In recent years, the broad definition of 'eco-terrorism' has come to include environmentalist activities ranging from arson to setting mink free at fur farms to protests in front of the homes of corporate executives. Environmental activists have seen increased imprisonment (including maximum security sentences) for non-violent crimes.
Now, as the FBI suggests that 'eco-terrorism' is in decline, the Washington Post reports that the FBI has increased heavy surveillance of environmentalists including anti-fracking protesters.
Juliet Eilperin at The Washington Post reports:
Ben Kessler, a student at the University of North Texas and an environmental activist, was more than a little surprised that an FBI agent questioned his philosophy professor and acquaintances about his whereabouts and his sign-waving activities aimed at influencing local gas drilling rules.
“It was scary,” said Kessler, who is a national organizer for the nonviolent environmental group Rising Tide North America. He said the agent approached him this past fall and said that the FBI had received an anonymous complaint and were looking into his opposition to hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” The bureau respected free speech, the agent told him, but was “worried about things being taken to an extreme level.”
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