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If a Tree Falls

How far would you go to create change? In December 2005 Daniel McGowan, a prominent New York City social justice organizer, was arrested by federal agents in a nationwide sweep of activists linked to crimes by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF)—a group the FBI has called America's "number one domestic terrorism threat." For years, the ELF had carried out arson from Oregon to Long Island against businesses they accused of destroying the environment. Filmmaker Marshall Curry (Street Fight) creates a timely chronicle of a young man facing a long prison sentence as a terrorist for crimes committed in defense of the environment. By providing a closer look at the group's disillusionment with the strategies of non-violent protest —in which they suffered police abuse and public indifference—the film poses difficult questions about the possibility of effecting change from within the system and examines the raised stakes post 9/11 where the "terrorist" tag is broadly applied. (Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival 2011)

Human Rights Watch has reported extensively on the apprehension, detention, and prosecution of terrorism suspects in the US and abroad. By attending selected criminal trials and working with lawyers, judges, and prosecutors, Human Rights Watch also monitors the use of surveillance techniques, the basis for probable cause, and the application of basic due process and fair trial standards to the criminal process. The facts needed to justify investigations of terrorism suspects have been greatly reduced over the past several years and Human Rights Watch closely monitors how the government makes use of these enhanced rights of intrusion against the personal liberties of individuals affected.