Inside the Animal Rights Organization the FBI Considers a Terrorist …
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Slaughterhouse Rules: Disregard for Human Life
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Rights for Animals | Disregard for Human Life | Mercy Killings | The Next Generation
Summary: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claims it’s the “largest animal rights organization in the world.” But scandal after scandal has revealed a disturbing record of hypocrisy that’s left tens of thousands of household pets dead in PETA’s kill rooms. The carnage is the product of a radical ideology that values animals more than humans—and it’s prepared to go to any length to prove it.
Links to Violent Extremism
Paul Watson of the radical Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says he “reject[s] the idea that humans are superior to other life forms” as a basis for his extremism.
Watson has a rough history. The Canadian has been arrested numerous times since the 1970s for violently protesting fishing boats in Canada and Newfoundland, and was even charged with attempted murder in 2002 by Costa Rican officials. In the early 2000s, Japan declared him an eco-terrorist for harassing Japanese whaling vessels, to which Watson said, “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win. Then you write the history.” His extremism led Interpol to declare Watson an internationally wanted fugitive in 2012, but he managed to obtain political asylum in France before returning legally to the U.S. in June 2016.
While Watson is perhaps the most extreme advocate of the animal liberation movement, it can be argued that the supposedly mainstream organization PETA—which often silently encourages extremism with its own publicity stunts and broad calls for action—effectively enables such eco-terrorism. PETA has disturbing connections with the sister groups Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) , groups the FBI labeled domestic terrorist organizations in the 1990s.
ELF’s activists may collectively call themselves “Elves,” but Kris Kringle elves these are not. In 2006, eco-terrorist Eric McDavid and two associates met in a remote California cabin with supplies to create explosives intended for a bombing campaign. They were intercepted by the FBI. According to the Bureau, eco-terrorist and animal rights activists are responsible for over 2,000 crimes in the U.S. since 1979 costing some $110 million in damages to businesses and individuals. And they’re still active: both ALF and the “Elves” still operate as leaderless cells across the country. Two of their number—Joseph Mahmoud Dibee and the vegan Josephine Sunshine Baker—are still listed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list of domestic terrorists for a combined thirty-four counts of arson and destruction.
In April 2001, the right-of-center Center for Consumer Freedom exposed a $1,500 donation from PETA to ELF, nearly six years after the group was accused of perpetrating a string of firebomb attacks—the latest of which occurred less than a month after PETA’s donation and caused $7 million in damages to the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture. The Center also discovered a $70,200 donation for the defense of ALF eco-anarchist Rodney Coronado, who conducted similar firebombing attacks at universities in Michigan, Washington, and Oregon. PETA made smaller donations in 1999 and 2000 to other ALF activists.
And according to a 2001 report by the FBI, which monitored PETA for extremist activity, the group provides “what can be considered at least tacit support for the [Animal Liberation Front] and its illegal activity.”
In 2012, the website Humane Watch, which monitors animal rights extremists, uncovered archived issues of No Compromise, a magazine in operation from 1989 to 2005 that described itself as “The Militant, Direct Action Newspaper of Grassroots Animal Liberationists & Their Supporters.” No Compromise, which tacitly supported the eco-terrorists with calls to “direct action” and ALF t-shirts, regularly “receive[d] and disseminate[d] communiques” from ALF members.
Misanthropes and Mobsters
But PETA has its own brand of extremist messaging. Take it from Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s then-director of vegan campaigns. At the July 2001 Animal Rights Convention, the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center recorded Friedrich saying:
If we really believe that animals have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then of course we’re going to be blowing things up and smashing windows.… I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation, considering the level of suffering, the atrocities. I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them, exploded tomorrow.
I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows…. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.
The assembled representatives from ALF, ELF, and the related group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty applauded his words. They then handed out t-shirts reading: “Words Mean Nothing … Action is Everything!”
It’s a good slogan for a group that’s seemingly never encountered a form of animal rights extremism it didn’t like. Over the years, the animal rights group has become infamous for producing controversial advertisements comparing stories of rape and sexual assault with artificial cow insemination, depicting a meat industry marketer confessing his “sins” before an unforgiving Catholic priest, claiming “To animals, all people are Nazis,” and showing objectifying images of female celebrities like Pamela Anderson with the message “Go vegetarian.”
In August 2009, PETA seized on the stabbing, decapitation, and partial cannibalism of a 22-year-old man in Winnipeg, Canada, to produce an advertisement “meant to spur people to think about the terror and pain experienced by animals who are raised and killed for food,” the group said in its statement. “Manitoba,” the advertisement read, “An innocent young victim’s throat is cut… His struggles and cries are ignored… The man with the knife shows no emotion… The victim is slaughtered and his head cut off… His flesh is eaten. It’s still going on!”
In June 2009, the group released an anti-fishing comic book for children entitled, “Your Daddy Kills Animals!” The books asks kids to “[i]magine that a man dangles a piece of candy in front of you. As you grab the candy, a huge metal hook stabs through your hand and you’re ripped off the ground.” Asked if they were going too far with a comic book that warns kids that their fathers are “hooked on killing defenseless animals,” Bruce Friedrich told CNN that “kids like hyperbole… this is the sort of the thing that appeals to them.” “If you wouldn’t hook a dog through the mouth and drag the dog behind your car,” Friedrich said, “you should no more hook the fish through the mouth and drag the fish behind your boat.”
PETA’s publicity stunts regularly plumb the depths of absurdity. In September 2015, the group filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against wildlife photographer David Slater for a photograph “selfie” taken by, of all things, a black crested macaque using his camera in 2011 in Indonesia. Since ownership of the photograph defaulted to whomever captured it, and the macaque could hardly claim ownership, Wikipedia editors posted it as belonging in the public domain despite Slater’s ownership claims. Taking it further, PETA sued Slater for using the image in a self-published book… on the grounds that the macaque is the rightful owner of the photograph. After two years of legal battles in federal court Slater settled with PETA, agreeing to donate 25 percent of any future revenues derived from the monkey selfie to animal rights nonprofits.
As PETA gloated on its website, “Everyone deserves the rights we hold dear: to live as they choose, to be with their families, to be free from abuse and suffering, and to benefit from their own creations.”
In the next installment of Slaughterhouse Rules learn how PETA’s “ethical” treatment of animals includes euthanasisa.
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After 12 Years on the Run, Joseph Dibee Has Been Apprehended
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Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, one of two remaining fugitives linked to a domestic terrorism group that carried out dozens of criminal acts in the late 1990s, ranging from vandalism to arson, has been apprehended.
The 50-year-old fugitive, a U.S. citizen who had been on the run for 12 years, made an initial court appearance in Portland, Oregon today. He faces additional federal felony charges in California and Washington State.
Federal authorities learned that Dibee was traveling through Central America on his way to Russia with a planned stop in Cuba, according to court documents. With assistance from Cuban authorities, he was detained there before boarding a plane bound for Russia and was returned to the United States.
Dibee fled the U.S. in December 2005. In 2006, he was indicted along with 11 co-conspirators as part of Operation Backfire, a long-running FBI domestic terrorism investigation. The conspirators, known as The Family, have been linked to more than 40 criminal acts between 1995 and 2001, including arson and vandalism, causing more than $45 million in damages. The Family’s 1998 arson attack on a ski resort in Vail, Colorado—which caused estimated damages of $26 million—was its most notorious act.
“The crimes they committed were serious and dangerous,” said Special Agent Tim Suttles, who has been working the Operation Backfire investigation from the FBI’s Portland Division since 2004. “Just because time passes doesn’t mean the FBI forgets. We are very gratified to have Dibee in custody.”
“Just because time passes doesn’t mean the FBI forgets. We are very gratified to have Dibee in custody.”
Tim Suttles, special agent, FBI Portland
The 1998 arson of a Colorado ski resort by a group known as The Family drew international attention to eco-terrorists—those who break the law in misguided and malicious attempts to protect the environment and animal rights.
The Family was a domestic terrorist cell of about 20 people who committed crimes in the Pacific Northwest and western U.S. in the name of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The group disbanded in 2001, in part because of the pressure from the Operation Backfire investigation.
“Every act of violence comes with a choice—a choice to do harm,” said Renn Cannon, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Portland Division, announcing Dibee’s capture at a press conference today in Oregon. Most of the defendants in Operation Backfire, Cannon noted, “have answered for those decisions they made with significant prison sentences and millions of dollars in fines. Dibee, who traveled the world to avoid capture, will now, finally, have to answer to the allegations of violence he faces.”
Dibee’s capture leaves one fugitive still at large from The Family: Josephine Sunshine Overaker, an American citizen believed to be either 43 or 46 years old. Overaker fled to Europe in late 2001. She speaks fluent Spanish and may seek employment as a firefighter, midwife, sheep tender, or masseuse. The FBI continues to offer a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to her arrest.
“She’s the last one,” Suttles said, explaining that Overaker faces 19 felony counts in Oregon, Colorado, and Washington State. “We will continue to pursue her and to run down every lead that comes to us. We’re not going to give up,” Suttles added, “just because time has passed.”
Overaker has a distinctive tattoo along her back: an image of a bird, running from her right upper arm across her upper back. She has another unknown tattoo on her upper left arm and scars on her ankles, right calf, and right thigh. In 2015, the FBI created age-enhanced images of what the fugitive might look like.
Anyone with information about Overaker should contact their local FBI office or submit a tip online .
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- Oregon Domestic Terrorism Suspect in Custody After 12 Years on the Run
- Operation Backfire: Ten Years Later, Two Fugitives Remain
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Inside the Animal Rights Organization the FBI Considers a Terrorist Group
FOIA docs reveal that the FBI has been keeping an eye on the Animal Liberation Front for decades.
This story appears in the May issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.
In December 2012, two front-desk clerks at the Inn at Little Washington (pictured above), a posh hotel and restaurant in Washington, Virginia, received some strange and threatening phone calls. “All hell will be unleashed,” the male caller said in one. “We are watching you.” He had a single demand: that the restaurant stop serving foie gras—goose or duck liver that is fattened by force-feeding the bird.
A few days later, he called the inn back, this time arguing with the desk clerk about another item on the menu. In addition to getting rid of the foie gras, the restaurant, he said, needed to immediately stop serving rabbit. He said that if the inn failed to comply, the group he worked for would spray-paint the hotel red and burn it down. The caller indicated that he knew where all of the hotel’s employees lived, saying, “You’ve been warned.”
According to 44 pages of FBI documents that I obtained by FOIA request, the caller was a representative of the Animal Liberation Front, known as ALF, a 40-year-old animal rights organization. The agency has designated the group a terrorist organization.
The FBI has been investigating the ALF for decades, so its special agents routinely generate new reports on the leaderless movement’s activism. In 2004, John E. Lewis, a deputy assistant director at the FBI, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and said that ALF, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and “related groups have committed more than 1,100 criminal acts in the United States since 1976, resulting in damages conservatively estimated at approximately $110 million.”
At the time, Lewis went on to say that ALF and ELF “have become the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States.” A year later, he appeared before another committee and said ALF and ELF are among “today’s most serious domestic terrorism threats.” That sort of rhetoric convinced Congress to support strict federal criminal statutes pertaining to domestic terrorism, so that ALF and ELF would be treated no differently from al Qaeda.
These files detail the incident at the Inn at Little Washington and reveal how the FBI’s counterterrorism division handled the threatening phone calls made by the animal rights activism group.
1. “FIG” stands for “Field Intelligence Group.” It is a working group within the bureau that takes “raw information from local cases and make[s] big-picture sense of it,” according to the FBI’s website. There is one FIG for each of the bureau’s field offices, and they “fill gaps in national cases with local information… and share their findings, assessments, and reports with fellow FIGs across the country and with our partners in law enforcement and intelligence to, say, shut down that money laundering scheme or keep a bomb from going off.” This document was directed to them.
2. The file carries the classification code “266,” which means that it pertains to “acts of terrorism in the United States” and specifically domestic terrorists. The other number here, “188,” is the FBI code for “Community Outreach / Crime Resistance,” which is part of an effort by the agency to get citizens more involved in stopping crime. A “U” indicating that the threats are unclassified precedes both.
3. The synopsis shows that this file was put together to request FBI “SSA,” or “supervisory special agent approval,” to open a grand jury sub-file. These documents note that the federal prosecutor assigned to the case agreed to prosecute the caller if the FBI could figure out his identity and obtain evidence that he committed a crime. A grand jury is an investigative tool. The file goes on to say that the “sub-file will be utilized for all documents related to, or derived from, Federal Grand Jury proceedings.” The special agent who handles domestic terrorism involving groups like ALF has taken over FIG’s investigation.
4. Here’s where it gets interesting. The file documents the service of a grand jury subpoena to unknown subjects by the “SA,” or “special agent.” It reveals some rare details about the FBI’s collection of phone data from targeted numbers as it pertains to the alleged threatening phone calls. The document refers to a “legal instrument” authorizing the FBI to collect such information from various phone carriers. It likely means that the FBI obtained all the phone numbers that called the inn within a specific date range in an effort to locate the ALF member. The file also outlines the two-step plan that the FBI used to prevent “over-collection,” though the “legal instrument” set to safeguard against the over-collection is not specified. However, the details of what happened after “no overproduction” was ensured remain redacted.
It’s unclear whether the FBI ever caught the ALF member. No one ever reported on the incident. Neither the FBI nor a spokesperson for the Inn at Little Washington responded to requests for comment. But foie gras is still on the menu.
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