[Ppnews] House Passes Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 14 08:56:36 EST 2006

[ACLU support for this bill follows - UGH!]

House Passes Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act With Little Discussion or
Dissent: Notes from the House Floor “Debate”

November 13th, 2006 by Will Potter

They did it. Corporations, industry groups and the politicians that
represent them rushed through legislation labeling activists as
“terrorists” on the first day back from Congressional recess. Just
moments ago the House passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act as
part of the suspension calendar: in other words it was put on a list
of non-controversial bills to pass with one swoop by voice vote.

Here’s a recap of some of my notes from the House floor. I apologize
that this is not in a more polished form, but I wanted to get this out
to you all right away:

Representative Bobby Scott, often called the go-to guy in the House on
civil liberties and civil rights issues, came out swinging in support
of the “eco-terrorism” bill. Not only did he not oppose the
legislation, he lined up with the corporations, industry groups and
conservative extremists in full support of it. Scott, a Democrat, said
existing laws have been “reasonably effective” but “gaps and
loopholes” prevent law enforcement from going after animal rights
“extremists.” Scott failed to note, even in passing, that the existing
law­ the Animal Enterprise Protection Act­ was used to successfully
prosecute the SHAC 7 on “animal enterprise terrorism” charges for
running a website. Scott dishonestly ignores this crucial bit of
information, and said that activists are “taking advantage of the fact
that” AEPA doesn’t cover “affiliates and associates” of animal
enterprises: but that was, precisely, what the SHAC campaign was all

Disturbingly, Scott said in passing that civil disobedience would be
covered in the bill­ something other supporters of the bill have
denied­ but he tried to ease public fears by saying that the civil
disobedience must cause disruption and loss of profits, and “it must
be proven that such losses were specifically intended.” Bobby Scott,
who frequently praises the achievements of the civil rights movement,
stood on the House floor and advocated the inclusion of the tactics
used by that movement in a “terrorism” bill. The only things that’s
different between then and now, between the civil rights and animal
rights movement, is the cause.

Representative Thomas Petri, a Republican from Wisconsin usually in
stark contrast to Scott, said much of the same. He had the nerve to
stand on the House floor and say, with a straight face, that “current
federal law,” including the AEPA, has been “inadequate” in going after
animal rights activists. Petri knows full well that ALL the crimes
listed in this bill are already crimes, that the original bill has
been used successfully, and that the animal and environmental
movements have never claimed a single human life. Petri and the
corporations that support him call the existing legislation
“inadequate” because, in their mind, the true threat is not the
underground wing of the movement, but the movement itself. That’s
where this vague and overly broad legislation comes into place,
wrapping up civil disobedience, undercover investigations and other
non-violent activity as “terrorism.”

Only Representative Dennis Kucinich spoke up against this dangerous
legislation. “This bill was written to have a chilling effect,” he
said, “on a specific type of protest.” He also said that, “We have to
be very careful of painting everyone with broad brush of terrorism.”
And, in an interesting spin on the debate, Kucinich said lawmakers
would be better off addressing animal issues and demonstrating their

He also raised what’s essentially a very conservative argument about
the bill preempting existing law. A section of the bill says it shall
not be construed

     (3) to provide exclusive criminal penalties or civil remedies
with respect to the conduct prohibited by this action, or to preempt
State or local laws that may provide such penalties or remedies.

Kucinich noted that that’s precisely what the bill does. It provides
exclusive penalties based on the beliefs of those who are accused.

Kucinich got in a little back and forth with James Sensenbrenner about
the bill, with Sensenbrenner repeatedly citing a provision of the bill
that “exempts” First Amendment activity. (Thank you to Senenbrenner
and our patriotic members of Congress for reminding us that their is
still a First Amendment. However, saying “this is Constitutional!”
doesn’t make it so. If anything, it’s an admission that the bill has
serious flaws.) At one point, Sensenbrenner read off a list of quotes
from animal activists that he said exemplified the targets of the
legislation. It was the same tired old list of quotes from the mid-90s
and from a fairly recent Congressional hearing. Kucinich promptly
noted that the quotes were exactly that: “Constitutionally-protected
speech.” It’s misleading, he said, to say the bill exempts First
Amendment activity, then use First Amendment activity as an example of
why the bill is needed.

But perhaps the most disturbing segment of this whole scare-mongering
debacle was when Sensenbrenner ended his comments, and ended the floor
debate, by talking about the American Civil Liberties Union. He said
the ACLU is the guardian of the First Amendment. He said the ACLU has
a proud history of being a constitutional watchdog. And he said he has
a letter, from the ACLU, saying they would not oppose this legislation
and had no substantial concerns, essentially giving the Green Scare a
green light.


October 30, 2006
The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
2449 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-4909

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee
2426 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-2214

Re: ACLU Urges Needed Minor Changes to AETA, But Does Not
Oppose Bill (S. 3880, the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act”)

Dear Chairman Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Conyers:

On behalf of the ACLU, a non-partisan organization with hundreds of
thousands of activists and members and 53 affiliates nation-wide, we
urge you to make some necessary minor amendments to the “Animal
Enterprise Terrorism Act” (AETA), S. 3880 which has passed the Senate
and may be coming up for a vote in the House. The ACLU does not oppose
this bill, but believes that these minor changes are necessary to make
the bill less likely to chill or threaten freedom of speech.

The bill expands 18 U.S.C. §43, targeting animal rights activists, to include
economic damage and threats of death and serious bodily injury to
persons associated with animal enterprises. While the ACLU does not
condone violence or threats, we are concerned when a law singles out a
specific group that engages in expressive activity. Many improvements
have been made to the bill, but the minor amendments we suggest will
clarify portions of the bill and make it less likely that it will be
used to pursue legitimate expression.

Define “Real or Personal Property” as “Tangible” Property to Avoid
Lost Profits or Good Will Forming the Basis for the Offense

Legitimate expressive activity may result in economic damage.1 Boycotts, for
example, were an important tool in the civil rights movement. Care
must therefore be taken in penalizing economic damage to avoid
infringing upon
legitimate activity.

S. 3880 criminalizes conduct that “intentionally damages or causes the loss of
any real or personal property.” The bill does not, however, define
“real or personal property.” The question arises as to whether this
language would
require the actual loss of tangible property, or whether it would criminalize
legitimate activity that caused an enterprise to lose intangible property like
future profits or business good will.

To avoid these problems and avoid having loss of intangible property
forming the basis for a prosecution, we suggest the following amendment:

Insert the following new section in section 43(d) and remove current
subsection (3)(B), renumbering appropriately.

(3) the term “intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or
personal property” ­
   (A)means intentionally damaging or causing the loss of any tangible
property; but
   (B) does not include damage or loss resulting from a boycott,
protest, demonstration, investigation, whistleblowing, reporting of
animal mistreatment, or any public, governmental, or business reaction
to the disclosure of
information concerning animal enterprises.

Define “Animal Enterprise” to Only Include Lawful Activities

Some animal enterprises exist for the purpose of using animals
unlawfully, for example, criminal dog fighting and cockfighting. These
types of activities should be investigated and exposed. Under the
bill, an activist who rescued a rooster before it could be put in a
cockfight could be charged as a terrorist under the AETA. To avoid
this outcome, the definition of “animal enterprise” should be altered
to make it clear that interference with unlawful
activities does not trigger the statute.

Clarify that Section 43(b)(1)(A) Only Applies to Conspiracies or

The bill imposes a sentence of up to one year and a fine for offenses
that caused no reasonable fear of bodily harm, no actual bodily injury
or any
economic damages. Since reasonable fear of bodily harm, actual bodily
injury or economic damages are all elements of crimes associated with
more severe penalties under the bill, we assume the first penalty
provision under
the bill is meant to address conspiracies or attempts. However, this should be
clarified. To avoid the chilling effect on those individuals
considering actions
that would cause no harm, either physical or economic, nor instill any fear of
harm we suggest the following amendment to section 43(b)(1)(A):

(A) an offense under subsection (a)(2)(C) results in no economic
damage or bodily injury.


Hubert H. Humphrey once said “Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of
discussion, dissent and debate.” When Congress singles out a group on
side of a debate for criminal penalties, it must be careful to avoid
silencing the discussion, dissent and debate that is so fundamental to
our freedom.

These minor changes should help focus the law and avoid penalizing
legitimate dissent.

Caroline Fredrickson
Director, Washington Legislative Office

Marvin J. Johnson
Legislative Counsel

cc: Rep. Robert C. Scott

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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