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Environmentalist prisoners listed alongside neo-nazis & anti-abortion murderers

The Counter-Terrorism Unit, a division of the Bureau of Prisons in the US, is listing prisoners who are environmentalists and animal rights activists alongside the Army of God and Aryan Nations, writes Will Potter.

13 March 2011

The animal rights and environmental movements in the United States have never harmed a single human being, according to the FBI and DHS, but new internal documents show that prison officials classify these activists as “domestic terrorists” along with much more dangerous prisoners.

Earlier this week I reported on the internal intelligence documents that are distributed by the Counter-Terrorism Unit to prison officials and law enforcement. The unit monitors the letters, visits and phone calls of “terrorist prisoners” to identify any potential threats.

For example, some of the “domestic terrorists” monitored include:

  • Clayton Lee Waagner, a member of the Army of God who plotted to murder abortion clinic employees. He was found guilty of more than fifty federal charges including threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.
  • Buford Furrow, a member of the Aryan Nations convicted for the shooting at the Los Angeles Jewish Community Center that injured three children and killed one person.

The Counter-Terrorism Unit also lists a section for “Domestic Terrorism – Environmental Extremism.” The activists listed are much different from the Waagners and Furrows of the world:

  • Daniel McGowan, convicted for his role in two arsons targeting genetic engineering and the logging of old-growth forests.
  • The SHAC 7, a group of animal right activists convicted of “conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism” for running a website that listed personal information about corporate executives, and supported property destruction.

The documents also include a section titled “Upcoming Domestic Terrorist Releases,” which list prisoners, their release dates, and “association.” For animal rights and environmental activists, the “associations” are often incorrect.

For example: members of the SHAC 7  are sometimes listed as “ALF/ELF” (for Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front) even though they have never been accused of a crime by those groups. The terrorist label is applied recklessly based loosely on perceived political beliefs.

These internal documents make clear that the labeling of activists as “eco-terrorists” is much more than a public relations ploy by corporations and the politicians who represent them. The “number one domestic terrorism threat” rhetoric has worked its way into the top levels of government, and has saturated the entire criminal justice system.

Activists are being labeled “eco-terrorists” before they even set foot in a court room and, if convicted, that label follows them into the prison system where it legally redefines them.

They can end up in secretive political prisons called Communications Management Units. And even if they don’t, law enforcement and prison officials are receiving bulletins like these, which serve to only further instill fear.

Will Potter is an award-winning independent journalist based in Washington, D.C., who has become a leading authority on “eco-terrorism,” the environmental and animal rights movements, and civil liberties post 9/11.

He has written for publications including: The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, The Vermont Law Review, Legal Affairs, The Chronicle of Higher Education, In These Times, The Texas Observer, The Washington City Paper, Z and Counterpunch. His work has been circulated widely on political websites, and has appeared in Opposing Viewpoints (Greenhaven Press, 2006), Punishing Protest (National Lawyer’s Guild, 2007), Censored ’08 (Seven Stories Press, 2007), and course materials for universities.

He created the news service, where he reports on the Green Scare and history repeating itself.



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