It appears the feds are taking domestic terrorism seriously:
HIGHLAND PARK — Heavily armed members of the New Jersey State Police Counter-Terrorism Bureau in bulletproof vests and helmets secured a house on Parker Road last night, as authorities sought a search warrant in an ongoing domestic-terrorism investigation.
Capt. Steve Serrao of the counter-terrorism bureau said at the scene last night that police were unable to release details of the investigation.
But the owner of the house at 1625 Parker Road said he was assured by authorities the incident was related to the arrest of a second-floor resident on criminal-mischief charges in Essex County on Friday night and not to any international incidents or threats.
Residents of the second-floor apartment are members of the animal-rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), said Dan O'Donnell, the building's owner.
O'Donnell said he has seen people with protest signs entering and leaving the house, but there's never been any trouble with the residents.
Police were holding about a dozen people on the home's rear deck last night as authorities awaited a judge's OK to search the premises.
In a separate case, six members of SHAC are facing trial on charges of conspiring to threaten and terrorize employees and customers of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a Britain-based drug-testing firm that uses animals in its laboratories in Franklin.
The Highland Park Police Department assisted the state police in last night's operation. A K-9 unit also was on the scene.
A decade and a half ago, a raid like this would have me wondering if maybe the feds weren't making too much out of not much. But today I find myself being much more sympathetic, much more understanding, much more supportive of such raids than I ever would have imagined possible back then.
Some of my change of heart, and a great deal of law enforcement's interest, of course, is due to 9/11 — our law enforcement agencies were roundly criticized for not having "connected the dots" before that catastrophe, and they must be highly motivated now to "connect the dots" of the gathering threat of domestic terrorism before it erupts into something even worse than it already is (ELF's torching of Vail alone is said to have cost $12 million, and ALF and ELF together have damaged some $43 million worth of property since 1996 ). (UPDATE: 7/26/05. Alert reader Sue C. reminds me that the cost of ELF's 2003 torching of condominiums in San Diego is estimated to have been $50 million by itself — so, since 1996, ALF/ELF are responsible for damages approaching a cost of $100 million. Thank you Sue.)
Like, what dots?
First, there is the "ideology dot" — the core AR belief that the life of an animal and a human are of equal value, and therefore if it is immoral to do something to humans, it is equally immoral to do it to animals (link, link).
The ideology has spawned its own unique vocabulary, in which the word "speciesism" is a prominent feature. The AR true believer will inform you that just as it is morally indefensible to discriminate on the basis of race, it is also morally indefensible to discriminate on the basis of one's species.
A life is a life, they will tell us, and no life should be privileged above another simply because the one happens to be that of a human, the other that of a dog, cat or rat. To the AR true believer, "non-human persons" are as deserving of "rights" as "human persons."
Second, there is the "propaganda dot." The AR people, especially PeTA, operate a highly sophisticated system and it does several things. The propaganda recruits mainly (but not exclusively) kids to the incoherent AR ideology; it cements in true believers the righteousness of their cause; it incites to action some who are already true believers, and of those incited, it further incites a small percentage to violent action; it masks the radical liberationist goals of AR behind a facade of Animal Welfare appearing causes (link, link); and it raises money from a naive but well-meaning public who haven't a clue that some of their contributions may be used to support terrorist organizations like the Earth Liberation Front, or ALF/ELF operatives like arsonist Rodney Coronado; and finally, it publicizes, rationalizes and glorifies the "direct actions" of its violent acolytes (link, link).
Third, there is the "firebrand dot." If you believe that a human life and an animal life are equally worthy, then the ethics of social justice become easy, a mere matter of arithmetic, and you can find it, as Dr. Jerry Vlasak has, to be morally acceptable to sacrifice a few (human) lives if it would save more (animal) lives. You can go further, as Dr. Jerry Vlasak has done, and openly advocate assassinating a few scientists to intimidate others into stopping animal based research. This, he believes, would probably save thousands of animal lives, each such life as valuable as a human life.
The logic is irrefutable, if you buy the article of faith that is the very basis of the Animal Rights movement — that a human and an animal life are equally valuable. The life of Dr. Best's dog is as valuable as your child, parent, sib or spouse, but to him, his dog is actually the more valuable of the two because his dog brings him pleasure, and your relative does not. This is why he would save his dog from a burning house before he would save a human stranger, and is a classic example of the "Me First!" ethic.
Of course, if you believe that scientists kill millions of animals to begin with, you could justify killing any lesser number of scientists than the millions of animals you believe they kill, and still have performed a noble moral act. So if killing only fifteen scientists doesn't accomplish your goal, why not kill a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand or several hundred thousand? Hells Bells: kill every scientist who uses animals, and stop the practice altogether!
Fourth, there is the "stealth dot." It is partly the product of an exceptionally slick propaganda campaign, but it is also dependent on an indifferent and lazy press that for whatever reason hasn't informed itself about the history, methods, ideology, goals and connections of Animal Rights itself and AR luminaries, and which therefore is unable to inform the public of what is easily verifiable.
But I've painted the "stealth dot" with too broad a brush. In fact, there are some in the media who do shine cleansing sunlight on the AR and Eco thugs and their loopy ideology, and when this happens, mountains move (the best example of this was Peter Gullage's remarkable series on Dr. Jerry Vlasak and his relationship with the Sea Shepherd Conservation society (link, link link), a relationship that ended abruptly once Dr. Vlasak became a liability for the SSCS. Mr. Gullage's effort was investigative journalism at its very best.
But by and large, other than some very good OpEd pieces, correspondents who report on AR demonstrations, "direct actions" or scandals really don't spend much time asking tough questions, and the public remains naive about such fundamental issues as the difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare (op cit).
When you look at this witches brew — a movement with an ideology; propaganda to make a loopy ideology look plausible, recruit acolytes, incite people to vandalism, to threaten, intimidate and coerce targets and their family members and to fund the movement; firebrands willing to preach assassination and defend vandalism, intimidation and other acts of thuggery, even as they glorify the cause — you see dots within, and it's just not all that hard to connect them.
And I, for one, am glad our law enforcement agencies apparently see the dots for what they are, and are making an effort to connect them.