An FBI agent and a Dallas police officer spoke last month with philosophy and religion professor Adam Briggle about specific materials in a syllabus for one of his courses on civil disobedience.
Law enforcement officials brought up an article in his curriculum that supports “monkeywrenching,” an act of sabotaging equipment performed by activists to stop projects they deem damaging to the environment.
Briggle believed the FBI agent and officer were only seeking information.
“They told me they are acting proactively and preventatively to smell out any signs of trouble for any potential eco-terrorist strikes revolving around the gas drilling issue on the Barnett Shale,” Briggle said.
The FBI agent referenced a chapter from the book Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. The first chapter, by Dave Foreman, calls on individuals “to act heroically in defense of the wild, to put a monkeywrench into the gears of the machine that is destroying natural diversity.”
“I told the FBI guy I counsel my students to break the law; just the unjust laws,” Briggle said. “As Foreman says, and Martin Luther King said, and Gandhi said, it should be a very serious and prolonged process to make sure you’ve gone through all the legal means first. That’s a very difficult thing to find out: What is an unjust law?”
The agent and police officer repeated several times that they supported free speech as protected in the First Amendment but explained there is a difference between protesting and violence.
“At one point they asked me, ‘Have you heard anything about IEDs [improvised explosive devices]?’” Briggle said.
Briggle serves as the chair of the Denton Stakeholder Drilling Advisory Group. He supported the moratorium on gas drilling exploration passed by the Denton City Council on the same day as the visit by the FBI.
Along with Briggle, philosophy senior Ben Kessler was questioned about his work with Rising Tide North Texas, a direct action activist organization confronting climate change.
Kessler was unavailable for comment.