FBI Bases Iowa ALF Case on Facebook, Speaking Event, YouTube

by Will Potter on April 9, 2010

in Terrorism Court Cases

university of iowa alf affidavit An FBI affidavit has just been released in the investigation of the 2004 Animal Liberation Front break-in at the University of Iowa. It shows the stream-of-consciousness approach the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force took to the investigation, including surfing MySpace and Facebook and using an informant to identify activists on YouTube.

The affidavit from October, 2009, also shows the shaky pretext used to justify charging Scott DeMuth with Animal Enterprise Terrorism, jailing Carrie Feldman in a grand jury witch hunt, and raiding the home of Peter Young.

For example:

  • A confidential informant was used to identify individuals in a YouTube spoof video created prior to the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities. The video, like many others that have been made for mass protests, shows faux “Black Bloc” activists getting ready for the RNC. (The joke is that they are sipping coffee and reading the newspaper while wearing black masks.) The informant reportedly identified Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth as cast members in the skit.

    When the video came out, I posted about it on this site, and jokingly called it a “Homegrown Terrorist” training video. Months later, the government is calling it exactly that.

  • The government says Scott DeMuth wrote in his diary about the ongoing political crackdown on environmental activists. For example, one alleged entry includes, “Fuck the Feds” and “Turns out the Feds have shit on P” (who the government claims is Peter Young). DeMuth also allegedly wrote “It’s almost been a year since Iowa,” which the FBI agents typed in bold font, implying that DeMuth must have been involved in the ALF raid.

    DeMuth allegedly wrote, “And the ABC [Anarchist Black Cross, a group that supports political prisoners] has gotten a fair amount of attention from the FBI. I don’t think I am at too much risk.”

  • DeMuth’s Facebook, Livejournal and Myspace all “identify him with his interests of animal rights, anarchy and ecological extremist groups,” the FBI says.
  • An FBI agent reviewed a MySpace photo of Carrie Feldman, posing with a white rat on her shoulder. Rats were removed during the Animal Liberation Front raid at the University of Iowa.
  • Activists organized a Dangerous Media Tour, also known as “The Steal This Film Fest.” This public event, open to everyone (including the FBI, who were there taking photos) included information on making free phone calls and other hacks to resist “corporate rule.” The affidavit paints this is a covert terrorist gathering, but to anyone familiar with CrimethInc., Evasion, and the like, there is an entire punk subculture built up around similar petty scams.

I spoke with Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center to help me put this affidavit in context. “This is just an incredible example of how extremely flimsy the actual fact evidence is in these cases,” she said. “If they had stronger evidence against this kid [DeMuth], they would have used it.”

It doesn’t seem that the government has anything else to go on. When prosecutors filed an emergency motion to keep DeMuth locked up, they based it on labeling him an anarchist.

This is an important point to underscore. The date of this affidavit, October, 2009, places it before the Utah raid of Peter Young’s home, and before the grand jury. In other words, it is very likely that the entire case for the indictment of Scott DeMuth was based on this flimsy string of information, including lawful speaking events, Facebook, and YouTube.

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