the dangers of public education run at the hands of the government. The government sets the standards for public education, greatly influencing the growth of government power. Most revolutions are top down. America is taking a different approach, from the bottom up. Make the bottom dependent and ignorant, then scare the bejeezus out of them. Suddenly, government becomes God. This folks has been in the works for decades. A slow but effective method. So effective that many peole cannot wake up to the reality, and actually defend these types of actions.

Posted by: JayJay at November 29, 2006 11:47 AM
Comment #196865

To me, it sounds just like the hate-crimes and anti-gun legislation that was passed.
Good post.

Careful there now, your starting to sound like me:)

Posted by: kctim at November 29, 2006 1:44 PM
Comment #196867


You’re right government should not be in the education business.

Posted by: Keith at November 29, 2006 1:46 PM
Comment #196881

Great article. They passed it pretty fast.

In the good old days, Big Business called people they wanted to demonize, Communists. Now, they are planning to demonize people with the word “terrorist.” “Terrorist” sounds a lot worse than “Communist.”

If we don’t knock this down now, it will become a full-blown vendetta against animal-rights groups, environmental groups or any other group that interferes with the rights of Big Business.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at November 29, 2006 2:50 PM
Comment #196885

Lets make it simple.

A foreign national who commits an act of war on the behave of a Non-Governmental Organization is a Terrorist

A national who commits an act of war is a Criminal.

Anyone who commits an act of war on behave of a Nation-State is a Soldier.

Posted by: David at November 29, 2006 3:19 PM
Comment #196908

We too often like to make distinctions where none is necessary. It is similar to hate crimes legislation. The motivation of the person should not matter. The act is what counts.

If these animal rights people steal, damage property or assault someone, it is a crime. You can call it what you want.

The animal rights folks in your linked analysis are being a little loose with facts. If you support a criminal enterprise crossing state lines and conspiring with others, you are breaking the law. They imply this is something special to the animal rights people.

If you or I support someone in his efforts to commit a crime, we can be held responsible. This legislation does not seem to change that. The only change looks like they are taking the vandalism and intimidation done by animal rights groups more seriously.

I think that many of the animal rights people just do not see what they are doing as a crime. In that respect they are much like anti-abortion activists, among whom the more agressive behave in very similar ways and suffer similar legal problems.

Posted by: Jack at November 29, 2006 5:13 PM
Comment #196942


I think the danger here is that the executive branch has taken it upon itself to treat terrorists as a category apart from mere criminals. I think a trespassing animal rights activist should be prosecuted in criminal courts, not in a military tribunal. We both know how suspected terrorists are treated, and no matter what we think about that, I think we can both agree that anti-abortion or animal rights activists should have the safeguards of the U.S. judicial system.

I’m not claiming that the bills referred to in the article actually do treat criminals as terrorists (I haven’t read them, but I would be shocked if they do), but the article writer does have a point — terrorism is the buzzword of the day and is a good way to garner support for whatever you want to do.

Posted by: Trent at November 29, 2006 7:34 PM
Comment #196945

Sorry, semantics DO count. There is a significant difference in the meaning and context of criminal vs terrorist. Not to mention the general usage and understanding.

Posted by: womanmarine at November 29, 2006 7:40 PM
Comment #196947

Indeed, womenmarine. Suspected criminals are considered innocent until proven guilty. We reverse that for suspected terrorists.

Posted by: Trent at November 29, 2006 7:59 PM
Comment #196965

Anybody that didnt see this coming when the Patriot act was passed raise your hand.

Posted by: j2t2 at November 29, 2006 10:18 PM
Comment #196997

Just on Greenpeace in the Antarctic…

Check out the photo here at my blog:

Peaceful protest is one thing - ramming your ship nose first into another is something else. If the new legislation can be used to litigate groups such as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd from such dangerous acts in the high seas, then I for one am for it. A line does need to be drawn, and ramming ships - even if you disagree with their activities - should not be placed within it’s bounds.

Posted by: david@tokyo at November 30, 2006 3:44 AM
Comment #197000

“Indeed, womenmarine. Suspected criminals are considered innocent until proven guilty. We reverse that for suspected terrorists.”

Posted by: Trent at November 29, 2006 07:59 PM

Indeed, womenmarine. Suspected criminals are considered innocent until proven guilty. We reverse that for suspected terrorists and our troops suspected of wrongdoing in Iraq

Posted by: tomd at November 30, 2006 5:05 AM
Comment #197007


If you have evidence that troops accused of crimes are not receiving due process, please post it. I’m not an expert on how the military dispenses justice and if there are abuses, let’s talk about them.

Posted by: Trent at November 30, 2006 9:14 AM
Comment #197011

Rowan Wolf,

This question “What is a terrorist?” has bothered me for a long time. If you are going to say that terrorists aren’t entitled to any sort of due process, that is a slippery slope. At a bare minimum, you need a good definition of what a terrorist is. Otherwise, we are all potential “detainees”.

A couple of years ago a usually level-headed, intelligent older gentleman I know was complaining about all of the viruses on his computer and said, without a trace of irony, that it was “terrorism”. We need to some clear standards that illustrate why teenage computer geeks and other ordinary criminals are not terrorists.

Can anyone doubt that if you could magically transport the civil rights activists to the post 9/11 era, they would regularly be described by their opponents as “terrorists”? I can just imagine that rhetoric about how they are ruthlessly trying to undermine the American (=segregated) way of life.*


Don’t be obtuse. No one here is saying that animal rights activists should be free to do whatever they want. The question is whether they should be lumped in with terrorists.

You can enforce laws against speeding without equating speeding with terrorism.


Ditto. If troops in Iraq are being deprived of due process, please give us the evidence. I’m sure many liberals will rush to defend them, including the ACLU.

*By the way, I realize that southern segregationists were mostly Democrats. Just trying to save you guys some typing…

Posted by: Woody Mena at November 30, 2006 10:28 AM
Comment #197012

Thanks for this Rowan. More detailed analysis of the bills and related Green Scare rhetoric is available at Best, Will

Posted by: Will Potter at November 30, 2006 10:31 AM
Comment #197066

From Webster’s
Main Entry: ter·ror·ism
Pronunciation: ‘ter-&r-“i-z&m
Function: noun
: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

sounds alot like the current administration!!

1. Characteristic of someone who employs terrorism (especially as a political weapon); “terrorist activity”.

1. A radical who employs terror as a political weapon

It is not the label that is the problem, the problem is that by using the label, the administration wants to bypass due process and civil liberties.
Initially (thru the Patriot Act) it was at least guised (flimsily) for “national security” and so the sheep bought into it to “stay safe” (HA!!!)
Now it is being done to protect Corporate profits!! I guess the judicial system is just not “quick enough” — isn’t THAT the rational for allowing the illegal domestic spying???
So now just label someone a terrorist, send them to Syria to be tortured and voila GM is saved!! and everyone knows, “What’s good for GM is good for the US”!!
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA (maniacal laughter)!!!!
those of you supporting the Criminal Bush deserve to be sent to Syria for a little “agressive interrogation”

Posted by: Russ at November 30, 2006 2:09 PM
Comment #197085


Didn’t you hear? Syria is now lumped in with Iran as an impediment to an “Iraq solution” You’ll probably end up in Kazakhstan instead…


From the definitions, i.e. terrorism is the use of terror, a.k.a. fear. Isn’t Bush guilty of terrorism, using fear as the great divider?

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at November 30, 2006 3:18 PM
Comment #197110


I do not think they should be unless they do terrorist things. I put radical environmentalist in the same camp as radical anti-abortionists. Both groups have their mostly peaceful people and their weirdos who feel they are on a mission from God (or maybe Gaia)

Posted by: Jack at November 30, 2006 5:58 PM
Comment #197712
We too often like to make distinctions where none is necessary. It is similar to hate crimes legislation. The motivation of the person should not matter. The act is what counts.

If these animal rights people steal, damage property or assault someone, it is a crime. You can call it what you want…

If you or I support someone in his efforts to commit a crime, we can be held responsible. This legislation does not seem to change that….

However, there are already laws against all of this. The government can and does prosecute organized crime for example. It’s not like these people do whatever they want, and poor little defenseless corporations and fur companies can’t do anything about it. Radical animal and eco rights people have already been arrested and given extremely long prison sentences.

There’s no need to cover any of this under terrorism legislation, or make theft, trespassing, destruction, etc. especially bad when done for animal rights as opposed to say, greed.

Also, for something to be considered terrorism, it must involve actual violence. However, no one has been killed by these groups, and for example that animal “liberation” group make a specific doctrine to never hurt any animal, “human or non-human” as they put it.

Most so-called “eco-terrorism” is at worst more accurately called sabotage.

Finally, this whole thing ties in with not just these groups but the executive branch trying to stifle any dissent like in anti-war groups where I read most have been heavily infiltrated by law enforcement and even wiretapped.

I can’t help but wonder that if this administration was here during the latter 1800s, the Underground Railroad would have been called a domestic terror network, and Harriet Tubman would have been considered an illegal combatant.

Posted by: thom at December 4, 2006 9:38 PM
Comment #197819

THIS SAYS IT ALL…to D’ and R’s

Posted by: les at December 5, 2006 5:07 PM
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