FBI agents visited an animal rights activist in Minnesota saying that they “don’t just work” for Big Ag corporations, and that they are in search of activist “liaisons.”
Dallas Rising is the program director for the Animal Rights Coalition, an organization in Minneapolis founded in 1980. She was at work when two people walked into the group’s storefront office. “I thought they were going to try to sell me internet service or something,” she says. Then they flipped their badges and said they were with the FBI.
“The guy said ‘Can I talk to you’ and I said ‘No, you can’t,’” she says. She called her boss to confirm that the group would have nothing to do with the FBI, and then asked them to leave.
The agent, who identified himself as Steve Molesky, told Rising that she didn’t need to talk to them, and that they just wanted to say something to her. According to Rising:
“He said, ‘I understand why you would be reluctant to talk to me and I get that, and we, as the FBI, have close relationships with animal enterprises… but we don’t just work for those big companies, we work for all the people.”
Molesky said multiple times that FBI agents “don’t want to stifle anyone’s First Amendment rights,” and that they want to work with her as a “liaison.”
According to Molesky and his partner, Elizabeth Pauling, who said she is an FBI analyst, this would mean that if anyone approached Rising with information about animal welfare violations, she would tell FBI agents about the place of concern so that they could urge the USDA to conduct an investigation.
“Is liaison a new word for informant?” Rising asked. Molesky said no, and that “if Jack and Jill come to you with information, what a liaison would do is let the FBI know where that farm is, while an informant would let the FBI know who Jack and Jill are.” That way, Molesky said, “your concerns are addressed and nobody needs to break the law.”
The visit occurred a week after two other unusual encounters at the Animal Rights Coalition. Someone had called the office saying he knew about a farm in Wisconsin abusing animals and that he wanted help “to get in there” through an Animal Liberation Front style action, Rising says. And just days earlier, a newcomer to an activist training session was asking other attendees how they feel about blowing up buildings and killing people.