Playing Nice? An alleged tip sends the FBI out to question Denton drilling activists. Wednesday, 11 April 2012 09:45 Photos and story by ANDREW MCLEMORE North Texas environmental activists frequently feel as though local officials ignore their protests against gas drilling, but it turns out it’s easy enough to get the federal government’s attention — if the FBI thinks you might be planning eco-terrorism. That’s what happened to University of North Texas student Ben Kessler, a Marine veteran and dedicated activist on fracking, who spent several months last fall dodging FBI phone calls that he felt were attempts to intimidate him and pump him for information about legitimate, peaceful environmental groups. Kessler is an organizer with Rising Tide, an international network of environmental groups that sometimes employ civil disobedience as a protest tactic. Kessler: “I thought they were going to invade my house.” In early February, an FBI agent and Dallas police officer came to campus to question one of Kessler’s professors as well. David Rogers, the FBI agent who called Kessler repeatedly, told him the agency was following up on an anonymous tip about environmental activism in the area. “The first conversation we had, he was kind of lecturing me about ecoterrorism,” Kessler said. “All of the following conversations were him basically trying to convince me that I didn’t need a lawyer and should try to come in as soon as possible.” For Rising Tide leaders, the monitoring by federal law enforcement sends a clear message: Back off. “We saw that as an act of intimidation,” said Scott Parkins, a spokesman for Rising Tide North America. Lydia Maese, the spokesperson for the FBI’s Dallas office, would not confirm whether the agency was conducting an investigation. It’s FBI policy to conduct at least a preliminary investigation of any tip, she said, though she acknowledged that not every anonymous call results in an agent spending months trying to contact a college student and his associates. “We do investigate any potential ecoterrorism violations that could potentially cause harm to the public,” Maese said. “We do this hundreds of times. We are obligated to resolve the matter.” Continue reading the full article.