In the early hours of March 7, 2009, David Jentsch was startled out of his slumber by the sound of an explosion in his driveway. Running outside, the UCLA professor found that his car had been firebombed. His car was destroyed, and the fire spread to a nearby tree before firefighters were able to control it.
Self-described members of the “Animal Liberation Brigade” claimed responsibility for the firebombing, warning Jentsch in a message posted March 8 on the website of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (which publishes communiqués from underground animal rights activists) that “we will come for you when you least expect it and do a lot more damanage [sic] than to your property.
Prior to the firebombing of his car, Jentsch, a professor of psychology and psychiatry whose research involves rodents and primates, had had no personal contact with animal liberation activists. He responded to the attack by forming Pro-Test for Science, a community of researchers that works to counter the radical animal liberation movement.
Soon, Jentsch found himself subject to daily harassment, including menacing emails and packages containing razors. It emerged that an obscure Florida-based group called Negotiation is Over (NIO) had targeted the UCLA professor as public enemy No. 1, posting his picture and contact information on its website and urging the animal liberation community to take action against him.
NIO is the brainchild of Camille Marino, a 47-year-old former investment banking professional who for the past three years has devoted her life to radical animal rights activism. According its website, NIO “strives to be an instrument of defiance, disruption, disobedience, subversion, creative & aggressive grassroots action, and a catalyst for revolutionary change. Total liberation – human animals, nonhuman animals, and the earth – will not happen by politely asking abusers to be decent. Emotion and passion drive action … not sterile debate.”
It continues, “NIO has changed the rules by which animal activists engage abusers. The philosophy is simple yet profound; anyone who engages in the horrific treatment of any sentient being should no longer expect to remain anonymous. They and their family, friends, neighbors and colleagues should be made to face the awful truth. NIO has opened a new front in the war to end animal exploitation and is a vital voice for the animals.”
The rest of website is essentially a one-stop shop for radical animal liberationists, featuring a “Tools for Activists” section with links to information on picking locks and making flash bombs, a hacker training site, and the extremist Animal Liberation Front’s (ALF) primer. It also has a section called “NIO’s Most Wanted,” with the names, addresses and other personal information about seven researchers – Jentsch among them – whom the group considers to be the worst perpetrators of the “animal holocaust.”
A section titled, “Strategies and Tactics,” offers information about other groups (both in the animal liberation movement and outside) whose “creative and aggressive” techniques are intended to “inspire activists to escalate our response to the urgent war being waged against animals and the planet.” One example is Individualities Tending Towards Savagery (ITTS), a Mexico-based group that targets nanotechnology researchers with parcel bombs. ITTS, which has been linked to attacks in Mexico, France, Spain, and Chile, models its tactics on those of the “Unabomber,” former Berkeley Professor Theodore Kaczynski, who killed three professors and wounded 23 others during a two-decade campaign against technological advancement. Several nanotechnology researchers and support staffers have already been wounded as a result of ITTS actions, and the group claims it will continue “without compassion and without mercy.”
Asked by Hatewatch whether she personally endorses violence as a tactic to achieve NIO’s goals, Marino equivocated. “There is a war being waged against animals and any act committed in the name of love and compassion against those who are waging the war I do not consider an act of terrorism,” she said in an Oct. 31 phone interview. “I’ve never committed a crime in my life. I’ve never done anything violent and I don’t intend to. But if some unknown person took that step, I would support and applaud it.”
The fact is, she has all but called for it. In an NIO post dated a June 12, 2010, Marino featured a chalk outline and the words “Animal Abuser Was Here,” and wrote, “The [chalk outline] image on this page is not a cute logo. It is my personal belief that if you are a sadistic animal torturer, that is all you deserve – a chalk outline. That’s my opinion, not a threat. It’s not even inciting anyone because, unless you read my words and run out and murder David Jentsch (an idea that amuses me immensely), I’m not responsible. If you have time to think about it and form your own conclusions, my words cease being the impetus.”
“If you spill blood, your blood should be spilled as well. [W]e’re no longer playing games. We will print your information. And we’ll be at your homes. We’ll be at your work. We’ll be at your country clubs and golf courses. We’ll see you at your manicurist and we’ll be kneeling next to you when you take that next holy communion wafer on Sunday. If I have my way, you’ll be praying to us for mercy.”
Marino – who on Oct. 27 was declared persona non grata on the campus of Detroit’s Wayne State University after she targeted a cardiovascular researcher there – again stressed to Hatewatch that she bears no responsibility for anything that befalls the researchers featured on the NIO website.
“I simply published information about a man who tortures dogs to death for money. He’s euphemistically called a researcher,” she said of the Wayne State professor. On NIO’s website, she described the researcher as a “Serial Torture-Murderer” while encouraging “[l]ocal NIO activists” to “show up at his home and snap pictures of his blood-money mansion and his miscreant spawn for publication.”
“I continue to get injunctions and bans for doing this,” Marino said. “If we were talking about bakers and I were publishing pictures of their cupcakes and their addresses, no one would say I am a terrorist. They would say I am advertising.”
“I don’t endanger anyone’s life. We’re talking about a man who literally over long periods tortures animals to death. I’m saying to him that if this embarrasses you, if my publishing this makes you live in fear, it’s not me that you fear, it’s not any activist that you fear. … His reaction to having his information out there is wholly removed from my intent. My intent is, I publish information about criminals. There’s no intent that anything should happen beyond that. If the publication of such materials makes him be afraid for his life – well, the baker would not be afraid if I published his recipes.”
“I am above ground and I try to stay within the law. But the law does not exist to protect the innocent. The law exists to regulate and enforce the agenda of the corporate industrial complex. Their job is to make money, to make money off the animal holocaust. When we talk about laws, it’s all relative. Obviously I don’t want to go to jail over nonsense, but I will if I have to. Those laws are irrelevant. They exist to protect those who harm the innocent.”
Jentsch, who has been aware of animal liberation activists throughout his career (though he was not personally targeted until the 2009 firebombing of his car), told Hatewatch in a phone interview that Marino epitomizes a new kind of animal liberation extremist. While earlier activists targeted institutions and labs, NIO has a more disturbing approach. The adoption of the idea that “the best strategy is to target individuals,” Jentsch said, “is the truly frightening aspect of this movement.”
Such personal attacks have been going on for about a decade, he said, but NIO is the first website he’s seen to promote them so aggressively. “One of the things that’s been distinctive in her website and her movement is you see this commiseration, this coming together of a group of people across the country that are the most hateful and the most willing to be blatant about their sort of lust for violence. … She creates a permissive environment by being a model, and then she provides the information. Here’s the person, here’s the email, send it. She becomes this vehicle for almost unbelievable animosity and hatred.
“She has taken this to a level that very few others have. She’s really become sort of the nationally visible representative of ‘just pummel people. Take them on personally. Put all the cards on the table and do everything possible to crush them.’ That part is distinctive about her; it’s almost an art form.”
For a while after Marino and NIO began targeting him after the firebombing, Jentsch simply monitored the website, trying not to be bothered by the verbal attacks. He says NIO had been harassing him for about a year when Marino posted the chalk outline and indicated that she would be amused if someone killed him. Jentsch tried moving and changing his phone number, but an NIO sympathizer found him, and soon the website featured his new home address and a photo of his gate, along with detailed instructions on hacking home security gates. On July 19, 2010, Marino sent him an email that said, “Everyone at NIO is most anxious to throw you a housewarming … a very very hot housewarming. haha. Just joking.”
Frightened by what he interpreted as a threat of arson, Jentsch obtained a permanent restraining order against Marino. Though he is still listed among NIO’s “most wanted,” the group seems to have turned its attention toward other researchers – including undergraduates, whom Marino describes as “the soft-bellied target of the vivisection complex.” In a case reported on by Security Management magazine, NIO used a barrage of emails to bully a Florida Atlantic University undergraduate who used fruit flies in her research into pursuing a different course of study.
There are some signs that Marino is struggling to keep the group afloat. She has bragged that NIO has a “global network of cells ready, willing, and able to act as a coordinated unit.” It is unclear whether this is true, through it does appear that sympathizers from around the country contribute intelligence to her website and react to her battle cries. But on October 28, NIO’s website featured a message asking for donations in exchange for membership that would include an official card, “eligibility to apply for charter for local NIO chapter,” a subscription to a quarterly newsletter covering strategies and tactics, and access to a private forum to be launched in 2012.
The request for money has gotten mixed reviews; while some activists responded positively, others called her a sell-out.
Responding to an objector nicknamed “Diablo,” Marino posted a message saying she had already sunk thousands of dollars of her own money into the website to protect it from sabotage and move to a server in Iceland “to indemnify it against injunctions and actions against me,” and that she anticipates upcoming “legal and campaign expenses” to cost at least $10,000 dollars.
“I fear nothing,” she wrote. “Not jail. Not prison. Not your judgments about issues you clearly do not understand. Not ostratization [sic], marginalization, or backlash. … I fear no human.”
“My only fear lies in letting the animals down and failing at a point where we are poised to penetrate and undermine the enemy in a manner never yet attempted. Unfortunately, since I too live in a capitalist world, this takes money and resources. Thus far, I have shouldered the overwhelming share of financial responsibilities of seeing this uncompromising vision of liberation begin the [sic] bear some fruit. And now we will see if our community will step up and support the vision that thousands of us purport to believe in.”
Marino was fully aware during the interview that she was talking with a blogger from the Southern Poverty Law Center, even volunteering that she is familiar with the SPLC’s history of denouncing radical animal rights activists like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). She approved a transcript of her interview, writing in an E-mail, “I think you captured everything I said perfectly.” Hours later, Marino contacted the blogger and said she wanted to withdraw her consent to be quoted, saying that she did not want to be quoted on “a blog filled with the most contemptible groups of racists, bigots, madmen, and hatemongers … groups that I despise.” Following widely accepted journalistic practice that once an on-the-record interview is conducted, permission cannot be withdrawn, Hatewatch decided to publish quotes from the interview.