From my friend Peter on the Yabis, Makah whaling discussion list.
I'm extremely opposed to both PETA and the whole FBI "domestic
terrorism" witch hunt. A plague on both their houses. PETA asked for
FBI Papers Show Terror Inquiries Into PETA; Other Groups Tracked
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 20, 2005; A11
FBI counterterrorism investigators are monitoring domestic U.S.
advocacy groups engaged in antiwar, environmental, civil rights and
other causes, the American Civil Liberties Union charged yesterday as
it released new FBI records that it said detail the extent of the
The documents, disclosed as part of a lawsuit that challenges FBI
treatment of groups that planned demonstrations at last year's
political conventions, show the bureau has opened a preliminary
terrorism investigation into People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals, the well-known animal rights group based in Norfolk.
The papers offer no proof of PETA's involvement in illegal activity.
But more than 100 pages of heavily censored FBI files show the agency
used secret informants and tracked the group's events for years,
including an animal rights conference in Washington in July 2000, a
community meeting at an Indiana college in spring 2003 and a planned
August 2004 protest of a celebrity fur endorser.
The documents show the FBI cultivated sources such as a "well
insulated" PETA insider, who attended the 2000 meeting to gain
credibility "within the animal rights/Ruckus movements." The FBI also
kept information on Greenpeace and the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee, the papers show.
The disclosure comes amid recent revelations about the extent of
domestic spying by the government after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks. Those disclosures include the expansion within the United
States of military intelligence and databases covering, among others,
peace activists; increased use of "national security letters" by the
FBI to examine personal records of tens of thousands of citizens; and,
most recently, warrantless eavesdropping of overseas telephone calls
and e-mails by U.S. citizens suspected of ties to terrorists.
ACLU leaders contend that the memos show that FBI and government Joint
Terrorism Task Forces across the country have expanded the definition
of domestic terrorism to people who engage in mainstream political
activity, including nonviolent protest and civil disobedience.
"The FBI should use its resources to investigate credible threats to
national security instead of spending time tracking innocent Americans
who criticize government policy, or monitoring groups that have not
broken the law," ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson said.
Previously released papers showed that the FBI kept files that
mentioned the organizations, she said, "But we didn't know that they
actually launched counterterrorism investigations into these groups."
FBI officials said that the agency is not using the threat of terrorism
to suppress domestic dissent and that is has no alternative but to
investigate if a group or its members have ties to others that are
guilty or suspected of violence or illegal conduct.
"As a matter of policy, the FBI does not target individuals or
organizations for investigation because of any political belief.
Somewhere, there has to be a crime attached," FBI spokesman John Miller
said. "At the same time, the fact that you have ties to an organization
or political beliefs does not make you immune from ending up in FBI
files when you go and commit a crime."
The status of the PETA inquiry is unclear. Justice Department spokesman
Brian Roehrkasse said: "The Justice Department does not comment on or
confirm the existence of criminal investigations. All matters referred
to the department by the intelligence agencies for purposes of further
investigation are taken seriously and thoroughly reviewed."
PETA general counsel Jeff Kerr called the FBI's conduct an abuse of
power that punishes activists for speaking out.
"These documents show a disturbing erosion of freedom of association
and freedom of speech that we've taken for granted and that set us
apart from oppressive countries like the former Iraq," Kerr said,
adding that the documents show no illegal activity by PETA. "You
shouldn't have to wonder when you go to a speech at a college campus,
or when you go to a meeting, whether you're being surveilled by the
FBI. It goes back to the dark days of Nixon and the enemies list."
John Lewis, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism,
told a Senate panel in May that environmental and animal rights
militants posed the biggest terrorist threats in the United States,
citing more than 150 pending investigations.
The ACLU said it received 2,357 pages of files on PETA, Greenpeace, the
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the ACLU itself. One
file referring to the committee included a contact list for students
and peace activists who attended a 2002 conference at Stanford
University aimed at ending sanctions then in place in Iraq.
The FBI has said that when it interviewed members of groups planning
demonstrations at last year's conventions, it did not yield information
into criminal activity. But the agency said the interviews were
prompted by specific threats. The latest data lay out a similar,
broader pattern regarding 150 groups whose FBI files the ACLU has asked
For example, a June 19, 2002, e-mail cites a source offering
information on Greenpeace regarding "activists who show a clear
predisposition to violate the law." Other documents contain suspicions
that PETA funds, supports or otherwise acts as a front for
"eco-terrorist" groups that use arson, bombs or vandalism, such as the
Animal Liberation Front or Earth Liberation Front.
Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company