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.
March 11, 2012
For Immediate Release
Rising Tide Press Contact:
Scott Parkin, 415-235-0596 (mobile)
F.B.I. targets peaceful anti-fracking and Rising Tide activists, Washington Post reveals
Rising Tide North Texas subject of intimidation campaign by federal government
In today’s Washington Post, it was revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been investigating peaceful climate and anti-fracking activists as a threat. In response to anonymous complaints Rising Tide North Texas, a part of the Rising Tide North America network, has been the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation. The FBI has visited and called for an interview Rising Tide organizer, University of North Texas (UNT) student and a marine veteran of the Afghan war Ben Kessler, as well as UNT philosophy professor Adam Briggle.
“If all I have done to be investigated as a threat is to peacefully express my opinions, then we are in serious trouble,” said Ben Kessler. “Activism is not terrorism. The only dangerous threat in North Texas is the threat that hydro-fracturing, or “fracking,” has on the health and lives of the residents of our communities.”
The article also revealed cooperation between the F.B.I. and local police in Moscow Idaho around repeated protests organized by Wild Idaho Rising Tide around the tar sands heavy haul truck shipments.
Here is the article:
As eco-terrorism wanes, governments still target activist groups seen as threat
By Juliet Eilperin, Updated: Saturday, March 10, 5:12 PM
Even as environmental and animal rights extremism in the United States is on the wane, officials at the federal, state and local level are continuing to target groups they have labeled a threat to national security, according to interviews with numerous activists, internal FBI documents and a survey of legislative initiatives across the country.
Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad (R) signed a law this month, backed by the farm lobby, that makes it a crime to pose as an employee or use other methods of misrepresentation to get access to operations in an attempt to expose animal cruelty. Utah passed a similar bill, nicknamed an “ag-gag” law, on Wednesday. Last month, Victor VanOrden, an activist in his mid-20s, received the maximum sentence of five years in prison under a separate Iowa law for attempting to free minks from one of the state’s fur farms.
At the same time, though, acts that might be defined as eco-terrorism are down. In recent years, the broad definition has included arson, setting mink free at fur farms, campaigns to financially bankrupt animal testing firms and protests in front of the homes of some of those firms’ executives.
Michael Whelan, executive director of Fur Commission USA, estimated that in the 1990s “there were close to 20 attacks per year on our farmers” and that since 2003 there have been fewer than two attacks a year on American mink farms.
“Overall we’ve seen a decline in activity, in terms of violent criminal activity,” FBI intelligence analyst Erin Weller said in an interview.
FBI officials say two factors contribute to the reduced threat.
One is their successful prosecutions of several activists, in particular the 15 convictions in 2007 for members of the Earth Liberation Front. The national sweep of radical environmentalists was chronicled in the Oscar-nominated 2011 documentary “If a Tree Falls.” Not only did several ELF members get long prison sentences — Stanislas Meyerhoff got 13 years — but also many activists testified against others to get lighter punishments.
“That’s had an impact on the movement as a whole,” Weller said.
The second factor is that environmental and animal rights activists may view a Democratic administration as more sympathetic to their goals and be less inclined to take radical steps.
“Obviously if you think there is going to be support for your position, you’re going to use legal means rather than illegal means,” Weller said.