Corporations Tracking Who Activists Are Dating

by Will Potter on June 6, 2008

in Surveillance

Get SmartWe’ve recently learned that Burger King has been spying on human rights activists, and the FBI would like to be spying on vegan potlucks. Not to be outdone, it looks like the Society of Toxicology commissioned a “threat analysis” to try to get smart about, among other things, who activists are dating.

The organization held its annual meeting and “ToxExpo” in Seattle, WA, in March. Undoubtedly, a wild and exciting time was had by all. Leading up to the event, though, organizers were concerned about security: not security in terms of toxic-groupies swarming the stage, or security in terms of people trying to steal toxic chemicals, but security against activists holding protests.

Exhibitors included Primate Products Inc., Harlan and Ridglan Farms (two corporations that breed and sell Beagles for experimentation) and, perhaps the most notorious corporation of the bunch, Huntingdon Life Sciences. Huntingdon Life Sciences paid the society $10,000 to be a “diamond” sponsor of the event (a nice chunk of change for a corporation that has been brought near bankruptcy multiple times by activists). That put conference organizers in a bit of a pickle, though, because Huntingdon Life Sciences has been the target of international protests for years, and attracts rowdy protests anywhere executives appear. So, the Society of Toxicology paid a private firm, Information Network Associates, to create a threat analysis and intelligence briefing on pesky activists.

Part of that “preparation and risk mitigation” included a section in the threat analysis called “Activists of Interest in the Seattle-Area [sic]”:

Jennifer Kaplan:
Kaplan is believed to be attending the University of Washington School of Law, where she currently serves as the President of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund…She currently maintains a large network of associates dedicated to animal rights and environmental conservation…

I don’t quite understand how someone “is believed” to be a law student. From my recent speaking event at University of Washington, though, I can verify that she is indeed a law student, and she in fact “maintains a large network of associates.” (My sleuthing also uncovered that these associates have an affinity for Mighty O donuts–don’t worry, INA, that tip is free, on me).

[another individual] and Kaplan are currently romantically involved…[he] has a doctorate’s [sic] in computer sciences [sic].

BUSTED! Corporations may not be able to stop these activists, but they can totally block their game and expose their nerdiness (sorry, sir).

Peter Young
Alleged to have attended University of Washington…

Alleged? Was he not found guilty?

And on and on it goes. (You can download the entire INA threat analysis here). Disturbingly, the overwhelming focus of the threat analysis is on mainstream, aboveground organizations and activists.

For instance, INA reports that the Northwest Animal Rights Network does not conduct “direct action attacks or other illegal activities,” but “it is possible that there is cross-over between the membership of NARN with more radical organizations.” The threat analysis also reports that the 2007 animal rights conference included workshops on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. (You can listen to those here and here and here. Again, no charge INA, I’m feeling a bit generous. Feel free to use it, but just provide a link to

To be fair, INA acknowledges that investigators had some difficulty spying on activists and activist groups. Activist “security culture” (read: knowing your rights) made their job difficult.

The bottom line for the Society of Toxicologists:

“…there is a distinct possibility that animal rights activists will use this conference as an opportunity to stage demonstrations or protests, distribute literature, and otherwise promote their animal rights agenda. Proper preparation and risk mitigation should be observed to mediate the disruption that may be caused by activists.”

“The threat level associated with this event,” INA reports, “is considered MODERATE.”

[Thanks to Rick at Primate Freedom for the heads up on this.]

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