Attacks force universities to beef up staff security

Universities having to respond to extremist actions against scientists

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for Saturday's firebombings, the most violent attack yet of any UC employee. Designated an act of domestic terrorism, the case has been turned over to the FBI.

The FBI said it was alarmed by the brazen nature of the attack. "This is something that put people's lives in jeopardy,'' said Joseph Schadler, an FBI spokesman. ""This is a completely different level of crime.''

Jerry Vlasak, a spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, defended the use of force, saying it has always been a tool in social justice movements.

"Perpetrators must be stopped using whatever means necessary, and the use of force is a morally righteous tactic; furthermore, it is the most likely tactic to be effective in halting these atrocities,'' he said in an e-mail.

But others in the animal rights community condemned the firebombings, saying they would backfire and set the movement back.

"We're against violence to any species, including our own,'' said Dr. Elliot Katz, a veterinarian and president of In Defense of Animals in San Rafael. "With a broad brush, it makes everyone who cares about animals look like an extremist, and that plays into the hands of people who exploit them. They are able to discredit what we do.''

Such attacks, however, can be effective, possibly deterring scientists from pursuing their work.

"This sort of thing has a very chilling effect on researchers and potential students, and thus on the entire enterprise of basic medical research,'' said one Stanford University researcher. He requested anonymity due to fears that he, too, would be targeted.


(c) 2008, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.