That, and feeding stories to gullible journalists. Today's Observer runs the headline 'Police warn of growing threat from eco-terrorists'.
Although green extremists have yet to embark on an orchestrated campaign of violence in the UK, officers warn that they may be about to launch a campaign of intimidation and fear aimed at disrupting businesses.
You've gotta love the way that 'disrupting businesses' is aligned with 'an orchestrated campaign of violence' and, thanks to the headline, being a terrorist.
"For some people, if they can justify it in their minds, then it's a noble cause even if it's a criminal action. They haven't started yet, but we believe they will come up with a strategy and tactics," said the source at the unit
For most people, activists or otherwise, there are activities that are criminal yet justifiable. But if we use vague terms like 'action' we can conflate all criminal activities, be they blockading a factory or detonating a fuckoff terrorist bomb designed to, ahem, help reduce the human population by 80%.
By saying 'they haven't started yet' we get the impression of some impending threat of deeds we haven't seen before. Yet the only thing they can talk of is disrupting businesses or damage to property, both of which have been going on since time immemorial.
I could say that you haven't publicly buggered puppies 'yet'.
Among the network of groups under the Earth First! umbrella are various climate camps.
No, there aren't any groups under the Earth First! umbrella. But anyway,
Last August police found a stash of knives and weapons beside one such camp in Kent.
Conveniently 'discovered' the day after the police had been roundly criticised in the media for their violence against the entirely peaceful people at the Climate Camp.
Still, the police were right and there a day later riots with weapons used by the Climate Campers including petrol bombs, knuckle-dusters and grenade launchers. Oh, no, hang on a minute...
My favourite line of all, though, is
"they could research an airline and see how many of its aircraft are not environmentally friendly," said the NETCU source.
Where do you start? As if there's such a thing as a quantity of environmentally friendly planes! As if researching an airline means you want to be a terrorist!
These sinister people are researching companies, finding out where they are so they can go there. This used to be known as protesting. But then, as George Monbiot notes
No act has been passed over the last 20 years with the aim of preventing anti-social behaviour, disorderly conduct, trespass, harrassment and terrorism which has not also been deployed to criminalise a peaceful public engagement in politics.
Maybe being an environmental activist does make you a terrorist after all.
What, exactly, is terrorism? Off the top of my head, my definition would have to include the threat of serious injury to members of the public. The government, though, cast it a hell of a lot wider than that.
Thanks to New Labour's Terrorism Act 2000, terrorism is action that 'involves serious damage to property' or 'is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system', and 'the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public' and is 'for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause'.
I'm surprised Greenpeace aren't on the list of proscribed organisations, then.
As if such a broad definition wasn't enough, they strengthen their hand by getting articles in a lefty paper. You'd think a journalist who's won British Environmental Journalist of the Year would side with the activists rather than those who want to imprison them.
With all the police monitoring and infiltration the best they can do is say there might be a lone nutter thinking about committing an atrocity and the strategy isn't worked out 'yet'. This tells you all you need to know about how widespread such ideas are within eco-activist circles.
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UPDATE: After numerous strong complaints, the Observer have retracted the article saying, 'it's perfectly legitimate to report police security concerns, but none of the statements were substantiated'. NETCU's website came down shortly after, and two months later is still little more than a holding page. However, there is a new police unit - the Confidential
Intelligence Unit - said to be in formation, doing the same job.