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Author Topic: New Law To Punish Animal Rights Terrorism  (Read 1022 times)

Offline Gutpiles

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New Law To Punish Animal Rights Terrorism
« on: May 26, 2006, 03:01:51 PM »
article from
New Law To Punish Animal Rights Terrorism   :twisted:

by Shaun Waterman
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor
Washington (UPI) May 24, 2006
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on proposed legislation aimed at outlawing what its proponents say is economic terrorism by animal rights activists.
"If terrorism means being frightened for your children and having to check underneath your car every morning, this is terrorism," said Frankie Trull of the National Association for Biomedical Research, an advocacy group for institutions and companies that use live animals in medical research.

Trull told United Press International the bill was necessary to plug two loopholes in the existing law -- the use of so-called tertiary or third-party targeting; and the organization of campaigns of virtual harassment over the internet.

She said that U.S. animal rights activists, learning from successful campaigns waged in Britain, had begun to target the investors, lenders and business service providers that animal research firms -- like every company -- need to keep operating, forcing them to stop doing business with the targeted enterprise.

According to federal law enforcement officials, over 100 companies, including U.S. giants like Aetna Insurance; Citibank; Deloitte & Touche; Johnson and Johnson; and Merck, have severed ties with companies targeted by animal rights militants.

"Banks are not equipped to deal with death threats against their employees because they're doing business" with a targeted company, Trull said.

Current law protects animal researchers from "physical disruption" of their business, but does not criminalize campaigns directed against those who do business with researchers, or against individual employees. Nor does it cover harassment and intimidation that might financially cripple a company without any "physical disruption."

Last year one of the Justice Department's senior counter-terrorism officials, Barry Rubin, told lawmakers that extremists were carefully planning their campaigns to exploit what he called "limits and ambiguities" in the existing law.

Civil liberties advocates have slated the proposed bill's provisions as overbroad and unnecessary, charging that legitimate protests that damage a company's bottom line might be criminalized by the new law. "The bill will effectively chill and deter Americans from exercising their First Amendment rights to advocate for reforms in the treatment of animals," says the ACLU.

The new bill's backers point to what they say is a an aggressive and very successful campaign of harassment and intimidation aimed at those doing business with a British animal research firm, Huntingdon Life Sciences, that culminated last year with it being denied a listing on the New York Stock Exchange after the exchange was targeted by campaigners.

New Jersey-based Life Sciences Research, Inc., Huntingdon's U.S. parent, was told by the exchange in August it would be listed, but the decision was rescinded the next month, less than an hour before trading was scheduled to begin.

The exchange would not comment to UPI this week, but it has never denied that the possibility of being targeted by animal rights extremists was a factor in their about-face.

Trull said the decision was "very troubling. It sends a signal to any activist that doesn't like what any company is doing that they can stop it being listed by threatening the New York Stock Exchange."

According to federal prosecutors, the campaign against Life Sciences Research in the United States was led by a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, or SHAC. The campaign has included the posting on the SHAC Web site of individual employees' personal information, including their home addresses and phone numbers; the names and ages of their children and where they go to school; their license plate numbers and the churches they go to.

Victims of the SHAC campaign have been assaulted with baseball bats, had their homes and cars vandalized, obscene messages painted in their street, late night telephone calls threatening the lives of their family and non-stop bullhorn protests in front of their homes.

In February, six members of SHAC were convicted of federal crimes for their part in the campaign, but a Supreme Court decision -- in an unrelated matter -- since federal authorities began gathering evidence against the six would make such a case much harder to build in the future, say investigators.

"The FBI's efforts ... have been hindered by a lack of applicable federal criminal statutes," the bureau's Deputy Assistant Director John Lewis told a Senate panel last year, calling it "particularly frustrating."

"While it is a relatively simple matter to prosecute extremists who have committed arson or detonated explosive devices, under existing federal statutes it is difficult, if not impossible, to address a campaign of low-level criminal activity like that of SHAC," he said, calling their efforts against Huntingdon an "organized, multi-state campaign of intimidation, vandalism, threats and coercion."

One particular issue federal officials highlight is the need for a so-called predicate offense to get a warrant for electronic surveillance. Unless there is evidence that a federal crime has been committed, the FBI cannot get a warrant to tap the phones, e-mails and Web sites of animal rights groups -- often the only way to build a case against them.

The bill's backers acknowledge there is a balance to be struck between protecting lawful commerce and restricting the First Amendment rights of passionate animal rights advocates. But they insist a bright line can be drawn.

"Sending a hearse to someone's house is not self-expression," and should not be protected under the constitution, said Trull. She accused animal rights extremists of "hiding behind the First Amendment."

Jim Greenwood, president of the Biotechnology Industry Association, agreed that "the First Amendment protects nasty speech." But he said campaigns of harassment and threats of violence should not be protected.

"If you are standing outside a firm with a sign saying 'Don't buy such-and-such,' if you are ... engaging in legal protest, it is certainly not the intent" of the new law to criminalize that, said Greenwood.

Source: United Press International
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Offline John Andrews

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Re: New Law To Punish Animal Rights Terrorism
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2006, 09:20:45 PM »
I'm glad they are working to pass the admendments and close the loopholes! Finally, the companies will enjoy some protection and have some solid recourse.  O0
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