What sort of imagery comes to mind when you think of PETA? Angry activists, nude models or perhaps animals in cages? If you’re the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the word terrorism might come to mind.
Treehugger.com reported on Wednesday that a new form released by the USDA labels the organization a terrorist threat. The Web site provides a link to a PDF of the form but the link is no longer valid. However, if you enter “PETA terrorist” in the search box on the USDA’s homepage, the first result will link you to the same “no-longer-available” page. And under the search result is a brief description of the form — proving the form does, in fact, exist.
According to Treehugger.com, the form is provided to animal experimentation facilities. It appears to be a sort of survey, asking the facilities what kind of terrorist activities have occurred in or around their premises.
Here is an excerpt from the form.
B. Terrorist Threat. What terrorist activities have occurred in or around your building/facility in the past 5 years (documented cases)? Please check all that apply.
[ ] Attack from international terrorists
[ ] Attack from domestic special interest terrorists
-[ ] Earth Liberation Front (ELF)
-[ ] Animal Liberation Front (ALF)
-[ ] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
-[ ] Animal Defense League (ADL)
-[ ] Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)
-[ ] Formal hate group(s) (please specify):
-[ ] Other (please specify): ____________________
[ ] Cyber Attack from a known or unknown source.
Notice that PETA, a non-violent animal rights organization, is listed along with violent animal rights organizations such as ELF which have committed known acts of terrorism.
PETA has not been convicted of terrorist activity although it has admitted to contributing to organizations such as the Earth Liberation Front and convicted eco-terrorists such as Rodney Adam Coronado. And, in the government’s opinion, aiding terrorists makes you a terrorist.
The Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
However, the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism is more far-reaching:
“Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
And the PATRIOT ACT amended the U.S. Code to redefine terrorism as including providing material support to terrorists/terrorist organizations and financing of terrorism.
Likewise, the Military Commissions Act of 2009 gives the U.S. President the power to declare a person an “unprivileged enemy combatant” who “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
Federal law makes it clear the government considers supporting terrorism a terrorist activity. Therefore, one can logically conclude that PETA is a terrorist organization since they have financially supported known terrorists/terrorist organizations.
But such a definition of a what constitutes a terrorist is far too broad — and, it is dangerous. The federal government’s definitions of domestic terrorism, unprivileged enemy combatants and terrorist activity are slippery. When combined they are broad enough to include an array of activities. PETA may not be the most sane organization but it is not a terrorist threat.