Grad Student Indicted on Terrorism Charges

by Will Potter on December 11, 2009

in Terrorism Court Cases,Terrorism Legislation

demuthAs a follow up to David Pellow’s guest post, “My Student is a Sociologist, Not a Terrorist,” here is an update from his grad student facing terrorism charges, Scott DeMuth.

DeMuth has been indicted for conspiracy to commit “animal enterprise terrorism” in relation to the unsolved Animal Liberation Front raid at the University of Iowa. The government has argued that DeMuth is an anarchist, and “therefore, he is a domestic terrorist.”

This is an excerpt from a public statement by DeMuth:

…I believe I was targeted by this grand jury because of my involvement in doing prisoner support as a part of EWOK! (Earth Warriors are OK!). Further, as a part of my academic career, I have been involved in researching the animal rights and environmental movements and interviewing participants of those movements. The identity and contents of interviews are protected by confidentiality agreements, and I have an obligation to this confidentiality as outlined by the Institutional Review Board and American Sociological Association guidelines.

Because of the grand jury’s use in investigating social movements, I refused to cooperate and testify in the proceedings. Additionally, because grand jury proceedings are held in secret, there is no real way to verify if I had only given my name or if I had given away the identity and contents of each interview I have done. Therefore, if for no other reason, I believed that my participation would violate the trust and confidentiality of those who I have interviewed. I went to Davenport on November 17th, knowing that I could be jailed for contempt of court, and I was willing to deal with whatever legal consequences came with that decision.

As expected, I was jailed for contempt of court. However, two days later, I was unexpectedly charged with “conspiracy with unknown persons” under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). As evidenced by the vagueness of the charge and its filing a day before the statute of limitations expired, I believe that this charge is being used punitively against me because of my non-cooperation with the grand jury. Additionally, it seems that this charge is a last-ditch effort by the prosecution eager to get a conviction in a failed investigation…

Under the AETA (and its predecessor the AEPA), the ever-expanding definition of terrorism has included everything from the ALF to PETA, even going as far as charging people who chalk on sidewalks as “terrorists.” Regardless of the many laws that exist to charge illegal activities, laws such as the AETA are written specifically to charge political ideologies and those who support them.

But this expanding definition of terrorism does not just affect animal rights activists, to which my case should attest. The government makes broad and dangerous generalizations across the board, conflating ideologies from all sides of the political spectrum with terrorism (e.g. anti-abortion activists, gun-rights advocates, environmentalists, and anarchists). Not only does the government target political activity, but it also uses the guise of the “war on terror” to target entire communities based on religion, ethnicity, national origin, and immigrant status. We must ask ourselves, “Who will be next?”

It is not just animal rights activists and anarchists who have a stake in this case, in the abolition of the AETA, and in the overall “terrorizing” of political dissent, but everyone who lives within America, everyone who values our inalienable rights and liberties, and everyone who seeks a better way of living than the one we have been given.

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