But Reasons Are Unclear
opponents of eco-terrorism are mounting the nation's most
formidable campaign against the homegrown sabotage. But
the crime wave they hope to quell -- a 2½-year escalation
of arsons and property destruction -- subsided last summer,
perhaps due to law enforcement crackdowns.
subcommittee held a hearing on eco-terrorism last month
in which lawmakers, keyed up about terrorists since the
Sept. 11 attacks, likened America's green underground to
al-Qaida. An FBI official testified that the Earth Liberation
Front and Animal Liberation Front had become the nation's
most active and destructive domestic terrorist groups.
representatives, meanwhile, have challenged the tax-exempt
status of at least one well-heeled group that gives financial
succor to suspected eco-terrorists.
escalated across the nation in the late 1990s. Underground
saboteurs, claiming to act on behalf of the natural world,
repeatedly struck such enterprises as logging, skiing, genetic
research, home building and auto sales. They are suspected
in 69 major attacks since January 1999, including 14 in
the Pacific Northwest, The Oregonian found in an ongoing
analysis of the crimes.
serious cases of eco-terrorism took a precipitous plunge
after July 16, when the Earth Liberation Front set fire
to an oil company building in suburban Detroit. Since then,
eco-terrorists have been tied to just six major crimes,
compared to 21 during the same period last year. The last
major act of eco-terrorism in the United States occurred
more than two months ago, when the Earth Liberation Front
set fire to a genetic research center under construction
at the University of Minnesota, causing $630,000 damage.
have operated in the United States for at least 22 years.
But their crimes took center stage in 1998, when the Earth
Liberation Front claimed responsibility for an arson at
the Vail, Colo., ski resort. The fire, which caused $12
million damage, remains the costliest act of eco-terrorism
in U.S. history. The front is suspected of seven arsons
except perhaps the eco-terrorists, knows why the attacks
have slowed since summer. But federal authorities and industry
leaders familiar with the phenomenon attribute the decline
to key arrests, prosecutions and ongoing investigations.
The FBI has made no secret that it hopes to infiltrate eco-
think there's been a deterrent effect by increased law enforcement
efforts across the board," said Assistant U.S. Attorney
Stephen Peifer in Portland, one of a growing number of law
enforcement officials nationwide now investigating eco-terrorism.
"There doesn't seem to be anyplace in the country where
they can effectively hide anymore."
agents, frustrated for years by the elusive saboteurs, found
reason for optimism in 2001.
last year, federal authorities in New York charged four
young men with setting fire to luxury homes under construction
on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front to protest development.
in June, a judge in Eugene sentenced Jeff Luers to nearly
23 years in prison for setting fire to three pickups and
attempting to ignite a gasoline tanker in mid-2000. The
sentence was the harshest ever given to an eco-terrorist
in the United States. Luers said he targeted the pickups
because they emit too much air pollution.
month, a federal judge in Phoenix sentenced Mark Sands to
18 years in prison for torching seven luxury homes under
construction. Sands wanted to halt development near protected
Barbarash, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front,
has monitored the decline in sabotage from his office in
Courtenay, British Columbia, and doesn't quite know what
to make of it. Barbarash said he would not be surprised
to learn that some of the saboteurs were focusing on other
issues, perhaps resistance to the United States' war on
same time, he ridiculed the U.S. government's public campaign
they're clearly doing is using September 11 as a political
football," he said. "A lot of what is being pushed
. . . has been on their table for a long time; it's not
new. It's all coming out now with such ferocity because
of this focus on rounding up terrorists."
12, lawmakers and industry leaders decried eco-terrorists
in ways typically reserved for such groups as al-Qaida,
Hamas and Hezbollah.
is terrorism, they testified before a House resources subcommittee
on forests and forest health. Some drew no distinction between
the extremists behind the Sept. 11 attacks that killed thousands
and the homegrown saboteurs who have burned down and occasionally
bombed buildings -- almost always vacant at the time --
without killing anyone.
hate American freedoms, including the freedom to choose
. . . and freedom to prosper," U.S. Rep. James V. Hansen,
R-Utah, told his colleagues. "They will commit arson,
vandalism and set bombs to express their hatred for our
F. Jarboe, who was then domestic terrorism chief for the
FBI's counterterrorism division, told the panel that the
Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front had
become the nation's most destructive domestic extremist
groups. Jarboe credited the groups with more than 600 criminal
acts, causing $43 million damage, since 1996. The great
majority of those incidents, however, were small-time theft,
property destruction and graffiti incidents.
star attraction of the congressional hearing was Craig Rosebraugh,
a Portland man who is a former spokesman for the Earth Liberation
Front. For four years, Rosebraugh had received what he called
anonymous claims of responsibility for eco-terrorist crimes
and passed them to news media with laudatory remarks. But
he had few words for the congressional subcommittee, which
subpoenaed him to answer questions about the Earth Liberation
invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination
54 times during the hearing. He issued an 11-page statement
that chided the U.S. government for its own "terrorist
history" against Native Americans and, most recently,
what he called innocents in Afghanistan.
George R. Nethercutt Jr., R-Wash., encouraged colleagues
to treat the Earth Liberation Front as it treats al-Qaida,
by improving intelligence, freeing the hands of law enforcement,
isolating terrorists from allies and cutting off their funding.
and harboring terrorists," he said, "is no different
from directly committing the acts. These dangerous and misguided
zealots must be left without aid or comfort."
that end, groups representing ranching and restaurant interests
recently attacked the tax-exempt status of People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals, an influential animal-rights
group based in Norfolk, Va. They had long fought against
PETA's ad campaigns aimed at getting people to stop using
animals for food, clothing and scientific study.
4, Ron Arnold, executive vice president of Center for the
Defense of Free Enterprise, filed a formal complaint against
PETA with the Internal Revenue Service. Arnold, whose organization
is based in Bellevue, Wash., complained that public records
show PETA donated $1,500 to the Earth Liberation Front press
office two years ago. PETA also had given thousands to the
legal teams of two men later convicted of Animal Liberation
Front crimes in Oregon.
pays legal fees
paid the legal fees of Roger Troen of Portland, who in 1986
helped steal lab animals from the University of Oregon,
and Rod Coronado, who in 1991 launched a multistate arson
campaign against the fur industry. The group also paid Rosebraugh's
legal fees during a federal grand jury inquiry in Portland.
The panel questioned Rosebraugh about eco-terrorist crimes
but did not indict him.
Newkirk, PETA's president, has long acknowledged that her
group gives money to the legal funds of people suspected
of eco-terrorism. But she told The Oregonian last week that
PETA has never knowingly funded or encouraged their crimes
and limits its own pursuits to misdemeanors.
do civil disobedience," she said. "We will throw
a tofu pie at somebody once in a while."
general counsel, Jeff Kerr, has accused industry groups
of using the Sept. 11 tragedy to renew a smear campaign
against social action groups that creatively exercise free
complaint accuses PETA of flagrantly violating its nonprofit
tax exemption by encouraging arson and other crimes, publicizing
the exploits of eco-terrorists and dispatching undercover
investigators to steal papers from medical labs.
honestly hope the IRS will finally take these things seriously,"
can reach Bryan Denson at 503 294.7614 or by email at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org