The activities of the Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front and other activist organizations mimic the operations of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, but public opinion may be swaying against these groups because of the attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., said at a conference this morning in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The number one terrorist threat in the United States, according to the FBI, is eco-terrorism, McInnis told the audience of about 40 people, including corporate and government officials as well as members of the press. “They run like the al-Qaeda runs,” McInnis said. “The only serious death threat I’ve had in my 20 years in public office was from these people.”
The ELF disavows violence against humans, he noted, “but it’s only a matter of time before someone is hurt.” The meeting was entitled “Stopping Eco-Extremism: A Conference on Legislative, Legal and Communications Strategies to Protect Free Enterprise, Private Property and American Business.”
McInnis pointed to the events of Sept. 11 as a turning point in the corporate and governmental battle against radical environmentalists and animal rights activists. “There’s no question Sept. 11 helped us a lot,” he said. “It has opened people’s eyes.”
Also speaking at the conference, Nick Nichols, chairman and CEO of Nichols/Dezenhall, a “crisis management” firm based in Washington, noted that the public had been “apathetic [about ELF and ALF activities] until 9/11.” Nichols referred to these activists as members of the so-called “Crisis Creation Industry,” which he says is dominated by anarchists, Marxists, Luddites and the chronically aggrieved.
Serving his fifth term in Congress, McInnis’ has made cracking down on radical environmentalists and animal rights activists one of his top priorities. The Republican chairs the House Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, which held a hearing on Feb. 12 into the activities of the ELF. The subcommittee subpoenaed Craig Rosebraugh, the former ALF spokesman, but Rosebraugh invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 40 times during the hearing.
McInnis said the Fifth Amendment protection isn’t universal and that Rosebraugh refused to answer some questions that are not protected by the constitutional right. Those questions will be submitted to him in writing, and if he refuses to answer again, McInnis said he would ask the subcommittee to charge Rosebraugh with contempt of Congress. “We’ll follow up on some contempt charges against that individual,” McInnis said this morning, adding that Rosebraugh’s roommate has now taken over as spokesman for ALF.
In addition to ELF and ALF, it appears the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has found its way into the crosshairs of the radical right since Sept. 11. McInnis is asking PETA to explain why it allegedly donated funds to ELF. PETA is tax-exempt and has a responsibility to the country not to support the ELF in any way, according to McInnis.
PETA reportedly contributed $1,500 during the 2000 fiscal year to ELF for education and habitat protection. Ingrid Newkirk, founder and president of the Norfolk, Va.-based animal rights group, has said, “We don’t fund anything illegal, and we certainly don’t fund the destruction of people’s property.”
The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise said in a complaint March 4 to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rossotti that “publicly available information strongly suggests that PETA induces or encourages the commission of unlawful acts.”
PETA has “been linked to the breaking of the law. Its own people have extensive arrest records,” said Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Bellevue, Wash.-based center. “Any kind of law-breaking to us does not deserve tax-exempt status.”
McInnis said that, while it’s difficult to track the individuals involved in radical action, “it’s not tough to go after their finances. PETA, in my opinion, knew exactly where their money was going. We’re going after the financial network.”
Nichols joined in the criticism of PETA for its funding of so-called “terrorist” organizations. “I’m concerned about PETA,” Nichols said. “I think they have been a funding group for terrorist groups.” Corporate America, Nichols said, needs to do a better job of gathering intelligence about their foes in the activist world. He recommends become more proactive in the gathering of intelligence about environmental and animal rights groups. He also called for the creation of a national federal clearinghouse on eco-terrorism.
McInnis is urging the public to serve as snoops against activist groups. “Please provide information if you have it available,” he said. “This is a weed that has come into the lawn and if you don’t cut it out, it will spread.”