The New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau is back with more Chicken Little journalism. Lichtblau is flying solo today without James “Turkey Lurkey” Risen, who must be making last-minute book edits. Here’s Lichtblau’s latest attempt at hyping the Times’s same old, Bush=King George scare storyline: F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show
Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.
F.B.I. officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.’s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.
But the documents, coming after the Bush administration’s confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a “Vegan Community Project.” Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group’s “semi-communistic ideology.” A third indicates the bureau’s interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The documents, provided to The New York Times over the past week, came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. For more than a year, the A.C.L.U. has been seeking access to information in F.B.I. files on about 150 protest and social groups that it says may have been improperly monitored.
In other words, this is old news, regenerated by the ACLU, and repackaged to heighten anti-Bush hysteria over targeted FBI investigations of radical groups that are driven not by some nefarious need to snoop on innocent Americans, but by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.
Why, by the way, doesn’t the Times post the documents the ACLU provided so we can see and judge them for ourselves?
Instead, Lichtblau selects a few excerpts from the heavily redacted FBI files to put the agency’s investigators in the worst light. Note that the primary groups investigated include PETA and Greenpeace, which deny any ties to eco-terrorism, but have reportedly helped fund militant activities. Via Marc Levin at TAE Online:
All told, in August and September alone, ELF’s acts of eco-terrorism have cost individuals and businesses some $54 million, the most damage ever inflicted by eco-terrorism in a two-month period. The FBI has now declared ELF the nation’s most threatening homegrown terrorist organization.
A related group, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), targets laboratories that conduct vital scientific research on animals. Walter Low, a researcher at a University of Minnesota laboratory, noted that a recent ALF attack on his facility “has set back two years research conducted there on Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.”
The ELF and ALF have also taken credit for arsons at a Vail, Colorado ski resort, as well as damaging crop fields at university research centers in the Midwest, fur farms in the Pacific Northwest, meat vendors in the San Francisco Bay area, and department stores on the East Coast.
Since the ELF split off from the radical environmental group Earth First! in 1998, its attacks have caused more than $100 million in damage in the United States.
However, the plague of eco-terrorism is hardly confined to America. In Europe, terrorist incidents in the name of animal rights have increased from 39 in 1999 to 110 in 2002. The European news agency Novum recently reported that the damage caused by animal rights activists in Europe in the last 20 years totals $60 million.
While these acts of eco-terror are, of course, illegal, few people realize that the money being used to support or commit these crimes has itself been illegally laundered through tax-exempt organizations. Environmental organizations designated by the IRS as 501(c)(3) groups are illegally transferring funds to non-exempt groups, which then use the money for eco-terror campaigns.
Wholesale transfers from more tax-restrictive organizations to less-restrictive organizations are illegal on their face because there is no way to be sure that co-mingled funds won’t be used for non-exempt purposes. Tax-exempt activities are limited to: charitable, religious, educational, scientific, and literary work, public safety testing, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
On September 22, the charitable oversight group Public Interest Watch filed a complaint with the IRS charging Greenpeace with making such illegal transfers. In a report entitled “Greenpeace, Dirty Money: Tax Violations in the World of Non-Profits,” Public Interest Watch found that Greenpeace Fund, a 501(c)(3) transferred over $10 million in exempt funds to non-exempt Greenpeace organizations such as Greenpeace, Inc., between 1998 and 2000. The Canadian equivalent of the IRS recently denied Greenpeace tax-exempt status because it determined its activities were not wholly charitable.
Greenpeace, Inc. and other non-exempt Greenpeace entities benefitting from these transfers have committed numerous acts of eco-terrorism. They have blockaded a U.S. naval base, broken into the central control building of a nuclear power station in England, overrun the Exxon Mobil corporate headquarters in Texas, and rammed a ship into the French sailboat competing in the 2003 America’s Cup, permanently damaging the vessel.
In April 2002, Greenpeace activists forcibly boarded a cargo ship in Florida carrying Brazilian wood. In connection with this incident, federal prosecutors obtained an indictment against Greenpeace this July for violating an 1872 law prohibiting the unauthorized boarding of “any vessel about to arrive at the place of her destination.” The trial in this case is scheduled for December in Miami.
Greenpeace isn’t alone in funneling tax-exempt dollars into eco-terrorism efforts. According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has donated at least $70,000 from its tax-exempt coffers to the ALF.
Apparently, the Times’ view is that not only should counterterrorism officials look the other way at Islamic terrorism, but they should also do nothing to stop the funding, planning, and execution of eco-terrorism as well.
Ed Morrissey is on the same wavelength:
No one got punished for anything, and this handwringing is getting absolutely silly. Domestic terrorists, especially ecoterrorists, caused $100 million in damage over the past decade. With that kind of track record, the FBI will certainly be looking at the economic structure that allows them to continue their operations. As long as they do so in a legal manner — a point which Eric “The Sky Is Falling” Lichtblau never gets around to making in his screed — then what’s the problem?
When will the New York Times grow up?
Six arrested in eco-terrorism investigation
Legislator urges tougher penalties for eco-terrorism
Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise: ELF chronology