[Ppnews] We’re Being Watched -How Corporations and Law Enforcement Are Spying on Environmentalists

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 29 12:13:44 EDT 2013


    We’re Being Watched


          How Corporations and Law Enforcement Are Spying on
          Environmentalists

By Adam Federman 
<http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/oeuvre/adam-federman/>
http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/we_are_being_watched

In February 2010 Tom Jiunta and a small group of residents in 
northeastern Pennsylvania formed the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition 
<http://www.gdacoalition.org/> (GDAC), an environmental organization 
opposed to hydraulic fracturing in the region. The group sought to 
appeal to the widest possible audience, and was careful about striking a 
moderate tone. All members were asked to sign a code of conduct in which 
they pledged to carry themselves with “professionalism, dignity, and 
kindness” as they worked to protect the environment and their 
communities. GDAC’s founders acknowledged that gas drilling had become a 
divisive issue misrepresented by individuals on both sides and agreed to 
“seek out the truth.”

The group of about 10 professionals – engineers, nurses, and teachers – 
began meeting in the basement of a member’s home. As their numbers grew, 
they moved to a local church. In an effort to raise public awareness 
about the risks of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) they attended 
township meetings, zoning and ordinance hearings, and gas-drilling 
forums. They invited speakers from other states affected by gas drilling 
to talk with Pennsylvania residents. They held house-party style 
screenings of documentary films.

Since the group had never engaged in any kind of illegal activity or 
particularly radical forms of protest, it came as a shock when GDAC 
members learned that their organization had been featured in 
intelligence bulletins compiled by a private security firm, The 
Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR). Equally shocking 
was the revelation that the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security 
had distributed those bulletins to local police chiefs, state, federal, 
and private intelligence agencies, and the security directors of the 
natural gas companies, as well as industry groups and PR firms. News of 
the surveillance broke in September 2010 when the director of the 
Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security, James Powers, mistakenly 
sent an email to an anti-drilling activist he believed was sympathetic 
to the industry, warning her not to post the bulletins online. The 
activist was Virginia Cody, a retired Air Force officer. In his email to 
Cody, Powers wrote: “We want to continue providing this support to the 
Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders while not feeding 
those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies.”

The tri-weekly bulletins featured a wide range of supposed threats to 
the state’s infrastructure. It included warnings about Al-Qaeda 
affiliated groups, pro-life activists, and Tea Party protesters. The 
bulletins also included information about when and where groups like 
GDAC would be meeting, upcoming protests, and anti-fracking activists’ 
internal strategy. The raw data was followed by a threat assessment – 
low, moderate, severe, or critical – and a brief analysis.

For example, bulletin no. 118, dated July 30, 2010 gave a low to 
moderate threat rating in reference to public meetings that 
anti-drilling activists planned to attend, and suggested that an “attack 
is likely… and might well be executed.” The threat assessment was 
accompanied by this note: “The escalating conflict over natural gas 
drilling in Pennsylvania may define local fault lines and potentially 
increase area environmentalist activity or eco-terrorism. GDAC 
communications have cited Northeastern Pennsylvania counties, 
specifically Wyoming, Lackawanna and Luzerne, as being in real ‘need of 
our help’ and as facing a ‘drastic situation.’” Another bulletin 
referenced an August 2010 FBI assessment of the growing threat of 
environmental activism to the energy industry. Because of Pennsylvania’s 
importance in the production of natural gas, ITRR concluded, an uptick 
in vandalism, criminal activity, and extremism was likely.

Although the Pennsylvania scandal caused a brief public outcry, it was 
quickly brushed aside as an unfortunate mistake. In fact, the episode 
represents a larger pattern of corporate and police spying on 
environmental activists fueled in part by the expansion of private 
intelligence gathering since 9/11.

By 2007, 70 percent of the US intelligence budget – or about $38 billion 
annually – was spent on private contractors. Much of this largesse has 
been directed toward overseas operations. But it is likely that some of 
that money has been paid to private contractors – hired either by 
corporations or law enforcement agencies – that are also in the business 
of spying on American citizens. As early as 2004, in a report titled 
“The Surveillance Industrial Complex,” the American Civil Liberties 
Union warned that the “US security establishment is making a systematic 
effort to extend its surveillance capacity by pressing the private 
sector into service to report on the activities of Americans.” At the 
same time, corporations are boosting their own security operations. 
Today, overall annual spending on corporate security and intelligence is 
roughly $100 billion, double what it was a decade ago, according to 
Brian Ruttenbur, a defense analyst with CRT Capital.

The surveillance of even moderate groups like GDAC comes at a pivotal 
time for the environmental movement. As greenhouse gas emissions 
continue unchecked, opposition to the fossil fuel industry has taken on 
a more urgent and confrontational tone. Some anti-fracking activists 
have engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience and the protests against 
the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline have involved arrests at the White 
House. Environmentalists and civil libertarians worry that accusations 
of terrorism, even if completely unfounded, could undermine peaceful 
political protest. The mere possibility of surveillance could handicap 
environmental groups’ ability to achieve their political goals. “You are 
painting the political opposition as supporters of terrorism to 
discredit them and cripple their ability to remain politically viable,” 
says Mike German, an FBI special agent for 16 years who now works with 
the ACLU.

The Pennsylvania episode is not an isolated case. The FBI and Americans 
for Prosperity (AFP), a Koch Brothers-backed lobbying group, have both 
taken an interest in anti-drilling activists in Texas. In the fall of 
2011, according to an investigation by The Washington Post, the FBI was 
digging for information on the leader of Rising Tide North America 
<http://www.risingtidenorthamerica.org/>, a direct action environmental 
group, because of his opposition to hydraulic fracturing (Rising Tide 
has also been active in organizing protests against the Keystone XL 
pipeline). Ben Kessler, a Texas-based activist, told the Post that the 
FBI had received an anonymous tip to look into his activities. The 
agency also showed up at the office of Kessler’s philosophy professor, 
Adam Briggle, who teaches an ethics course that covers nonviolent civil 
disobedience and the history of the environmental movement. Briggle, who 
has been involved in organizing residents to impose tougher regulations 
on gas drilling in Denton, Texas, told the Post that, “it seemed like a 
total fishing expedition to me.”

About a month after he was approached by the FBI, Briggle received a 
notice from his employer, the University of North Texas, asking him to 
turn over all emails and other written correspondence “pursuant to City 
of Denton natural gas drilling ordinances and the ‘Denton Stakeholder 
Drilling Advisory Group <http://dentondrilling.blogspot.com/>,’” an 
organization Briggle founded in July 2011 whose mission is similar to 
that of GDAC. The university had received a request under the state’s 
Public Information Act and Briggle was forced to hand over more than 
1,300 emails. He was later told that the request had been made by Peggy 
Venable, Texas Director of Americans for Prosperity.

Rising Tide activists had speculated that the anonymous tip came from 
one of the gas companies active in the region. Although there was no way 
to prove a connection between the FBI’s investigation and AFP’s mining 
of Briggle’s emails, both were viewed within the activist community as 
acts of intimidation. Briggle says, “The message is, you’re being watched.”

During the last decade the FBI and, to a lesser extent, corporations 
have elevated the threat of eco-terrorism to a top priority even as 
environmentally motivated crimes have declined. In 2005, John Lewis, an 
FBI deputy assistant director, said the animal rights and environmental 
movements were “one of the FBI’s highest domestic terrorism priorities.” 
In the post-9/11 era, the outsourcing of intelligence gathering to 
private companies has ballooned, the bar for investigating domestic 
threats has been lowered, and a premium has been placed on information 
sharing with the private sector. “What changed after 9/11,” the ACLU’s 
German says, “was the lowering of the threshold for FBI investigations 
and the promulgation of these radicalization theories that while 
specifically written about Muslim extremists – the same theory that 
people move from ideas to activism to terrorism – justified increased 
surveillance against activists and against people who were just part of 
the environmental rights movement but had no association with violence 
or criminal acts.”

Since 9/11 accusations of eco-terrorism have proliferated and a number 
of individuals and groups have been prosecuted under new laws, which 
have profoundly impacted the radical environmental movement. The broad 
crackdown and subsequent fear and paranoia that swept through activist 
circles have been referred to as the “Green Scare.” “The shift was 
gradual,” Will Potter writes in Green is the New Red: An Insider’s 
Account of a Social Movement Under Siege 
<http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780872865389-2>, “slowly merging the 
rhetoric of industry groups with that of politicians and law enforcement.”

In public, corporations have amplified the threat of eco-terrorism to 
influence legislation, such as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. In 
private, meanwhile, they have hired firms to spy on environmental 
groups. About a month after 9/11, for example, the crisis communications 
firm Nichols Dezenhall (now Dezenhall Resources) registered a website 
called StopEcoViolence.com (now defunct), which served as a sort of faux 
watchdog group and source for media outlets including The New York 
Times. Around the same time, Dezenhall – described by Bill Moyers as the 
“Mafia of industry” – was involved in corporate espionage. Along with 
two other PR companies, Dezenhall hired a now-defunct private security 
firm, Beckett Brown International, to spy on environmental activists. 
One of the targeted groups was Greenpeace <http://greenpeace.org>. In 
2011 Greenpeace filed a lawsuit charging that Dow Chemical, Sasol 
(formerly CONDEA Vista), the PR firms, and individuals working for 
Beckett Brown International (which was founded by former Secret Service 
officers) stole thousands of documents, intercepted phone call records, 
trespassed, and conducted unlawful surveillance. In a story for Mother 
Jones, James Ridgeway revealed that the security firm obtained donor 
lists, detailed financial statements, Social Security numbers of staff 
members, and strategy memos from several groups, and, in turn, “produced 
intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations 
involved in environmental controversies.” (In February a Washington, DC 
court ruled that the claims of trespass and misappropriation of trade 
secrets could proceed.)

More recently, according to a report in The Nation, the agricultural 
giant Monsanto contracted with a subsidiary of Blackwater, the private 
security firm, to gather intelligence on and possibly infiltrate 
environmental groups in order to protect the company’s brand name. “This 
is the new normal,” says Scott Crow, an author and longtime 
environmental activist who was the subject of FBI and corporate 
surveillance for close to eight years beginning in 1999.

While the above cases involved corporations hiring private security 
firms to carry out black-ops against environmental groups, the 
Pennsylvania scandal may be the first time that a state agency has 
contracted with a private security firm to gather intelligence on lawful 
groups for the benefit of a specific industry. Although the ITRR 
bulletins were produced for the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland 
Security, they were shared with PR firms, the major Marcellus Shale 
companies, and industry associations. For members of GDAC and other 
anti-drilling organizations, the revelations were profoundly troubling. 
Not only were they being lumped together with groups like Al-Qaeda, but 
the government agencies tasked with protecting the people of 
Pennsylvania were, in their view, essentially working for the gas 
companies. If a moderate group like GDAC wasn’t safe from the 
surveillance-industrial complex, it seemed nobody was. “These systems 
and this type of collection is so rife with inappropriate speculation 
and error – both intentional and unintentional – that your good behavior 
doesn’t protect you,” German says.

Tom Jiunta, the founder of GDAC, says the ITRR bulletins had a chilling 
effect. Attendance at GDAC meetings declined and some members left the 
group altogether. Organizers assumed that their phones had been tapped 
and that their emails were being monitored, a common perception among 
anti-drilling activists. At meetings they would leave their cell phones 
outside or remove the batteries. Jiunta, who has a podiatry practice in 
downtown Kingston, began to take different routes to work because he was 
worried about being followed. “We kind of assume that we’re being 
watched,” he says. “Even now.”

Indeed, the intelligence gathering continues. Although the state 
canceled its contract with ITRR, the company still works for the natural 
gas industry, according to GDAC attorney Paul Rossi. “An employee with 
one of the gas companies has told me that he is willing to testify that 
ITRR is still conducting operations for the gas companies and they are 
focusing in on environmental groups,” Rossi says. (In 2010 GDAC filed a 
lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and ITRR on First 
Amendment grounds. Because it’s a private company or a “non-state 
actor,” the judge ruled, claims against ITRR were dismissed. The terms 
of a settlement with the state have not been reached. ITRR did not 
return requests for comment.)

Like many of the activists I spoke with, Jiunta underscored the fact 
that he’s never been drawn to conspiracy theories. GDAC’s code of 
conduct was designed to weed out those whom Jiunta described as 
“wackos.” Jiunta admits that he was pretty naïve when he first got 
involved in anti-drilling activism; he would print out large stacks of 
information on fracking to bring to state senators, who politely told 
him not to waste their time. Now, his faith in the role of government 
has been shattered. “People worried about being on a watch list,” he 
told me. “It was shocking.”

In the wake of the surveillance scandal Pennsylvania Homeland Security 
Director James Powers resigned and the state terminated its $103,000 
no-bid contract with ITRR. Then-governor Ed Rendell called the episode 
“deeply embarrassing” and a one-day Senate inquiry was held. In 
testimony before the committee, Virginia Cody, the retired Air Force 
officer who had become a critic of gas drilling, said: “For the first 
time in my life, I do not feel secure in my home. I worry that what I 
say on the phone is being recorded. I wonder if my emails are still 
being monitored.”

The hearing sought to answer questions about how the contract was 
awarded, why citizen groups exercising their First Amendment rights were 
included, and, crucially, who received the information. Powers explained 
that the information was distributed to various chemical, agricultural, 
and transportation companies mentioned in the bulletins. At least 800 
individuals were on the distribution list. In the case of gas drilling 
activism he explained, “It [the bulletins] went to the security 
directors of the Marcellus Shale companies and DEP (Department of 
Environmental Protection).”

This is only partially true. A list of the individuals and groups who 
received the bulletins shows that industry associations and PR firms 
that have nothing to do with protecting the state’s infrastructure were 
also included. For example, one of Powers’s key contacts on 
Marcellus-related activity was Pam Witmer, then head of the Bravo 
Group’s energy and environmental practice as well as president and CEO 
of the Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council, a business advocacy 
group. The Bravo Group is a public relations and lobbying firm based in 
Pennsylvania. Its clients include Chief Oil and Gas, Southwestern 
Energy, and People’s Natural Gas, all of which are deeply invested in 
Marcellus Shale production.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry lobbying group, was also on 
the distribution list. In 2010 the coalition signed a $900,000 lobbying 
contract with Ridge Global, a private security firm founded by Tom 
Ridge, former head of the Department of Homeland Security under George 
W. Bush. As part of its energy consulting services Ridge Global offers 
“advisory support for natural gas and other infrastructure security.” 
Ridge is just one of many former security officials who now have private 
consulting services. Others include John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff, and 
Richard Clarke.

The blurring of public and private spying is what Dutch scholar Bob 
Hoogenboom calls “grey intelligence.” In a 2006 paper of the same name, 
Hoogenboom noted that in addition to well-known spy agencies like MI6 
and the CIA, hundreds of private organizations involved in intelligence 
gathering have entered the market to meet corporate demand. “The idea 
was to do for industry what we had done for the government,” Christopher 
James, a former MI6 officer who founded Hakluyt, a private intelligence 
company whose clients have included Shell and BP, told the Financial 
Times. Many corporations now have their own private intelligence 
networks, or “para-CIAs,” to gather information on consumers, critics, 
and even their own shareholders. Walmart, for example, has an office of 
global security headed by a one-time CIA and FBI official with a staff 
that includes former State Department security experts. As Eveline 
Lubbers writes in her recent book, Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: 
Corporate and Police Spying on Activists 
<http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Manoeuvres-Dark-Corporate-Activists/dp/0745331858>, 
“Because these business firms hire former spies and analysts from the 
ranks of government, the informal links with government intelligence 
increase.”

This is a global phenomenon. Corporations in Europe and Canada have also 
spied on environmental groups. In 2006 French energy giant EDF, the 
world’s largest operator of nuclear reactors, hired Kargus Consultants, 
a private intelligence gathering agency run by a former member of the 
French secret service, to spy on Greenpeace. Kargus hacked into a lead 
Greenpeace organizer’s computer and compiled a dossier on the 
organization’s European campaign strategy. In 2011 a French court fined 
EDF 1.5 million euros and sent two of its employees to jail on charges 
of illegal spying.

Although it was not raised at the Pennsylvania Senate hearing, the ITRR 
bulletins also were shared with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police 
(RCMP). In January a Montreal paper reported that the RCMP itself has 
been tracking anti-shale gas activists in Quebec. The Critical 
Infrastructure Intelligence Team, a branch of the RCMP, produced two 
reports that described the possibility of Canadian activists 
collaborating with “extremist” groups in the US, such as Earth First! 
<http://www.earthfirst.org/> and Occupy Well Street 
<http://www.occupywellstreet.blogspot.com/> – an offshoot of Occupy Wall 
Street <http://occupywallst.org/> opposed to fracking. According to Jeff 
Monaghan, a researcher with the Surveillance Studies Center at Queen’s 
University in Ontario, the Canadian government likely shares 
intelligence with the energy industry. Since at least 2005 the Canadian 
government has held biannual intelligence briefings to share sensitive 
information with the private sector. In 2007 Gary Lunn, former Minister 
of Natural Resources, admitted his agency had helped more than 200 
industry representatives obtain high-level security clearances. “This 
enables us to share information with industry and their associations,” 
Lunn said at a pipeline security forum.

Similar arrangements have been uncovered in the UK. In 2009 it was 
revealed that the British police and the Department of Business, 
Enterprise and Regulatory Reform had provided information about Climate 
Camp demonstrations to E.ON, the company that runs the Ratcliffe-on-Soar 
power station. E.ON also hired private security firms like Vericola and 
Global Open to spy on protesters; both companies are staffed by former 
intelligence agents.

The specter of environmental extremism has been used to justify 
information sharing between law enforcement and the private sector. Last 
year, Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, warned that 
environmental groups “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to 
achieve their radical ideological agenda.”

“It’s the new politics of the petro-state,” Monaghan says. “Anything 
that’s remotely linked with direct action or nonviolent civil 
disobedience is being described as extremism, which is the new code word 
of security agencies.”

The fossil fuel industry’s targeting of its critics goes beyond mere 
surveillance. Natural gas drilling companies have also flirted with 
using the dark arts of psychological warfare, or “psy ops.” In comments 
recorded by an anti-drilling activist at a 2011 natural gas conference 
in Houston and leaked to CNBC, Matt Pitzarella, director of corporate 
communications at Range Resources, said Range had hired “several former 
psy ops folks” with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Having that 
understanding of psy ops in the Army and in the Middle East has applied 
very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania [sic],” Pitzarella said.

At the same conference, Matt Carmichael, a PR specialist with Anadarko 
Petroleum, referred to the anti-drilling movement as an “insurgency” and 
advised industry representatives to download the US Army/Marine Corps 
Counterinsurgency Manual. “There’s a lot of good lessons in there and 
coming from a military background, I found the insight in that extremely 
remarkable,” he told his colleagues.

The oil and gas industry has good reason to feel besieged. Opposition to 
fracking, especially, is on the rise. New York State has in place a 
moratorium against the drilling technique, and legislators in California 
are considering a similar ban. A white paper prepared by FTI Consulting, 
a DC-based PR firm with ties to the shale gas industry, recently warned, 
“Environmental activists are looking to undermine the strategies and 
operations of energy companies.… Adding to the activists’ momentum is 
the fact that a growing number of mainstream shareholders are supporting 
their proposals.” But given the absence of any physical attacks against 
drilling company assets, the industry’s view of its opponents smacks of 
paranoia. In August 2012, iJET International, a private security firm 
founded by a former National Security Agency operative, issued a risk 
assessment of anti-drilling protests in New York State. In one of its 
daily intelligence bulletins distributed to corporate clients the firm 
observed, “Protests against hydraulic fracturing have gained 
considerable momentum over the past few months…While most demonstrations 
have been peaceful, participants say they are hoping to intensify 
actions in hopes of disrupting operations at targeted facilities.”

The US Army Counterinsurgency Manual that was offered as suggested 
reading for shale gas industry representatives includes an appendix on 
Social Network Analysis, defined as “a tool for understanding the 
organizational dynamics of an insurgency.” In an age of digital networks 
and online activism, this often means using data-mining software, cyber 
surveillance, and in some cases outright computer hacking to track 
opposition groups.

At the 2011 natural gas conference in Houston the CEO of Jurat Software, 
Aaron Goldwater, gave a presentation on the subject of data mining and 
stakeholder intelligence. In his presentation he emphasized the 
importance of knowing the communities you work in, of tracking and 
mapping relationships, and compiling a sophisticated database that 
includes all offline and online conversations. He pointed to the 
military as a model. “If you look at the people who are experts at it, 
which is the military, the one thing they do is gather intelligence,” he 
told the audience.

Corporations have already taken advantage of network forensic software 
to keep tabs on their own employees. The new technology, which allows 
companies to monitor an employee’s activity down to the keystroke, is 
one of the fastest growing software markets. There is a fine line, 
however, between data mining – which is perfectly legal though largely 
out of view – and cyber surveillance, or hacking.

While it is difficult to prove hacking, many activists are convinced 
their computers have been tampered with. Kari Matsko, a professional 
software consultant and director of the People’s Oil and Gas 
Collaborative <http://ohiogasdrilling.com/> in Ohio, says her computer 
was hacked after she began to push for tougher regulation of the natural 
gas industry.

Matsko got involved in environmental activism after hydrogen sulfide gas 
was released from a well site near her home. In 2008 she started helping 
a group of citizens who had filed a lawsuit against one of the larger 
energy companies in Ohio on grounds of nuisance violations and loss of 
property value. She spent many months doing research and collecting 
files related to the case, some of which she described as damning.

Because of her profession Matsko has very strong computer security and 
says that prior to working on oil and gas issues she had never had 
problems with malware. But while assisting with the lawsuit Matsko’s 
computer was attacked by a sophisticated virus. Matsko was able to 
remove it and everything seemed fine. About a month later, though, she 
unsuccessfully tried to open the computer folder that contained the 
sensitive files related to the lawsuit. The files were either missing or 
corrupted. “I remember I was so terrified by it that I didn’t even tell 
people unless it was in person,” she says.

Other activists have described similar cyber security-related issues. 
Around the time the ITRR bulletins were made public, Jiunta told me, 
members of GDAC experienced persistent problems with their computers. 
“Everybody was getting suspicious,” he says. “I had computer issues. 
Some are still having issues.”

John Trolla, a 61-year-old musician and guitar instructor whose 
communications were also featured in the ITRR bulletins, has been an 
outspoken critic of shale gas development for several years. In 2007 
Chief Oil and Gas offered him a signing bonus of $1,400 to lease his 
mineral rights. Trolla, who lives in a modest two-story home in 
northeastern Pennsylvania, refused. He’s been fighting the industry ever 
since.

“This is something that’s bigger in my life than I ever wanted it to 
be,” he says. “Five years ago, when I first started getting involved in 
this and I started talking to people, I would say to myself, ‘these 
people are a little crazy.’ Five years later I sound like them.”

Immediately after the intelligence bulletins were made public Trolla’s 
computer became nearly unusable. Documents were corrupted and 
irretrievable; photos were disappearing and programs wouldn’t work. A 
relatively new machine with a high-end operating system, Trolla had it 
serviced at a Best Buy in nearby Muncy. He was told by the Geek Squad at 
Best Buy that a highly sensitive program that acts like a Trojan Horse 
had been installed on his computer. According to Trolla, “They said that 
the program monitors every key stroke, every email, everything you do on 
the computer.”

Nearly all of the activists I spoke with said the Pennsylvania Homeland 
Security revelations, while giving them pause, had not changed their 
behavior. They continue to speak out, to attend public meetings, and to 
push for greater oversight of the industry. Still, “it leads to some 
scary possibilities in the future,” says Eric Belcastro, an organizer 
with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund 
<http://www.celdf.org/>. “I don’t sit around being paranoid about this 
stuff. I just try to do what I have to do and get along with my life. 
But I admit the playing ground is rough and I think people need to be 
careful.”

Even as corporations expand their surveillance of citizen-activists, 
they are seeking to obstruct public oversight of their own behavior. 
It’s a bit like a one-way mirror of democratic transparency – with 
corporations and law enforcement on one side looking in and activists on 
the other.

Pennsylvania is a case in point. In early 2012 legislators there passed 
“Act 13,” a set of amendments to the state’s Oil and Gas Act, which 
essentially stripped local municipalities of the authority to regulate 
drilling activity through zoning ordinances and other measures. The law 
also requires doctors who treat patients exposed to fracking chemicals 
to sign a confidentially agreement before receiving information about 
the substances. The gag rule would prevent them from sharing that 
information with the patient or even other doctors (GDAC’s current 
president, Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez, is challenging this provision).

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced into the Pennsylvania 
legislature that would make it a felony to videotape farming operations 
in Pennsylvania – so-called “ag-gag” legislation that has already passed 
in Utah and Iowa, and has been introduced in several other legislatures. 
Many of the ag-gag bills draw on language crafted by the American 
Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “Animal and Ecological Terrorism 
Act.” (In recent years ALEC has received considerable support from the 
natural gas industry). Section D of the ALEC bill defines an animal or 
ecological terrorist organization in broad terms “as any association, 
organization, entity, coalition, or combination of two or more persons” 
who seek to “obstruct, impede or deter any person from participating” 
not only in agricultural activity but also mining, foresting, 
harvesting, and gathering or processing of natural resources.

The proposed law has many anti-drilling activists worried. If such 
language were included in the bill (it is currently in committee and 
will be revised before it comes to the floor) it would greatly limit the 
ability of residents to photograph or video well sites, compressor 
stations, and pipeline development – all of which could be considered 
part of the “gathering or processing of natural resources.”

“It’s clearly legislation that could be easily expanded in any 
particular case to include folks like me who do whatever we can to get 
as close to some of these sites as we are able,” says Wendy Lee, a 
philosophy professor at Bloomsburg University who regularly photographs 
the industrial impacts of gas drilling and then posts them on her Flickr 
page.

Lee says that among anti-drilling activists there is a sense that 2013 
is a do-or-die year. The state Supreme Court is set to rule on the 
constitutionality of Act 13. As the drilling boom moves into ever more 
populated areas, activists are gearing up for more focused organizing 
and larger nonviolent protests. With tens of thousands of wells yet to 
be drilled, at least this much is clear: The industry will be watching 
closely.

Adam Federman (adamfederman.com <http://adamfederman.com>) is a frequent 
contributor to Earth Island Journal. Research support for this article 
was provided by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute 
<http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/>.

-- 
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