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A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups

Chapter Four: Investigative Activities Directed at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

E. Cheryl Peterson

1. Facts

The Norfolk Field Division initiated a preliminary investigation of Cheryl Peterson on August 23, 2002.137 According to the EC opening the case, Peterson was a PETA                                                                 who had been involved in several incidents, includin a                                      incident in which Peterson                                           SENTENCE DELETED                                     . The EC also asserted that Peterson was involved in the planning and organization of                                           SENTENCE DELETED                                     . Neither the EC nor any other document we reviewed indicated whether Peterson was among those arrested at this event.

The EC also described two additional events involvin! Peterson.                                           PARAGRAPH DELETED                                     

The second incident the EC described involved a                                           PARAGRAPH DELETED                                     

The EC concluded that based on these activities, together with the fact that Peterson was                                                                 a preliminary inquiry was warranted "to determine the extent of Peterson's criminal activities."

Similar to other matters we describe in this chapter, the Norfolk Field Division                                           SENTENCE DELETED                                     . According to the investigative file, the Norfolk Field Division determined that Peterson was considered                                           SENTENCE DELETED                                      at which, according to an FBI source, instruction was provided about making bombs and incendiary devices.

The Norfolk Field Division administratively closed the preliminary investigation of Peterson on February 24, 2004. The closing EC noted that "no further investigative leads or actions have taken place since the expiration of the preliminary investigation status," which was May 23, 2003, 180 days after the case was opened.

Peterson was placed on the VGTOF watchlist on February 1, 2002, several months before she was officially identified as a subject of the preliminary investigation. On June 14, 2007 - over 3 years after the investigation was closed - the Norfolk Field Division submitted paperwork to FBI Headquarters requesting that Peterson be removed from VGTOF. Our review of case files identified multiple alerts the Norfolk Field Division received from 2003 to 2005 relating to Peterson's domestic and foreign air travel. In some instances, the FBI collected copies of Peterson's travel documents; in others, no information was collected other than her flight information.

2. OIG Analysis

We believe that, under the Attorney General's Guidelines, the information contained in the opening EC did not provide a sufficient factual basis to open a preliminary inquiry on Peterson in August 2002. Unlike in the Lewis case, there is no indication that Peterson made statements advocating force or violence, and the only information indicating Peterson's involvement in unlawful acts was one, or possibly two, arrests several years ago for protest activities not uncommon for animal rights activists. Under the guidelines in effect at the time, preliminary inquiries "allow[ed] the government to respond in a measured way to ambiguous or incomplete information" in order to assess whether a full investigation was warranted. We found nothing to indicate that Peterson's previous arrests were sufficient to justify the opening of an FBI preliminary inquiry.138

We also found that the Norfolk Field Division failed to comply with FBI policy requiring that a domestic terrorism subject be removed from VGTOF and other watchlists when the case was closed. The Peterson preliminary inquiry was closed in February 2004, yet the Norfolk Field Division did not seek to remove the individual from VGTOF until June 2007, more than 3 years later. As a result, during these 3 years, the FBI collected information about Peterson's travel activities that it would not have if Peterson's VGTOF status had been closed in accord with FBI policies.

137 Cheryl Peterson is a pseudonym.

138 According to a January 2, 2003, EC contained in the Peterson investi ative file, the Norfolk Field Division obtained information indicating that in                                           SENTENCE DELETED                                      that provided instruction on illegal protest activities. There was insufficient information in the file about this allegation for us to determine that a preliminary inquiry was warranted on this basis.

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