portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting global

environment | green scare | police / legal | prisons & prisoners

Eco-Sabotage Cases: Judge Aiken Rules on "Terrorism Enhancements"

[5/21/07] This evening, Judge Ann Aiken issued her ruling on whether the "Terrorism Enhancement" could apply to the District of Oregon federal defendants in the "Operation Backfire" eco-sabotage cases. Although Judge Aiken stated that this enhancement may apply, the government still has to provide clear and convincing evidence that the enhancement applies in the case of each individual defendant.
Terrorism Enhancement ruling, 5/21/07
Terrorism Enhancement ruling, 5/21/07

From Judge Ann Aiken's ruling:
"The court finds that the terrorism enhancement under ? 3A1.4 may apply to defendants' convictions for conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. ? 371 if the government establishes that defendants' participation in the conspiracy involved or was intended to promote a "federal crime of terrorism." Further, the court finds that a "federal crime of terrorism" does not require that the offense create a substantial risk of injury or transcend national boundaries. [...] The court also finds that the increase in criminal history category under ? 3A1.4 does not violate defendants' Sixth Amendment rights. Finally, the government must establish the applicability of the terrorism enhancement by clear and convincing evidence."

Notes from last week's hearings on the sentencing enhancement are available here.

Terrorism 22.May.2007 07:14


"...A "federal crime of terrorism" does not require that the offense create a substantial risk of injury...."

Indeed. Then... how is it "terror"? Isn't "terror" supposed to mean something terrifying? Something that, by its very definition, creates a substantial risk of injury???

See, this is yet another way that language, words, are twisted to control us. "Terrorism" was such a horrific thing once. In our psyches it still means bloody shrapnel and blown apart limbs and bleeding bodies in airports and all the lurid, awful things we named it to mean. It's a powerful, shocking word, and everything falling under its grasp is so terrifying that we have been willing to sell away our rights and look away in a desperate attempt to avoid it.

It's a very powerful word. And that power has been harnessed for some awful ends these days. A "war on terror" rages through the bodies of babies in the middle east. Those little babies and their mothers never created "a substantial risk of injury" either. But you know, "terror" and all that.

And in other places, when poor and oppressed people rise up and fight for what is theirs to take, they are called "terrorists." "Terror" is not a word that's ever affixed to billion dollar airplanes dropping million dollar bombs down on top of fifty-dollar houses. It's not a word slapped on men whose foaming mouths lust after the blood of little girls in Iraq. (No, those men are called "heros." But only when they, too, are dead. Swallowed up in this "war on terror" as surely as their victims.) White phosphorus raining down on Fallujah, burning the flesh from the bones, that wasn't "terrorism." That was a good joke. "Shake and bake," I think they called it. And they got to come home heroes after. Not terrorists. "Terrorism" doesn't mean the things that I find frightening anymore. It doesn't mean the slaughter of innocent beings, or the destruction of the earth. (Those things are "progress.") Now, it seems, it only means someone who cares enough about the world and those in it to actually rise up and make a difference.

Well, then, here's to Terrorists.

good analysis from will potter 22.May.2007 08:18


Check out Will Potter's take on this at

"Terrorism enhancement" penalties may apply to a group of activists charged with property crimes in the name of protecting the environment and animal rights, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday. But the burden will be heavily on the government to "present clear and convincing evidence" during sentencing in order for the T-word to apply.

The opinion by Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Ore., goes step by step through a variety of arguments used by defense attorneys against the terrorism enhancement, and generally dismisses them. In taking such a strict, methodical approach to the enhancement, though, she misses the forest for the trees (or, more to the point, misses the forest for the logging company's bulldozers).

Precedent Establishing Case 22.May.2007 20:19

here today

This case definite has all the appearance of becoming a seminal, precedent establishing case for determining the criteria under which the terrorism enhancement can be applied. Will Potter makes the statement

"But at a time when the government labels the environmental and animal rights movements the "number one domestic terrorist threat," and the government holds press conferences labeling activists as "eco-terrorists," and corporations take out full-page scare-mongering ads, it's impossible to divorce legal issues from the cultural and political climate in which they exist."

The overriding consideration here concerns whether the government can establish generic movements such as animal rights and environmentalism as constituting a direct threat against government, itself. The way I read the article, Judge Aiken has reserved the right to make this determination. However, the jury does not necessarily have to go along with this determination, and can acquit on the basis that the government (and the judiciary) is serving the interests of private property owners, and not of public safety.

The case appears set to establish some very important precedents...so keep a good eye on the outcome. The outcome of this case may well establish how judges rule in future cases.

Not a trial, a sentancing 23.May.2007 09:04

here today too

"However, the jury does not necessarily have to go along with this determination, and can acquit on the basis that the government (and the judiciary) is serving the interests of private property owners, and not of public safety. "

There isn't a jury. The ten have pled guilty so this isn't a trial, just a sentancing.

Terrorism 23.May.2007 09:37


-is in the eye of the beholder.
Recently, OPB (Other People's Business) had a big docusellsomething concerning the escape of some irish prisoners from a British Gitmo, in Australia, during the nineteenth century. One of the more striking things about that story was the fact that Irish Americans were actively and openly involved in collecting funds, and chartering a ship, to go to Australia, and "liberate" these prisoners. The announcer did, at one point, admit that "today, this might be considered terrorism." No shit. Since we are now using the Brits in our ill begotten war, and they are about the only government in the world that will speak to us, we might consider it terrorism to break someone out of their illegal prison? I didn't know that.