Feds using terrorism excuse to crack down on eco-activists

The U.S. government is using the Patriot Act to go after radical environmental activists — and some unfortunate folks who just happen to look like them — by branding them as “terrorists.” Despite the fact that the Earth Liberation Front has caused no injuries during its acts of sabotage and arson over the years, the FBI told U.S. senators that the group and others like it are “a domestic terrorism investigative priority.” One FBI agent says President Bush himself called to inquire about a 2003 incident in Southern California in which Hummers were torched or defaced at a dealership, acts for which ELF claimed responsibility. Thanks to the Patriot Act, groups or individuals deemed terrorists lose several constitutional protections and can be surveilled without a warrant. “It’s a ludicrous extension of the word terrorist,” says professor Steven Best of the University of Texas at El Paso, who has written about the animal-rights movement. “It drains it of any meaning.”