The hearings held on October 26, 2005 by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has produced legislation designed specifically to counter the tertiary targeting techniques used by Animal Rights extremists. (Tertiary targeting refers to a campaign of intimidation and coercion, characterized by harassment, threats and vandalism — up to and including the use of arson and bombs — to coerce suppliers and clients to separate themselves from a principal target. The idea is that if clients and suppliers abandon the principal target, it cannot survive. Tertiary targeting works.)
Here's the gist of the legislation:
INHOFE INTRODUCES ANIMAL ENTERPRISE TERRORISM ACT
S. 1926 Will Provide Federal Authorities With the Necessary Tools to Help Prevent, and Better Investigate and Prosecute Eco-terror Cases
WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, has introduced legislation that will enhance the effectiveness of the U.S. Department of Justice’s response to recent trends in the animal rights terrorist movement. S. 1926, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, was drafted with technical assistance from counter-terror experts at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The chilling testimony embracing assassination and destruction that we heard from the ‘spokesman’ of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty eco-terror group only points to the need for a tightening of current law for authorities to be to able to prevent future activities, and to better investigate and prosecute eco-terror cases,” Senator Inhofe said. “S. 1926 specifically addresses the ‘tertiary targeting’ tactic employed by eco-terrorists by prohibiting intentional damage of property belonging to a person or organization with ties to an animal enterprise. Currently, only the animal enterprise itself is covered by law. The bill also increases penalties for intentional economic disruption or damage, and for intentionally causing bodily harm or placing a person in reasonable fear of death or bodily harm.”
On Wednesday, the Committee convened a hearing on eco-terrorism, specifically examining the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty group.
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act:
Amends the Animal Enterprise Protection Act and enhances the effectiveness of the Department of Justice’s response to recent trends in the animal rights terrorist movement.
Addresses the “tertiary targeting” or “third party targeting” system used by animal rights terrorists by prohibiting the intentional damaging of property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise. Previously, only the animal enterprise itself was covered by the law.
This is a big deal, and the most important provision of the legislature, at least in my opinion. It should give the Feds the legal tools to investigate and prosecute groups like SHAC, who have perfected tertiary targeting and practice it regularly.
Prohibits veiled threats to individuals and their families. It prohibits intentionally placing a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to that person or their family because of their relationship with an animal enterprise.
If the notion of "reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury" sounds vague and perhaps to be a violation of the First Amendment, there is precedent that it is a sound legal concept ("True Threat"), one that grew out of the anti-abortion movement and now may be applied to the trial of the SHAC 7. This about "True Threat":
The best-known case to address threats over the Internet is Planned Parenthood of Columbia/Willamette, Inc. v. Am. Coalition of Life Activists, 290 f.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2002) (en banc). In 1994, the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA), an anti-abortion extremist group, released a "Deadly Dozen" poster, designed in a wanted-style format with "guilty" captioned at the top and a list of names and addresses of 13 abortion providers.
In 1997, a pro-life activist affiliated with ACLA gave a much longer list of more than 200 "abortionists" to anti-abortion hardliner Neal Horsley, who then posted them on a section of his Christian Gallery Web site labeled "Nuremberg Files." Horsley highlighted the names of those doctors and others murdered by anti-abortion terrorists by striking through their names on the list; those who were merely wounded had their names grayed out [Planned Parenthood, 290 f.3d at 1065.]
Several abortion providers listed on the posters and the Nuremburg Files site sued ACLA and twelve anti-abortion activists. A jury later found that the defendants violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, awarding the plaintiffs $107 million in actual and punitive damages. The judge enjoined the posters and restricted the content on the Web site. [See Planned Parenthood, 290 f.3d at 1058.]
On appeal, the defendants argued that the content of the posters and Web site were protected speech under the First Amendment. But the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld ACLA's liability, finding that the content on the posters and Web site constituted an unprotected true threat.
The court defined a true threat as a statement made when a "reasonable person would foresee that the statement would be interpreted by those to whom the maker communicates the statement as a serious expression of intent to harm." [See Planned Parenthood, 290 f.3d at 1074, 1088.] The test is an objective one; the defendant does not have to actually intend to, or be able to, carry out the threat. [Id. at 1076.] In the Planned Parenthood case, the Ninth Circuit found that it was reasonable for ACLA members to foresee that the named abortion providers would interpret the posters and Web site postings as a serious expression of ACLA members' intent to harm them.
In a more recent case, a panel of the Ninth Circuit took a more restrictive view of the true threats doctrine when dealing with criminal prosecutions. [See United States v. Cassel, 2005 Wl 1217387 (9th Cir. May 24, 2005).] In Cassel, the defendant was convicted of interfering with a federal land sale after he threatened to burn down any home built on federal property adjacent to his home. The court held that in order to prove that a true threat is unprotected by the First Amendment, the prosecution must show that the defendant subjectively intended the speech as a threat, something not required by the Planned Parenthood case.
Back to the provisions of S. 1926.
Increases penalties for intentionally causing economic disruption or damage and for intentionally causing a person bodily injury or intentionally placing a person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.
Broadens the definition of animal enterprise to include a commercial enterprise that uses or sell animals or animal products for profit or otherwise including animal shelters, breeders, pet stores, and furriers.
Makes crimes under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act eligible for Title 3 electronic surveillance.
Defines the term “economic damage,” which includes the loss of property, costs associated with a lost experiment, or lost profits.
Defines the term “economic disruption,” which means losses or increased costs resulting from threats, acts of violence, property damage, trespass, harassment, or intimidation taking against a person or entity on account of their relationship with an animal enterprise. This does not include lawful boycott.
This is certainly a good start — it was the absence of provisions like these that let Peter Daniel Young mostly off the hook, and to plea-bargain himself into a two year sentence for having released mink into the countryside.
Senator Inhofe and his committee did well, and should be commended.
And, if you haven't listened to the exchanges between Senators Inhofe and Lautenberg with Dr. Jerry Vlasak, do so if you possibly can — they are riveting and revealing in the extreme. You can find the exchange here (scroll to October 26, 2005, and then scroll to 1:18:00 of the video and listen to the last 15 minutes of the hearing).
Notice, in particular, the disbelief in Senator Inhofe's voice after Dr. Vlasak confirms that he regards the life of an animal and that of a human to be of equal moral worth, and allow yourself to be carried away by Senator Lautenberg's fire.