[Ppnews] Great Green Scare and the Fed's "Case" Against Rod Coronado

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 10 14:12:41 EST 2006


March 10, 2006

War on the First Amendment

The Great Green Scare and the Fed's "Case" Against Rod Coronado


The federal government has been champing at the 
bit to put Rod Coronado back in prison since the 
moment he got out in 1999, refusing to repent for 
his role in a 1992 arson at a Michigan State 
University fur research lab. Federal officials 
have publicly branded Coronado a leader of the 
Animal Liberation Front, even though the ALF is 
apparently non-hierarchical. He is, however, an 
unabashed advocate of property destruction in 
defense of animals, and his indictment in San 
Diego in February, for giving a speech in which 
he explained how the incendiary devices used in 
the Michigan arson were made, is a flimsy pretext 
to punish him for his radical views.

The government's vendetta against Coronado is a 
campaign in a broader witch hunt against radical 
environmentalists and self-identified "green 
anarchists" -- those who merge ecology, animal 
rights, and anarchism in a vision of freedom and 
sustainability for all living beings. After 
Coronado's arrest, the U.S. Attorney for San 
Diego, Carol Lam, stated in the government's 
official press release, pre-judging the case for 
the public: "Teaching people how to build 
explosives in order to commit violent crimes is 
unacceptable in civilized society. There is no 
excuse for it." And so, through sophistry and 
syllogism, the government has transformed speech into violence.

On December 13, 2005, Coronado was convicted in 
Arizona for peacefully attempting to disrupt a 
mountain lion hunt, which the U.S. Forest Service 
organized after a hiker reported seeing a lion in 
a popular canyon -- even though Arizona's Fish 
and Game Department searched and didn't find any 
tracks. The public came out strongly against the 
hunt, prompting authorities in the end to trap 
and relocate two lions without killing them. 
After Coronado's conviction, Assistant U.S. 
Attorney Wallace Kleindienst told reporters that 
Coronado is "a danger to the communityI know he 
wasn't tried here for being a violent anarchist. 
This trial wasn't about Rod Coronado being a 
terrorist, but he is one." The AUSA thus revealed 
the government's two ulterior motives for going 
after Coronado: One, it has a vendetta against 
him personally, and two, it has quietly embarked 
on yet another war against an abstract concept -- anarchism.

The new case against Coronado is as stark a case 
about free speech as this country has ever seen. 
Measured against any historic test of free 
speech, Coronado's behavior -- i.e., his speech 
-- was alarmingly protected and uncriminal. [1] 
On July 30, 2003, persons unknown torched an 
apartment complex under construction in San 
Diego, causing millions of dollars in damage. The 
day afterward, Coronado flew to San Diego to 
lecture at a previously scheduled event. In 
response to a question from an audience member, 
Coronado -- who has been a public figure on the 
environmental lecture circuit since his release 
from prison in 1999 -- demonstrated how someone 
had constructed a non-explosive, incendiary 
device out of a plastic jug filled with gasoline 
to commit the Michigan arson for which he did his 
time. The government does not suspect, and has 
not accused, Coronado of any involvement in the 
fire set the day before his speech.

The Supreme Court has carved out three famous 
exceptions to free speech: the "fighting words" 
exception (Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire), the 
obscenity exception (Miller v. California), and 
the "clear and present danger" exception 
(Brandenburg v. Ohio). [2] However, each 
exception is extremely limited. As Justice 
William Brandeis eloquently wrote in 1927: "Fear 
of serious injury cannot alone justify 
suppression of free speechIt is the function of 
speech to free men from the bondage of irrational 
fears[N]o danger flowing from speech can be 
deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of 
the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may 
befall before there is opportunity for full 
discussion[T]he remedy [then] to be applied is 
more speech, not enforced silence."

But playing gotcha, the government has charged 
Coronado under an obscure, anti-First Amendment 
law which makes it "unlawful for any person to 
teach or demonstrate the making or use of an 
explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of 
mass destructionwith the intent that [it] be used 
for, or in furtherance of, an activity that 
constitutes a Federal crime of violence." [3] The 
law has yet to be challenged on constitutional grounds.

The DOJ reportedly has used this law only four 
times, but has used it twice now against 
dissidents. [4] In 2003, Sherman Austin, the then 
20 year old founder of the anarchist website 
pleaded guilty under the law in order to avoid a 
possible 20 year sentence for merely hosting and 
linking to another website on his server, which 
provided crude, Anarchist Cookbook-style information on bomb-making.

The same information is widely available 
elsewhere. Austin otherwise had nothing to do 
with the site he linked to. But according to the 
government's theory of the case, Austin's 
anarchist beliefs and the political content of 
his website furnished the requisite intent. Thus, 
the government substituted other speech for 
intent, thereby nullifying the only part of the 
statute which required something more than mere 
speech. (Query whether it would also be illegal 
to show snapshots of the websites in question on 
a site devoted to stimulating discussion about 
threats to free speech?) Austin served one year 
in prison. [5] So much for the First Amendment.

The arrest of Coronado occurs in the midst of a 
new Green Scare, in which the FBI would have us 
believe that eco-saboteurs who engage in property 
crimes such as arson and vandalism, but 
studiously avoid causing injury to people, 
constitute "the number one domestic terrorism 
threat," as FBI Deputy Assistant Director for 
Counterterrorism John Lewis told a Senate panel 
on May 18, 2005. Apparently, according to the 
FBI, the threat is greater than that posed by 
neo-Nazis, systemically brutal and racist police forces, or Al-Q'aida.

Since then, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces 
(multi-agency units operating out of every FBI 
field office) have mercilessly harassed numerous 
environmental and animal rights activists by 
conducting paramilitary-style raids on their 
homes; seizing computers, papers, photos and 
other personal effects; subpoenaing scores of 
people to grand jury inquisitions; engaging in 
electronic surveillance; dispatching informants 
to demonstrations; and even planting informants in people's homes.

In December 2005, the DOJ unsealed a 65-count 
indictment in Oregon against 11 alleged 
eco-saboteurs accused in a series of arsons 
committed under the banner of the Earth 
Liberation Front. Even though the ELF disavows 
violence and no one was hurt, the government has 
branded them terrorists, thereby cheapening a 
term which, by its very mention, alters policies 
and budgets. The DOJ is seeking, in some cases, 
life terms for the young activists, where the 
same crimes, if committed to defraud insurance, 
would land them a few years in prison.

The Green Scare picks up where the Red Scare left 
off -- with the FBI bruised and reprimanded by 
Congress for engaging in illegal, KGB-style 
break-ins, wire-taps, frame-ups, and even 
assassinations of members of targeted political 
groups. Now, Congress is the enabler of such FBI 
dirty tricks -- not so much legalizing them as 
laundering them through the passage of flagrantly 
unconstitutional laws like the USA-PATRIOT Act, 
reauthorized by Democrats and Republicans alike, 
and the incipient, retroactive legalization of 
the NSA illegal domestic spying program.

Both the Red Scare and the Green Scare fuel and 
are fueled by a hysterical hatred for a broad 
political philosophy -- Communism, and now 
Anarchism -- caricatured as a tangible threat 
casting a shadow across the land. Thus, 
anarchists -- a diverse group of people across 
all walks of life who generally agree that most 
government structures are repressive, that we 
shouldn't be greedy, and that we should help one 
another, but who are probably more likely to 
disagree on the specifics of history, social 
organization, or political strategy than any two 
people who identify as Christian, Muslim, 
Republican, or Democrat -- are reductively drawn 
as bomb-throwing lunatics. MIT Professor Noam 
Chomsky, who has lobbed many books at the public, 
is an anarchist. Probably, this is small 
consolation to the current Administration, but 
that is all they should have to say about it. George Orwell was one too.

In January 2006, with the arrest of three 
suspected eco-saboteurs in Auburn, California 
(Sacramento County), the FBI revealed that it is 
investigating the "anarchist movement", writ 
large. Special Agent Nasson Walker disclosed in 
an affidavit that the FBI had embedded a paid 
informant with the suspects, recruited when she 
was only 18 or 19. The FBI had dressed her up as 
a medic and dispatched her to participate in 
numerous peaceful, large-scale protests against, 
e.g., free trade and its concomitant race to the 
bottom in wages, human rights, and environmental 
standards. Needless to say, most if not all of 
the people she interacted with (politically 
organized with, treated medically, and lived 
with) were not plotting crimes of violence or 
sabotage. Yet the FBI can claim -- with a whiff 
of legitimacy, even -- that it has the right to 
engage in such intimate espionage and 
dragnet-style policing because ex-General John 
Ashcroft relaxed the Attorney General Guidelines 
to permit widespread snooping. Originally created 
to protect the public from FBI-KGB tactics after 
the exposure of its COINTELPRO operations in the 
70s, , the A.G. Guidelines now permit the FBI "to 
go anywhere the public can go" in Ashcroft's 
words, without any foundation of suspicion that a 
crime is afoot. [6] Undoubtedly, the FBI did not 
blow "Anna" the informant's cover without leaving 
other agents in the fieldand in political 
meetings, in decision-making positions in groups, and in people's homes.

Agent Walker's affidavit is further revealing of 
the FBI's backslide into politically motivated 
investigations. It references "anarchist" or 
"anarchism" 26 times in its mere 14 pages. In it, 
the FBI seems obsessed with the anarchist 
"lifestyle", anarchist literature, and anarchist 
gatherings. These invocations of dread anarchism 
add nothing more to the scales of probable cause 
than if all the terms were replaced by the word 
"Christian", and no one can gainsay that 
Christians have committed more atrocities in 
history than anarchists. It is elemental that a 
person is not guilty by association to an 
unpopular (or popular) cause in this country. But 
as a PR move -- in seeking more constitutionally 
suspect laws, higher bails, more warrants, longer 
sentences, and a bigger chilling effect on 
progressive activists -- the government's 
projection of a giant anarchist menace is highly effective.

On January 13, 2006, the FBI's David Picard 
flatly admitted to CBS affiliate Channel 13 in 
Sacramento that the FBI is again investigating an 
entire ideology as if it constitutes a domestic 
security threat.[7] He said, "one of our major 
domestic terrorism programs is the ALF, ELF, and 
anarchist movement, and it's a national program for the FBI."

Against this backdrop, it is clear that the 
Arizona Assistant U.S. Attorney who labeled Rod 
Coronado a "violent anarchist" after prosecuting 
him for trying to save otherwise condemned 
mountain lions was not just spouting personal 
invective. He was reading from the official talking points memo.

Standing up for people's rights of free 
expression, whether one agrees or disagrees with 
the message, is fundamental to a free society. As 
Noam Chomsky put it in Manufacturing Consent: "If 
you believe in free speech then you defend speech 
that offends you, because to only defend speech 
that you agree with is a function of the 
commissars Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany." Or as 
the ACLU says on its website: "The best way to 
counter obnoxious speech is with more speech. 
Persuasion, not coercion, is the solution."

Some questions which arise in Coronado's case 
include whether he intended that his 
demonstration would be used to further an act of 
violence, and whether his intent, whatever it 
was, meets the clear and present danger test 
articulated by the Supreme Court in Brandenburg 
v. Ohio. The audience he was speaking to probably 
was not comprised of glazed-over Manchurian 
candidates, determined to and capable of going 
out and making violent revolution -- if ever such 
a group existed. The law has long treated people, 
who are autonomous moral agents, as breaks in the 
chain of causality and guilt. Otherwise, Pat 
Robertson might be doing consecutive life 
sentences for his many intemperate remarks. 
Moreover, the steps involved in making an 
incendiary device from readily available 
materials such as a plastic jug and gasoline 
hardly constitute an opaque science. The term 
"destructive device" might turn out to be too 
vague to satisfy constitutional due process 
standards, if it includes items so simple to construct.

One thing we know for sure is what the government 
has already told us: "This trial [isn't] about 
Rod Coronado being a terrorist." The other thing 
we know for sure is that while real environmental 
terrorism goes unabated, forests recede, species 
go extinct, ice caps melt, and the sea level continues to rise.

Ben Rosenfeld is a Civil Rights attorney in San 
Francisco. He can be reached at: 
<mailto:4muddypaz at comcast.net>4muddypaz at comcast.net


[1] In legal parlance, "speech" includes expressive conduct, broadly.

[2] For example, relic that it is, the 1940 
"Smith Act", which prohibits advocating the 
overthrow of a government of the United States, 
is still on the books. (See Smith Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 2385.)

[3] See 
of Justice press release The statute, 18 USC § 
842(p)(2)(A), states in its entirety: "It shall 
be unlawful for any person to teach or 
demonstrate the making or use of an explosive, a 
destructive device, or a weapon of mass 
destruction, or to distribute by any means 
information pertaining to, in whole or in part, 
the manufacture or use of an explosive, 
destructive device, or weapon of mass 
destruction, with the intent that the teaching, 
demonstration, or information be used for, or in 
furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence"

[4] See article in 
Diego Union-Tribune, reporting that law has only been used four times.

5] The 16 year old white kid who designed the 
website Austin linked to was never even arrested. 
For more information, see <http://www.freesherman.org/>www.freesherman.org.

[6] See 
article quoting Ashcroft at May 30, 2002 press conference.

[7] See second 
<http://cbs13.com/local/local_story_013171750.html>television news broadcast

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