Here’s a story that should help every environmental and animal-rights activist sleep a little easier.

Kevin Kjonaas was just convicted. What was his crime? Setting up a website — a website with details on companies that support animal testing, and some raucous message boards where some dumb things were said.

The government doesn’t claim Kjonaas damaged property — or knowingly provided material assistance to anyone who did.

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However, earlier this month, Kjonaas and five others ranging in age from 27 to 31 became the first people convicted under a 1992 U.S. law — significantly beefed up after 9/11 — that defines as terrorists those who damage firms involved in the animal business.

Along with another case in Oregon, this one involving radical environmentalists, the New Jersey trial marks a significant step forward in the Bush administration’s decision to bring the war on terror home for use against those it views as its new domestic enemies.

“This is just the starting gun,” says David Martosko, research director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization funded by the U.S. restaurant industry and a fierce opponent of animal rights.

He says the government should move against more mainstream organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or the Humane Society of the United States, which he calls “the farm teams for the eco-terror problem.”

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Curiously, for a case with such serious implications, none of those convicted in Trenton is alleged to have carried out any of the substantive crimes laid out in the indictment — from property damage to intimidation.

Prosecutors didn’t provide evidence they knew the perpetrators or had ever communicated directly with them. Rather, the six were convicted of running an Internet site that allowed others access to information that could be used in crimes.

Nervous yet?

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