By: Rowan Wolf of Uncommon Thought Journal
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
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)