Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Should a Group of Radical Environmentalists Be Considered Terrorists?

From ABC News:

A Group of 11 Militant Environmentalists Could Be Sentenced as Terrorists Without Having Killed a Soul

The FBI has called them "the No. 1 domestic terrorism threat," and their members include four of the Bureau's 11 Most Wanted homegrown terrorists. Yet in more than 1,100 acts of arson and vandalism, the members of the Earth Liberation Front have never killed a single person.

Defining terrorism has always been tricky, and in trying to do so, the federal government has acknowledged that there is "no single universally accepted definition of terrorism." But just as when it comes to identifying pornography, lawyers and law enforcement officers have traditionally relied on an ability to know it when they see it.

The government saw it 16 months ago when federal agents arrested 10 members of the loose-knit activist group and an affiliate organization, the Animal Liberation Front, in an action called Operation Backfire.

At the time of their arrest, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called the cell's $40 million dollar arson campaign -- which targeted, throughout five Western states, a horse slaughterhouse, SUV dealerships, a scientific research center, logging companies and a ski resort -- "a pattern of domestic terrorism activities."

Lawyers and activists defending the saboteurs insist, however, that the terrorist label is a scare tactic. Acts of arson and property damage, they claim, have never been the stuff of terrorism indictments, and the label is intended by the government to stir public outrage, increase the length prison terms and augment the government's rolls of imprisoned terrorists.

Today in Eugene, Ore., a federal judge will sentence Stanislas Meyerhoff, 29, the first of the 10-member cell that called itself "the family." The other nine defendants will each be sentenced over the next several weeks.

If government prosecutors can convince Judge Ann Aiken that Meyerhoff and the others -- all of whom have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson charges -- are terrorists, then they will be sentenced following federal "terrorism enhancement" guidelines, which could multiply their sentences sevenfold and land them in supermax prisons. more

I'm of the opinion that they shouldn't be sentenced as terrorists for several reasons. First being the fact that no human was harmed or killed in the process of their crimes. Secondly because once we have used the laws to stiffen punishment for property damage what is left when there is an actual loss of life? Either life is of greater value than property or it isn't. Finally should they be sentenced as terrorists it sets a really strange legal precedent in which having a political motivation to commit a crime becomes as or more important than the severity of the actual crime.

One thing is for certain, should they be sentenced as terrorists these cases will be the appellate courts for years and could end up before the Supreme Court. I'td be safer in the long run to just give them the max on all 5 charges and be done with it. But then again, I'm not a prosecutor out to make a name for myself.