The War on Eco-Terror

| Mon Oct. 3, 2005 2:47 PM EDT

Kelly Hearn, a former UPI reporter, notes in an article on Alternet that the FBI is cracking down on eco-terrorism, which is fair enough, but that the federal government and various conservative groups are also pushing to expand the fight to include mainstream environmental groups and regular protestors. I don't really hold any brief for people who torch SUVs or firebomb McDonalds, but some of this seems ludicrous:

As the FBI works to shut down elusive and decentralized eco-terrorist networks, civil rights groups say agents are going so far as illegally spying on activists. In June, a federal disclosure lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union forced the FBI to admit having collected 2,400 pages of files on Greenpeace, the most vocal critic of the Bush administration's environmental record, in addition to other groups….

At a June hearing, [Larry Frankel, legislative director of the ACLU] told a Senate committee that under such a law "people who protest outside of an animal research facility and block the entrance to that facility may be considered eco-terrorists. On the other hand, people who protest outside of a weapons-manufacturing plant and block the entrance to that facility will not be subject to enhanced penalties even though they are engaged in essentially similar activities."

The main problem here seems to be that the Patriot Act's definition of terrorism—any dangerous activity that "appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion"—blurs the line between firebombing and standard protesting. Not to mention the fact that this is all a very transparent attempt to attack environmental groups; one hardly need condone eco-terrorism to point out that this is all extremely slimy.

UPDATE: Dave Roberts of Grist has more on this.