The grand jury is investigating six “eco-terrorism” cases in Pennsylvania. The actions by the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, in 2002 and 2003, caused about $1.5 million in damage, including the release of animals from fur farms and the burning of a construction crane.
Kevin Tucker is a green anarchist, or anarcho-primitivist, who has been very public about his views on industrial civilization and the destruction of the environment. He isn’t accused of committing these crimes. But he was hauled before a grand jury because the FBI says they believe he might have information about the saboteurs.
So, what’s the problem? These actions were clearly illegal. And the government is simply doing their job by investigating, right?
The problem is that grand juries are routinely used in political cases to force people to talk about their political beliefs and political associations. To that end, grand jury targets frequently include the most public and visible activists, those considered “leaders.”
Kevin Tucker fits that bill (here’s a profile of Tucker, “Wild Times Ahead”). He’s been public, visible, outspoken, and, to the government at least, controversial. He has spoken at events with authors John Zerzan and Derrick Jensen, and took part in Total Liberation Fest (a conference that was the subject of quite a bit of scare-mongering in 2004). For instance, Tucker wrote in Green Anarchy:
“The end of civilization is coming and I believe it will be in our lifetime. I can’t say how it will end, but things will get much worse before they get better. Those holding power now won’t go down without a fight… Our response must be fitting.”
Tucker appeared before the grand jury for about 20 minutes, and nobody–not the Feds, not the defense, not Tucker–will comment on what he said. All proceedings are secret. (Which is another way that grand juries are used to disrupt social movements: if someone appears before a grand jury, others are left to wonder what, if anything, was said, and who, if anyone, will be next. Appearing before a grand jury fosters distrust and speculation).
The use of grand juries to harass, intimidate and railroad people with controversial views isn’t unique to the environmental and animal rights movements. It’s a government tactic used, for instance, during the Red Scare as well. To give you an idea of just how secretive, and corrupt, grand juries can be in political cases, check out this Red Scare example.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, and they were executed for it in 1953. Now, it has come out that a key prosecution witness, Ethel’s younger brother, lied under pressure from prosecutors. He turned on his own sister in exchange for saving his own skin, and spending 10 years in prison. (Sound familiar?)
But get this: all these years later, he still wants this grand jury testimony to remain secret, and a judge ruled in his favor. As the BBC reports:
US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said the public’s right to know was outweighed by the tradition of grand jury secrecy.
“He may be a scoundrel, he may be a hypocrite, he may be a liar,” Judge Hellerstein said. But he added, “It’s no easy task to compare the value of accountability with grand jury secrecy.”
UPDATE 9/15/08: Check out this Erie Times-News editorial on “eco-terrorism.” It seems that to the editors, the fact that Tucker was hauled before a grand jury is guilty by association….
Tucker, a writer and public speaker, calls himself a “rewilding human being.” His aim is to free the world from civilization and to return to a primitive existence. That’s his prerogative.
But it’s also our prerogative to remind the public that it’s a crime to set fires and destroy property for the sake of what the perpetrators think is a greater social good.
Those who commit these acts, under cover of night, are rightly called terrorists.
What do you think? Should Tucker have appeared before the grand jury? Post a comment…