Breaking News: 4 Charged in Michigan “Eco-terrorism” Arson

by Will Potter on March 11, 2008

in Terrorism Court Cases,Terrorism Scare Mongering

Following up on the post from just a few hours ago, The Associated Press is reporting that four people have been charged in a 1999 arson at Michigan State University. The four individuals named in the indictment have not even been arraigned on the charges yet, and the government has already held a press conference labeling them as “terrorists.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, it’s a 4-count felony indictment. The four are facing charges of conspiracy to commit arson, aggravated arson, and arson, all related to a December 31, 1999, fire at the Agriculture Hall on the MSU campus and the January 1, 2000 arson of logging equipment near Mesick, Michigan. The arson at the university campus was related to federally-funded genetic-engineering research, and the indictment says Mason and Ambrose were responsible. The MSU action is similar, in some ways, to the attacks on perceived genetic-engineering research at the University of Washington, of which Briana Waters was recently found guilty, and had been smeared as a “terrorist” as well.

The MSU arson targeted the research of Catherine Ives, regarding biotechnology. A previous arson, in 1992, at the Michigan State mink research facility caused more than $2.5 million in damage. Rod Coronado served about four years for that crime.

According to the government’s press release:

“The Indictment we are announcing today is a testament to the perseverance, dedication and hard work of law enforcement professionals at both the state and federal level.” said United States Attorney Gross. FBI Special Agent in Charge Arena added that “This investigation has been ongoing for almost a decade and it should be a reminder to all that the FBI does not allow the passage of time to thwart our ability to apply our full resources to a case. In particular, domestic terrorism is a top priority of the FBI and we will continue to aggressively investigate and pursue prosecution of all such matters. We would also like to thank the MSU Police Department for its cooperation throughout this investigation.” [emphasis added]

But it doesn’t stop there. Chief Dunlap then calls it a “significant act of domestic terrorism.” And, he says, “the University dedicated an unprecedented amount of resources and personnel to investigate this crime.”

And taking things even a step further, MSU President Simon takes a few pages directly from the Bush administration’s “War on Terrorism” playbook, and argues that these “terrorists” were attacking freedom itself. “This was more than an attack on a building and the destruction of valuable property,” he says. “It was an assault on the core value of free and open inquiry at a research university.”

All the language, all the rhetoric, all the PR machinery in this case is perfectly mirroring exactly what happened last week outside of Seattle (a case where we STILL do not know if the Earth Liberation Front was actually responsible, or if this was yet another insurance scam by people who know that environmentalists are easy scapegoats in this political climate). The overzealous and premature use of the word “terrorism” in that case undoubtedly had an impact on the trial of Briana Waters, who was found guilty in an “eco-terrorism” case, just miles away, just hours later.

And it’s exactly mirroring the PR strategy of the government in the Operation Backfire cases, when Alberto Gonzalez held a press conference trumpeting the arrest of “eco-terrorists” before the fingerprint ink had even dried. The government went on to push for “terrorism enhancement penalties” in those cases, and the fact that these individuals had been labeled “eco-terrorists” from day one was certainly part of the gameplan.

Are we seeing a pattern here? The T-word isn’t being used because it’s needed to obtain search warrants. It isn’t being used because it’s needed to land an indictment. It isn’t being used because it’s needed to make the charges stick. It’s being used because that word, terrorism, is the most powerful word in the English language today.

And if the government can slap it on people before they’ve even had a day in court, it stacks the deck overwhelmingly in their favor.

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