News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
SUNDAY, MAY 27, 2007

Activists dispute Web site linking their groups to terror

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — A Web site operated by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, which identified gay rights organizations and anti-abortion groups among those that could include terrorists, has been removed from the Internet after the agency received complaints about the site.

The Web site listed different types of terrorists, including “single-issue terrorists,” which it said can come from groups that rally behind specific causes. Those listed as possibly spawning terrorists:

  • Environmentalists.

  • Anti-genetic activists.

  • Animal rights advocates.

  • Opponents of abortion.

  • Anti-war activists.

  • Gay rights supporters.

    The director of the department, Jim Walker, said his agency received a number of calls and e-mails from people who said they felt the Web site unfairly targeted certain people just because of their beliefs.

    Site to return

    He said he plans to put the Web site back on the Internet, but will no longer identify specific types of groups.

    Howard Bayliss, board chair for the gay and lesbian advocacy group Equality Alabama, said he doesn’t understand why advocates of gay rights would be included on the list.

    “Our group has only had peaceful demonstrations. I’m deeply concerned we’ve been profiled in this discriminatory matter,” Bayliss said.

    Allison Neal, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said she has looked at parts of the Web site and is concerned about anything that pinpoints people “exercising their constitutional right to protest” as potential terrorists.

    Walker said the Web site, which could be reached by links from the department’s main Web page, had been up since spring 2004 and was inspired by a similar Web site in Pennsylvania “where citizens could go and learn about terrorists.” The department’s main Web page is still active.

    He said over three years the single-issue Web site got a relatively small number of hits and stirred little interest, until recently when it apparently became the subject of Internet blogs.

    “We got 20,000 hits in one day and we started getting calls from people who were offended by it,” Walker said. He said he does not have a problem with the site.

    “Just because people are listed, that doesn’t make them extremists. But sometimes people will go to extremes,” he said, citing examples of people who have bombed abortion clinics.

    But Walker said because the Web site did not list every possible example of single-issue terrorism, he has decided to eliminate the examples.

    “Because all of them are not listed, maybe we shouldn’t list just a handful,” Walker said.

    The Web site describes single-issue extremists as people who feel they are trying to create a better world.

    “Single issue extremists are not trying to fight a cheap war or overthrow our government,” the Web site said.

    The site says that in some communities, law enforcement officers consider certain single issue groups to be a threat to their communities.

    “Single issue extremists often focus on issues that are important to all of us. However, they have no problem crossing the line between legal protest and ... illegal acts, to include even murder, to succeed in their goals,” the site says.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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