'Terror' Group Web Site a Puzzle for Feds

Just days after the FBI raided an office of a group it calls a domestic terror threat, taking computers and files, the group's Web site proclaimed: It's business as usual.

"Even with their most dramatic efforts, the Feds are still always one step behind," a posting on the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA Web site said. "Well, we wish them fun times in combing through our stuff. In the meantime, it's business as usual and there's a campaign to be won."

SHAC, which the FBI has designated as a domestic terror group, focuses its attention on Huntingdon Life Sciences, a firm that contracts with other companies to do pharmaceutical testing. The group may be the most effective of the radical environmental and animal rights groups, or "movements," as both activitists and law enforcement officials call them.

Recently the group took its cause a step further — on the Internet. Like other movements that the FBI designates as domestic terrorists, such as the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, SHAC uses a Web site to report on the activities of its supporters.

But SHAC goes further, providing a clickable map of the United States for activists to locate the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of companies that do business with Huntingdon. For some, names of executives or other employees are also listed.

Some of the people whose names have been listed by SHAC in the United States and Britain have had their homes or cars spray-painted or vandalized; they have faced demonstrations outside their homes at all times of the day and night, received harassing telephone calls or e-mails and in some extreme cases have been physically attacked.

Law enforcement knows what SHAC and other groups are posting on their Web sites. But the people who put the sites together seem to understand what the First Amendment will and won't allow.

"We're aware of the information that's on some of the Web sites, but when you start talking about postings on the Internet and their relationship to criminal acts, you have to be very careful, because you're talking about possible violations of First Amendment rights," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Phil Celestini.

"We can't be seen in any way as attempting to quash the exchange of ideas, but it certainly has gotten our attention," he said.

The Web site carries a disclaimer saying: "The SHAC USA Web site, its hosts, designers, contributors, and sponsors, are not responsible for actions on the part of any individual which prove defamatory, injurious or prejudicial to the individuals or entities named herein, their families, or acquaintances. This publication is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to incite any criminal action on the part of its readers, visitors, or recipients."

'Hit 'Em Hard!'

What SHAC is doing with its interactive map recalls a Web site, put up by a Georgia anti-abortion activist, called "The Nuremburg Files," though that site used graphic devices such as dripping blood and "wanted" poster formats, while SHAC's site provides a simple map and list.

After three of the doctors named on the "Nuremburg Files" site were killed, Planned Parenthood sued the anti-abortion group American Coalition of Life Activists, which provided information identifying doctors who performed abortions, and listing their home addresses and telephone numbers, to the Web site.

In his endorsement of a lawsuit ruling that found the group liable for $107 million in damages in 1999, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones called certain language on the site "blatant and illegal communication of true threats to kill."

For its part, SHAC USA says that people who come to the site and share the group's views could get the information they find there in other ways.

SHAC spokeswoman Danielle Matthews said that everything posted is public information, and though there are such things as "Hit 'em hard!" and "it's clobberin' time!" in postings about the directors of HLS, the group is not telling people to commit criminal acts.

"I don't think it's a call for anything in particular," Matthews said. "The campaign is structured in such a way that people around the country take action on their own."

Matthews said the group has been sued a number of times because of the activities of activists, but has never been held liable.

'Anything That Wasn't Nailed Down'

The Joint Terrorism Task Force raid on the SHAC USA offices in Franklin Township, N.J., last week was the first time the FBI had executed a search warrant on the group, SHAC spokesman Kevin Jonas said.

It came the same day as another animal rights activist's home was searched in Seattle.

FBI spokespeople in New Jersey and Seattle would only confirm that search warrants were executed, but would not provide any details.

Celestini also would only say that there had been a pair of search warrants executed, though he said that the radical environmentalist and animal rights movements are the current priority among domestic terrorist groups, and he said they have recently become more active.

"Since the beginning of 2003, we have seen a trend toward increase," he said. "We have seen an acceleration."

SHAC's lawyer, Bill Strazza, said FBI agents took two computers, files "and just about anything that wasn't nailed down. If there was furniture or clothing, it was taken."

The raid came on the day that SHAC was moving its office out of the house.

No one was arrested, and Strazza said that as far as he knows there are no arrest warrants for any SHAC activists.

"There is a seated grand jury that I presume is investigating SHAC, but I don't know for sure," he said. "The FBI doesn't want to say too much about it, but it may be that somewhere down the line there are arrest warrants or indictments."

Targeted Attacks

The campaign against Huntingdon, which began in Europe in the 1980s and followed the company to the United States when it opened labs here in the late 1990s, is focused on harassing companies that do business with the pharmaceutical testing firm.

SHAC claims to have convinced about 100 companies — from banks to janitorial firms — to stop doing business with Huntingdon. Most recently, the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche decided not to renew its contract to audit HLS.

SHAC claims credit for convincing Deloitte & Touche to stop working with Huntingdon, but the accounting firm cited no reason for the decision.

The campaign, carried out in both Britain and the United States, included noisy all-night protests outside company executives' homes, damage to their cars and spray painting of their homes, and leaflets passed out to employees' neighbors saying they lived next door to "animal killers."