It was by founded by investigative journalist Will Potter in 2006. Glenn Greenwald described Potter as “the most knowledgeable journalist in the country on these issues,” and said GNR “exhaustively covers” civil liberties threats. Potter is currently a Knight Fellow in Law Reporting at the University of Michigan, and serves as executive editor of GNR, overseeing the news team and all editorial content.
GNR’s reporting has:
Here’s an introduction to the issues we cover:
What are the Government’s Terrorism Priorities?
According to West Point, violence by right-wing groups has increased 400% since the 1990s. These groups have bombed the Oklahoma City federal building, murdered doctors, and admittedly created weapons of mass destruction.
Yet these groups are not treated as terrorists by the government. A Homeland Security official said that the Oklahoma City bomber was “not a terrorist,” and these groups are routinely ignored in terrorism documents.
Instead, the focus has been on non-violent political activists with dissident views and those who are threatening corporate profits. [Learn more: “7 Groups the FBI and Corporations Have Classified as ‘Terrorists‘”]
The FBI has singled out the animal rights and environmental movements, in particular, as its top target, going so far as to call these protesters “the number one domestic terrorism threat.”
The animal rights and environmental movements, like every other social movement throughout history, have both legal and illegal elements. There are people who leaflet or protest, and their are groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front that break the law and destroy property. [Learn more: “14 Incredible Photos of Brazilian Activists Liberating Beagles from Cruel Lab.”]
None of these activists, though, have ever injured a human being. In fact, the only act of attempted murder in the history of the U.S. animal rights movement was coordinated by corporate provocateurs.
This disproportionate, heavy-handed government crackdown on the animal rights and environmental movements, and the reckless use of the word “terrorism,” has had dangerous consequences.
New Laws Targeting Protesters and Whistleblowers
Corporations have lobbied for new laws that carve out special protections for their profits, and special police powers to be used against their opponents.
Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
The pharmaceutical and agriculture industries lobbied secretly for a new law called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which classified non-violent civil disobedience as “terrorism” if it causes a loss of profits to an animal enterprise. The first prosecution of the law involved animal rights activists accused of chalking protest slogans on the street. It has also been used to prosecute animal rights activists who have freed mink from fur farms.
The agriculture industry has been rocked by a series of damning investigations by animal protection groups that have expose horrific cruelty on factory farms. These undercover investigations, by groups like the Humane Society and Mercy for Animals, have resulted in criminal charges and the largest meat recall in U.S. history. Rather than respond to consumer outrage by changing their business practices, the agriculture industry has tried to ban these videos. “Ag-gag” laws make it illegal to photograph or videotape animal cruelty on factory farms.The first prosecution under ag-gag was reported first on GreenIsTheNewRed.com, and it created such a national uproar that within 24 hours the charges had been dropped. The second prosecution, also reported here first, involved four people accused of photographing a farm from the public street.
Journalist Will Potter was a plaintiff in a successful lawsuit challenging Idaho’s ag-gag law as unconstitutional.
American Legislative Exchange Council
Behind the scenes, a secretive front group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, has been involved in creating new state laws across the country. Corporations pay ALEC tens of thousands of dollars to draft model bills that are introduced by state lawmakers. One of the se model bills was the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.”
The tactics pioneered by corporations in the United States are now spreading overseas.
Similar prosecutions, legislation, and surveillance tactics have been used against social movements through Europe, in particular.
Aggressive Prosecutions of Social Protesters
The courts are being used to push conventional boundaries of what constitutes “terrorism” and to hit non-violent activists with disproportionate sentences.
A federal court convicted a group of animal advocates of “animal enterprise terrorism” for running a controversial website that supported both legal and illegal activity against a lab called Huntingdon Life Sciences. For that, they were convicted of “conspiring” to promote “terrorism” and sentenced to between 1 and 6 years in prison. Here’s a closer look at the SHAC 7.
Terrorism Enhancement Penalties
In the cases of activists who have destroyed property in the name of the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, the government has successfully pushed for “terrorism enhancement” penalties in many of these cases.These enhancements allow for disproportionate prison sentences. For instance: “Environmentalist Marie Mason Sentenced to 21 Years as a ‘Terrorist’; Violent Racists Receive Half That” [As an update, while imprisoned Mason announced a change in name and gender, to Marius Jacob Mason. Supporters noted “We hope that you will all join us in supporting Marius through this transition, which will no doubt be extra challenging within the prison system.”]
That label, “terrorist,” also drastically changes prison life for these individuals, and will follow them long after release.
In the name of investigating illegal activity, the government has been hauling lawful activists in front of grand juries where they must testify about their political beliefs and political associations, or face prison time. Activists like Jeff Hogg and independent journalist Josh Wolf have refused to cooperate with these witch hunts, and been punished for it.
Government Informants and Entrapment
The FBI has used undercover agents and paid informants to not only spy on protest groups, but to manufacture terrorism plots. In the case of Eric McDavid, the FBI actually paid a young woman, “Anna,” to pose as an activist: she provided the group with bomb-making recipes; at times financed their transportation, food and housing; strung along McDavid, who had the hopes of a romantic relationship; and poked and prodded the group into action. No action was ever taken, but McDavid was sentenced to 20 years in prison as a terrorist. That ruling was overturned and McDavid was released after it was discovered that prosecutors withheld evidence.
Surveillance and Harassment of Protest Groups
Corporations have begun hiring mercenary “counter-terrorism” firms to engage in similar practices, albeit without government oversight.
FBI and Homeland Security Spying and Disruption
- “FBI File Reveals Discussion of Discrediting Animal Rights Activists by Planting Rumors“
- “FBI Agents Raid Homes in Search of “Anarchist Literature“
- “Richmond Cops Mistakenly Hand Over Anti-Protest Guides to Anarchist“
- “7 Examples of a “Police State,” and How They Are Appearing in the U.S.”
- “Cops Spying on HoneyBaked Ham Protestors and Peace Activists“
Corporate Dirty Tricks
Corporate Scare-Monger Campaigns
The word “eco-terrorism,” itself, was created by corporations in the 1980s to smear their opponents. [For a full account of this history, check out the book] After creating the word, they began injecting it into popular discourse through advertising campaigns and public relations efforts. The purpose of all of this is to make these non-violent activists appear to be a violent, “terrorist” threat.
For example, corporations have purchased full-page anonymous ads in both The New York Times and The Washington Post labeling animal rights activists as “terrorists” for being a little too successful, and knocking a controversial animal testing laboratory from the New York Stock Exchange.
Public Relations Campaigns.
Not even children’s movies are safe from these campaigns. Industry groups labeled Hoot, a bestselling book and popular movie, “soft-core eco-terrorism” because the teenage protagonists try to save an endangered owl from developers. Apparently even E.B. White was an “eco-terrorist”: According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, the movie remake of Charlotte’s Web promotes animal rights extremism.
Secretive Prison Units for Terrorists
The label of “terrorist” is applied to activists before they even enter a courtroom and, for those convicted, it follows them into the prison system. The government has acknowledged using secretive prison facilities on U.S. soil, called Communications Management Units, to house inmates labeled “domestic terrorists.”
The CMUs radically restrict prisoner communications with the outside world to levels that rival, or exceed, the most restrictive facilities in the country, including the “Supermax,” ADX-Florence. [For more information on CMUs and who is housed there: “Secretive U.S. Prison Units Used to House Muslim, Animal Rights and Environmental Activists.”]
According the Bureau of Prisons, these inmates “do not rise to the same degree of potential risk to national security” as other terrorism inmates. So who is imprisoned there?
The CMUs overwhelmingly include Muslim inmates, and have housed at least two animal rights and environmental activists: Andy Stepanian, who has been released, and Daniel McGowan, who is currently imprisoned at the CMU in Marion, Illinois.
Little information is available about the secretive facilities and the prisoners housed there. However, through interviews with attorneys, family members, and a current prisoner, it is clear that these units have been created not for violent and dangerous “terrorists,” but for political cases that the government would like to keep out of the public spotlight and out of the press.
Why is This Happening?
The Department of Homeland Security, in a bulletin to law enforcement agencies, warned: “Attacks against corporations by animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists are costly to the targeted company and, over time, can undermine confidence in the economy.”
And in a leaked PowerPoint presentation given by the State Department to corporations, we learn: “Although incidents related to terrorism are most likely to make the front-page news, animal rights extremism is what’s most likely to affect your day-to-day business operations.”
Underground activists like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front directly threaten corporate profits by doing things like burning bulldozers or sabotaging animal research equipment. But they’re not the only ones.
The entire animal rights and environmental movements, perhaps more than any other social movements, directly threaten corporate profits. They do it every day. Every time activists encourage people to go vegan, every time they encourage people to stop driving, every time they encourage people to consume fewer resources and live simply. Those boycotts are permanent, and these industries know it. In many ways, the Green Scare, like the Red Scare, can be seen as a culture war, a war of values.
To stay informed, sign up for our email list and also pick up a copy of Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of A Social Movement Under Siege.