“American Taliban” Vs. “Eco-Terrorist” Sentencing Guidelines
By Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com)

America touts a pride in the concept of “blind justice.” America makes an attempt, at least on the surface, to offer the accused a defense lawyer, a public defender, to thwart claims of unfairness due to lack of access to equal legal representation for the accused in courtrooms. To have “blind justice,” you need standards. Both parties need to be allowed access to defense lawyers, but without sentencing standards and precedents, you have random judges doing whatever they want on whim, which sets a stage for corruption and chaos and something that does not resemble a country. Federal sentencing is nearly impossible if every state varies wildly on its sentencing patterns. The cases of extreme blatant racism in America’s Southern courtrooms show how that can be a societal fault line. In the case of John Walker Lindh, the man dubbed the “American Taliban,” he was found hiding with a group of Taliban fighters, in a fight against U.S. military that killed a CIA agent in Afghanistan. In 2002, he was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his part in that fight. His attorney is now arguing that sentencing is excessive because “another American citizen Yaser Hamdi who was also captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, taken into American custody at the same time under the same conditions” was “freed after less than three years.” Compare that to the sentencing of an environmental activist labeled an “eco-terrorist” by the government, Jeff Luers. Jeff is accused of and sentenced to prison for destroying property, 3 SUVs. No human life was threatened. The property damage was not even that great. He was sentenced to 22 years.

How did we get to this sentencing pattern where federal judges in Eugene, Oregon are sending environmental activists to jail for periods far longer than people fighting with armed enclaves of Taliban against American troops on the ground abroad? It is impossible to not look at this as extremism within our courts. Have you ever been to Eugene? It is a very small town. The idea that the federal courts in Eugene, Or. have just sent out arrest warrants for at least 6 environmental activists across the country, charging them with lavish accusations, labeling them “eco-terrorists” in the press releases, and most of this based on frightened “informants,” by the way, reminds me of Deputy Barney Fife in Mayberry. I imagine they are really excited about something like this, that will bring them national attention, going on in Eugene. Right now environmental activists who do NO DAMAGE TO LIFE are being associated with armed fighters, as “terrorists,” and threatened with things like life in prison, while “American Taliban” get 3 years. We need to seriously look at that.

The Green River Murderer in the Seattle, Wa. area confessed to the rapes, torture and murder of over 40 women. HE got life in prison. In a posting on the internet attributed to a 12/09/05 article by Bryan Denson in The Oregonian, it says, “Meyerhoff and McGowan were both charged” with arsons, one of which was at a poplar farm, and “the two face life imprisonment if convicted of using destructive devices to perform both arsons.” McGowan and Meyerhoff are two of the people arrested this month in the sweep of environmental activists. But, Meyerhoff turned state’s evidence as soon as he was arrested and is now being brought up in other cases for these accused, as one of the “informants” that these arrests are hinged upon. So in that case, we have 2 people who were threatened with life in prison, one goes state’s evidence trying to reduce his own sentence on the back of others’ skin, and you throw in a little inflammatory language, such as “eco-terrorism,” and we have a full blown judicial mess on our hands.

Let us do a review up to this point in this article. If we look at sentencing standards, the American government wants us to believe that environmental activists who have sworn to a pact of no damage to life in their actions, and have stuck to that, are more of a danger to the world, and are more dangerous “terrorists” than armed Taliban in the field. And American courts have also decided to sentence people who are accused of property damage and arsons on a level equal to raping, torturing and killing over 40 women. So women’s lives are not worth much more than oh, a poplar farm. And even more controversial, perhaps, 3 SUVs in Eugene had more worth than that CIA agent that was killed and American troops injured in that battle involved in the Lindh “American Taliban” case. You can see how these sentencing standards really point to some strange trends when set side by side.

I guess this is not surprising in this era where American corporations seem literally drunk on greed and power, that they are valuing property equal to human life and are now labeling people who try to interfere on behalf of the environment’s health “terrorists.” American corporations do not care if they ruin innocent people’s lives, whether via labeling them “eco-terrorists” and setting them up with ridiculous, overblown criminal charges that are reminiscent of the McCarthy era or whether they are leaving open arsenic pits after their open pit mining projects. Bush is known as an eco-unfriendly president so it is not that big of a leap for him to use the federal courts to protect corporation’s interests against environmentalists. As a matter of fact, he is now authorizing spies to watch not only environmentalists, but also poverty action groups, peace groups, etc. So we have no money to house the Katrina survivors, but we have ample money to spy on Catholic Services doing peace work. We do not have the resources or money to prosecute the companies that left vats of toxic waste with unbelievable shelf lives in the nuclear waste dump in Hanford, Wa., vats they did not even note the contents of for later generations to reference. Those vats now have to be burped or they will explode, but god only knows what is in there. They are putting people in jail who burn 3 SUVs rather than dealing with the industrial nuclear, mining, air and water pollution criminals. It is all about money and priorities. It is all about values we put on life and living things versus money and power.

We will be watching how these sentencing standards of past “terrorist” trials compare to these new trials of environmentalists being slurred as “eco-terrorists.” It is not fair, nor does it make sense, to be treating environmental activists as “terrorists.” That is malicious and inflammatory and purposefully done to taint the accused before they even get to trial. That wording is a hollow attempt to trigger a body of law that has no place in these cases currently coming out of Eugene. The use of the term “terrorist” in these environmentalist arrests has allowed federal resources to come in. It has allowed inflated charges and threats of excessive sentencing, and apparently excessive spying, to be placed upon these people, forcing some of them to break under the pressure, claiming to offer some kind of insider information for their own skin, such as Meyerhoff has apparently done.

Jeff Luers was sentenced to 22 years in prison for doing property damage to 3 SUVs in Eugene, Or. One “American Taliban” got 3 years, the other got 20 years and is complaining that is excessive now. The well-respected social justice activist Daniel McGowan, who is oft referred to as gentle and warm-hearted, who was working at a non-profit that provided resources for women dealing with domestic violence (womenslaw.org) when arrested this December, is now being accused of environmental activist crimes, which caused property damage, alone, and he is threatened with the same punishment as a man who tortured and killed 40 women. Even the Green River Murderer was not labeled a “terrorist.” What has made the president, our government, and Eugene, Or., of all places, decide to target these activists on this aggressive witchhunt? It is very curious. It seems like we are still missing a puzzle piece here…we will have to see what transpires in the days to come.

i Reuters, 12/21/05 'American Taliban' Lindh seeks reduced sentence
( http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-12-21T212329Z_01_KRA176941_RTRUKOC_0_US-CRIME-LINDH.xml&archived=False)