Lawyers Guild Condemns FBI"s Operation Backfire
Legal Hotline Available for Activists
New York. The National Lawyers Guild condemns the FBI's Operation
Backfire "green scare" tactics as an unconstitutional abuse of
authority. The FBI has engaged in an orchestrated campaign of issuing
subpoenas to environmental activists, conducting large scale roundups
of activists, levying unprecedented penalties for property crimes, and
using threats of severe sanctions to leverage fear of conviction and
force individuals to turn state's evidence.
In 2004, the federal government launched Operation Backfire, a
wide-scale investigation of environmental and animal rights activists.
It used paid informants and conducted warrantless spying on a range of
organizations. Since then, numerous individuals around the country
have been arrested and charged with arson, destruction of property and
conspiracy in the government's attempts to target the Earth Liberation
Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Others were
subpoenaed to testify before grand juries. Some were charged with the
use of "destructive devices," one count of which carries a mandatory
30-year sentence-two counts call for mandatory life in prison. The
government is over-charging people with offenses that carry severe
sanctions to force them to accept guilty pleas for a lower sentence or
to intimidate them into turning state's evidence.
The National Lawyers Guild believes that the government is misusing
destructive device charges and engaging in selection prosecution.
For example, in the SHAC7 (Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty) case the
government in 2004 prosecuted the administrators of a website,
charging them with "conspiracy" to violate the Animal Enterprise
Protection Act, an industry-specific statute that provides harsher
sentences for those protesting animal-related businesses than say
those protesting women's health clinics. The Animal Enterprise
Protection Act is a clear violation of the First Amendment, as it
makes certain types of political speech illegal. Three of the SHAC7
defendants were found guilty only of conspiracy, a charge that is
rarely prosecuted without a substantive offense connected to it.
The National Lawyers Guild has established a hotline, 888-NLG-ECOLAW,
for individuals arrested or subpoenaed for offenses related to
environmental or animal activism. The hotline will be operational on
June 26. Also on June 26, the Guild will hold a symposium, "The Green
Scare: What Lawyers Need to Know," at Cardozo Law School in New York,
New York, at 6:30 pm. Speakers include Lauren Regan, founder and
executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Oregon;
Andrew Erba, attorney for one of the SHAC7 defendants, Brendan Story
of Friends and Family of Daniel McGowan, and New York civil rights
attorney Daniel Meyers.
full story: http://www.coastalpost.com/06/07/09.html