Are you now or were you ever an enviromentalist?
Janie Goodwin

July 2006

In the wake of the US ‘war on terror’, nonviolent campaigners are increasingly being caught up in a ‘Green Scare’ that defines them as ‘terrorists’


In the US today, ‘terrorism’ has replaced ‘communism’ as the catchphrase for all that is evil in the world. Where the ‘Red Scare’ once saw all left-wingers stigmatised as ‘communists’, it is environmentalists and animal rights activists who are now being targeted as ‘eco-terrorists’ by the media, business interests and politicians – including the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. Building on post-9/11 fears and legislation, a new ‘Green Scare’ has escalated in recent months with a sudden rise in the number of environmentalists arrested and a dramatic lengthening of the potential sentences they face. Activists who have never physically harmed anyone now risk being arrested and charged with crimes that carry life sentences – or, as in one case, a charge sheet that could result in a 300-year prison sentence.

On 7 December 2005, the FBI began ‘Operation Backfire’, a multi-state sweep of environmental and animal rights activists. Fifteen people have since been indicted by Grand Jury on 65 charges in connection with Earth Liberation actions between 1996 and 2001. The arrests sent shockwaves across the activist community in the US, with the constant threat of new arrests and legislation resulting in the spread of fear and caution.

Many of those arrested recently insist on their innocence, and the FBI evidence against them is weak. A confession by a self-proclaimed arsonist and heroin addict provided the initial basis for the arrests. The accused were then encouraged to give evidence against each other, in return for the promise of reduced sentences. But confessions under duress are not always the most reliable sources of information.

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