Moles Wanted - City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul)
What they were looking for, Carroll says, was an informant—someone to show up at “vegan potlucks” throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way into their inner circles, then reporting back to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between multiple federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The effort’s primary mission, according to the Minneapolis division’s website, is to “investigate terrorist acts carried out by groups or organizations which fall within the definition of terrorist groups as set forth in the current United States Attorney General Guidelines.”Granted, there is likely some small level of overlap between vegan potluckers and people who think Republicans are evil. But let me say as someone with some experience with the whole vegan potluck thing: vegans usually talk about food when they're eating. Vegan food, even. And even if they're talking about how stupid, inept, or cruel Republicans are, they certainly aren't spending their social time organizing political protests or terrorist activities. They came together to eat food without animal products in it. If they wanted to protest the RNC, they'd have gone to, I dunno, one of the actual ProtestRNC2008.org events, perhaps?
This raises many issues, of course. On a personal level, there is the continued conflation of veganism with "animal rights terrorism." The vast majority of vegans I've known oppose violence as a whole, which is kinda why they oppose the violence done to billions of animals each year in the first place. Vegans are the last people who would be plotting some sort of terrorist action against a convention. You may be surprised to learn that the bulk of radical animal activists are not vegan. They're hypocrites, of course, but it's true. A commitment to veganism almost by definition repudiates harming human animals as much as harming non-humans.
Additionally, there is the continued conflation of protester with terrorist. Let's pretend for a moment that the FBI found RNC protesters at, of all places, vegan potlucks. What crucial information might they glean from them? Who's making signs, where to meet, stuff to yell? Protests that turn violent, and they are rare, are pretty much never planned to be violent. Civil disobedience is not terrorism. Stupid kids at protests bashing up a Starbucks is not terrorism.
Finally, there is the issue of covert infiltration as a socially acceptable means of intelligence gathering. For my part, I strongly oppose covert activities of all kinds, be they police, FBI, CIA, or military. I advocate transparent, open governance, including in the prevention of crime or terrorism. I think that privacy trumps security every single time, and I would much rather live in a world in which people could meet and discuss whatever they pleased without fear of obvservation, even if what they pleased was illegal, than one in which the probability of terroist activity was diminished by some miniscule percent through covert infiltration. I have no reservations about this point.
Vegan potlucks "fall within the definition of terrorist groups?" Really?