FBI Warns that Journalism About Animal Cruelty Could “Incite Criminal Activity”

by Will Potter on January 25, 2014

in Government Priorities

wir-ciu-20120206-ulesNew documents released by Anonymous reveal that the FBI has sent out a terrorism warning that a news program, which featured video footage of a lab cited for animal welfare violations, may “incite criminal activity.”

The documents were obtained by hackers calling themselves “Team Berserk,” and include intelligence bulletins from Department of Homeland Security fusion centers. The document dump included a weekly intelligence bulletin distributed by the FBI to counterterrorism units about “animal rights extremists.”

The February 6, 2012 bulletin warns of a network news broadcast about a biomedical facility that has been fined for animal welfare violations. It included “footage of actual research procedures performed there on primates.”

The FBI bulletin does not identify the news program, but at about this time NBC News’ “Rock Center” aired a report, “A question of freedom for chimpanzees who spend lives in research labs.” Two chimpanzees featured in the broadcast were infected with viruses and subjected to dozens of painful procedures. As Jane Goodall commented in the report: “Remember we’re talking about our closest living relatives with brains so sophisticated that they can do a lot of  problems on a computer with a touchpad, faster than secondary school students. That’s how bright they are.”

15CHIM-blog480As NBC noted, their “quality of life is a matter of intense debate and part of the emotional argument over whether experimenting on chimps is morally and scientifically justified to save human lives.”

In other words, it’s an important issue that needs investigation and discussion; it’s exactly the type of reporting news outlets should be doing.

It’s especially troubling that the FBI is warning that journalism can inspire “criminal activity,” because the bulletin openly states “the FBI has no reporting indicating specific threats related to the broadcast.” It’s a dangerous and unconstitutional argument, and part of the growing crackdown on whistleblowers, investigators, and journalists who expose animal cruelty. The FBI simply has no business sending out counter-terrorism warnings about the press.

Beyond that, though, these absurd efforts directly put public safety at risk.

Just look at another FBI intelligence bulletin released by Anon. It’s titled, “Wichita-Based Homegrown Violent Extremist Arrested for Attempted Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction at a Wichita Area Airport.”

This is the state of the government’s “terrorism priorities.” Favorable media coverage exposing animal cruelty–at a lab that was fined for abuses–is on par with weapons of mass destruction.

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