In which I give the FBI a (tentative) thumbs up

I think Will Potter over at Green is the New Red has gone a bit overboard on his latest post.  He describes an encounter between an animal rights activist and the FBI.  The FBI show up and…no threats, no pepper spray, no allegations of terrorism.

They just ask if the activists get information about abuses to pass along the information.

Potter and the activist immediately jump to the idea of informants and talk COINTELPRO.

I’ve advocated for quite some time that law enforcement should conduct outreach to activists of all stripes in an effort to clarify what they are and aren’t interested in and how to avoid conflict.  How about efforts to build trust?  Sure, it’s going to take time and progress will only come through tiny, baby steps but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Now, I don’t know anything about the FBI effort (assuming the encounter is accurately recounted) but this response is not helpful at all.

So is this emphasis on “liaisons” a reflection of a kinder, gentler FBI?

Not likely.

If the response is an automatic “Get out of here!” you have NO chance of improving relations. They didn’t ask for lists of names or for the activist to hide the fact the conversation took place.  Why couldn’t she act (openly) as a conduit between the FBI and the activist community?

Prejudice and narrow-mindedness is not the exclusive domain of the authorities.

So, my question in light of this story is assuming you’re one of these activists and there is a law enforcement agency that is honestly attempting to conduct outreach in order to clarify what actions are legal/illegal and asking for assistance in identifying violent, criminal activity, how would that look different from what was described in this post?  What steps would you want/expect to see?

And let’s remember to be realistic.  It’s not in the power of law enforcement to unilaterally overturn federal law.  Any initiative is likely to face as much suspicion, resistance and criticism within the agency as it would with a group of animal rights activists.  So, assuming you actually want to improve things, what would you expect?

So, kudos for the FBI apparently trying to reach out to the activist community and nertz to the bunker mentality of the Animal Rights Coalition for refusing to speak to them and at least see if the agents acted in good faith.


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