The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was enacted by Congress with little debate or awareness at the behest of the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries and signed by President Bush in late 2006.
Despite its name, the Act is framed so broadly that it classifies almost any form of social activism- including picketing, street theater, and civil disobedience- as an act of "terrorism". It is very likely in violation of the First Amendment.
The range of penalties begins with a large fine and 1-5 years in federal prison for nonviolent protest. One activist has served a year for sending a fax inquiring about a demonstration. Four California activists are currently charged under AETA for engaging in peaceful protests and they now each face up to a decade in prison.
Ironically, the Act actually compromises our protection from the real terrorist threat by draining federal law enforcement resources on prosecuting social activism. It also jeopardizes investigations of corporate violations of environmental and public safety regulations.
The leaders in the Judiciary Committees, charged with protecting our civil liberties and the rule of law, must take the initiative in repealing this disastrous legislation.
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Please Note: This petitions targets key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, Constitution Subcommittee, House Judiciary Committee, Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, and the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee.
Despite its stated intent, AETA has not diminished the threats against vivisectors or others who exploit and abuse animals. Instead, it has chilled activists' freedom of expression and assembly. Activists charged under AETA have been engaged in the same forms of peaceful protest and civil disobedience that earned Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday.
AETA has distracted law enforcement officials from prosecuting real terrorist threats. Its vague and conflicting language and exceptionally harsh penalties challenge its constitutionality and make it very difficult to enforce.
Local threats and vandalism should be prosecuted under local laws. Federal laws addressing national terrorist threats should be directed equally at all sources and ideologies and should not sacrifice the liberties granted to us under the Bill of Rights.