Who Are the Real Eco-Terrorists?
by Gar Smith / The-Edge
February 25, 2006

When anti-timber radicals set fire to a building, the government calls it "eco-terrorism." Credit: Seattle Times
On January 20, the US Department of Justice hosted a lavishly orchestrated press conference to announced the indictment of 11 young "eco-terrorists." The government used the presence of the US Attorney General and the head of the FBI to grab headlines in every major media outlet.

FBI and Homeland Security agents had ramped up a campaign against animal rights and environmental activists with raids and arrests in Arizona and New York and grand jury subpoenas in Oregon. In Prescott, Arizona, more than a dozen FBI agents, along with Joint Terrorism Task Force and local police officers raided The Catalyst Infoshop. Seizing environmental publications and arresting one of the organization's founding members.

The US Department of Justice needs to wipe the scales from its eyes. The use of the term was both imprecise and politically charged. Crimes were committed but they were crimes of vandalism, not "terrorism." To recap: terrorists target civilian populations; vandals destroy property.

A Federal Grand Jury in Eugene, Oregon brought charges against the 11 alleging that they had acted as agents of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. They were accused of responsibility for 17 attacks on federal facilities and private property in five Western states from 1996-2001. The 65 charges include arson, sabotage and conspiracy. The "most serious" incident involved an attack that damaged a power transmission tower near Bend, Oregon, but did not disrupt the flow of electricity.

Those arrested included Sarah Kendall Harvey, Daniel Gerard McGowan, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, Darren Todd Thurston, Jonathan Mark Christopher Paul, Suzanne Savoie. Chelsea Gerlach and Kevin Tubbs. Three others were still at-large.

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed that the defendants called themselves "the family" and were guilty of trying to "influence the conduct of government and private businesses through the use of coordinated force, violence, sabotage, intimidation and coercion." Gonzales was citing a controversial provision of the USA PATRIOT Act that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, could be interpreted to criminalize public protest, civil disobedience, and nonviolent direct action.

Gonzales said the indictment told a story "of arson, vandalism, violence and destruction" by "extremist movements known to support acts of domestic terrorism."

For his part, FBI chief Robert S. Mueller argued that "terrorism is terrorism," not matter what the motive. FBI counter-terrorism expert John Lewis claimed that US "eco-warriors" committed 1,200 criminal acts between 1990 and 2004 in the US, causing millions of dollars of damage. But, he notably failed to add, no loss of life. (Also left unmentioned: the number of American citizens who have been killed by the FBI in the course of its work.)

So who are these alleged terrorists? Jonathan Christopher Mark Paul is a firefighter. Suzanne Savoie works in a home for the developmentally disabled: she was involved in community campaigns to stop the Bald Lick timber sale and a long-term effort to preserve Black Mountain on the Siskiyou Crest. Bill Rogers was active in the Save the Peaks coalition. [Note: This paragraph will end here since attempts to locate information on these defendants using a Web search, has suddenly caused The-Edge's office computer to freeze repeatedly.]

When the US Army pulls down a forest at Ft. Bragg, it's called a routine maneuver.
The defendants are accused of setting fires at government and private timber and animal facilities. Ironically, while ELF and ALF are accused of using arson against targeted property, other domestic groups have targeted USFS and BLM facilities with bombs. They have also threatened federal workers.

Gonzales and Mueller failed to make any mention of these much more dangerous domestic terrorists. Why? Perhaps because they are individuals acting under the banner of the Wise Use Movement and the Sagebrush Rebellion, two extreme anti-environmental movements linked to the far-right Republican agenda and backed by powerful mining, oil, and agriculture interests.

Nor did Gonzales or Mueller make mention of the anti-abortion Right to Life movement, whose true-believers have burned and bombed abortion clinics and stalked and murdered doctors and nurses.

These acts (which do meet every international definition of "terrorist acts") have been committed by individuals and groups allied with the Christian Right, a primary source of political support for the Bush White House.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told the press that targeting people who committed crimes "in the name of animal rights or the environment" was among the FBI's "highest domestic terrorism priorities." (Does that rank higher than bombing BLM buildings, burning churches, mosques and synagogues?)

In 2005, Federal investigators told a Senate investigating committee that ELF and ALF represented the country's "leading domestic terror threat." Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK) likened ELF and ALF to Al Qaeda.

And what are the weapons of mass destruction these eco-terrorists are alleged to have deployed? According to the indictment these fearsome weapons include" milk jugs, plastic buckets, and petroleum.

"The trail of destruction left by these defendants across the Western United States caused millions of dollars in damage to public and private facilities," Gonzales told the press. "Today's indictment proves that we will not tolerate any group that terrorizes the American people, no matter its intentions or objectives."

What Gonzales failed to mention is that not a single individual was harmed, injured or killed in any of the cited incidents.

The fact of the matter is, these are not acts of terrorism. They are simply acts of vandalism. It is a crucial distinction that the Bush administration (and the Clinton administration before it) chose to confuse.

A terrorist act targets innocent civilians in an attempt to destroy faith in the protective abilities of a ruling power structure. When you attack people, you are a terrorist. When you attack property, you are merely a vandal.

Jerry Vlasak works with the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, whose Web site frequently posts announcements from individuals claiming to be acting under the banner of ALF.

According to Vlasak, FBI investigators "have no idea who the members of ELF and ALF are" but, because of their inability to solve these politically inspired arson cases, "law enforcement is rounding up known activists" and hope to "squeeze them for information on other people." Vlasak claims none of the indicted activists were involved in these acts of vandalism. He predicts "they will be exonerated."

[FBI has placed Greenpeace and PETA under surveillance and has planted informants inside environmental organizations.

When Union Carbide's Bhopal plant killed thousands, it was called an "accident." Credit: Photo by Prakash Hatvalne / Bhopal Memory Project
Who Are the Real Eco-Terrorists?
If the DOJ wants to equate property destruction with "terrorism" it might want to take a close look at Russell Mokhiber's Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s. Mokhiber, the editor of the Washington, DC-based Corporate Crime Reporter, has assembled a list of US corporations that have been convicted and fined for breaking the law in the course of "doing business." What Mokhiber discovered is that the modern corporation isn't just evading taxes, obstructing justice and committing bribery. The majority of the past decade's corporate misdeeds involved crimes against nature. While 20 corporations were nailed for antitrust violations, 38 leading US companies were fined for committing "environmental" crimes.

By the DoJ's definition, the wanton destruction of nature's property must be classified as "eco-terrorism."

Now that we have our terms straight, let's salute the top eco-terrorists of the 90s. Some of the top offenders (in order of fines levied against them for vandalizing nature's property) include:

  • Exxon ($125 million; $200,000),
  • Louisiana-Pacific ($37 million; $6.5 million),
  • Rockwell International ($20 million),
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises ($18 million; $9 million),
  • Chevron ($6.5 million),
  • ALCOA ($3.75 million),
  • Chemical Waste Management ($3 million),
  • International Paper ($2 million),
  • Consolidated Edison ($2 million),
  • Browning-Ferris ($1.5 million),
  • Unocal ($1.5 million),
  • Eastman Kodak ($1 million)

    Terrorism in the Name of Profits
    Not every corporate eco-terrorist is brought before a court of law and forced to pay a fine for evil-doing, however. Last December, Global Exchange, the San Francisco-based social justice organization compiled a companion list of the "14 Worst Corporate Evildoers." Unlike ALF and ELF, however, many of these enviro-vandals have actually crossed the line and become actual terrorists, destroying the homes and lives of real people around the world.

    The Caterpillar Company has built specially designed D9 and D10 bulldozers that are used by the Israeli army to demolish the homes of Palestinian families. The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has warned Caterpillar CEO James Owens that his refusal to stop supplying these weapons "might involve complicity or acceptance on the part of your company to actual and potential violations of human rights."

    One of these bulldozers was used to kill US human rights activist Rachel Corrie who placed her body between the machine and a Palestinian home in 2003. Since Corrie's death, at least three Palestinians have been killed inside their homes as they were crushed under the blades of Caterpillar's bulldozers. In 2005, Corrie's family sued Caterpillar for their daughter's death and for human rights violations.

    TEXACO dumped 18 billion gallons of chemical poison into unlined pits and open rivers in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992. The toxic fallout from this "Rainforest Chernobyl" caused a plague of skin lesions, spontaneous abortions, birth defects and cancers among the indigenous populations of these once-pristine rainforests.

    CHEVRON facilities around the world have polluted the air, fouled waterways and poisoned the Soil. Chevron's contractors shot and killed unarmed protestors in Nigeria. Chevron's refineries in Richmond, California have subjected hundreds of thousands of Americans to decades of chemical warfare. Residents living downwind from Chevron's emissions have been hospitalized with rashes, asthma, rheumatic fever, liver ailments, kidney damage, lupus, tumors and cancer.

    COCA COLA's international operations have been tied to water theft, worker discrimination and the assassination of union leaders. Eight union leaders in Colombia were murdered after protesting Coke's labor practices. Hundreds of Coke's Colombian workers were kidnapped and tortured after joining union. The exploitation of aquifers for Coke's Dasani and BonAqua bottled waters has deprived villages and farmers in India of water and triggered pollution of local water supplies.

    DOW CHEMICAL developed napalm, a flaming chemical weapons that was used to kill people and poison the earth in Vietnam and Central America. Dow created the Agent Orange herbicide, that contaminated hundreds of square miles of Vietnamese landscape, poisoning crops and rivers and causing an outbreak of birth deformities and health problems for generations of Vietnamese. Dow provided Iraq with the chemical ingredients that Saddam Hussein needed to produce chemical weapons. Dow's chemical plants have spread deadly, long-lasting dioxin fallout over communities in the US and around the world. In 2001, Dow bought Union Carbide, thereby inheriting legal and moral responsibility for the December 3, 1984 chemical plant explosion in Bhopal that killed thousands of nearby residents and left more than 150,000 disabled or dying.

    MONSANTO is the world's biggest producer of Roundup herbicide, a chemical that has been shown to cause cancers, spontaneous abortions, and premature births. Roundup has been used to destroy massive swaths of forests, jungles, and farms in Central America. The chemical was specifically designed to kill any plant that wasn't patented by Monsanto. Roundup is, essentially, a tool of "biological genocide" intended to produce a corporate monopoly at the expense of the natural world.

    These are the agents of destruction that are laying waste to nature's property. These are the real villains that the Justice Department should really be investigating.

    But if Gonzales, Mueller and the Department of Homeland Security insist that they don't have the resources to pursue corporate criminals who only engage in acts of nature-vandalism, The-Edge would like to offer a short-list of US companies that are responsible for the cold-blooded deaths of Americans and others around the world.

    UNOCAL (now a Chevron subsidiary) is being sued for complicity in human rights violations in Burma. The charges include forced immigration, slave labor, torture, rape and summary execution.

    LOCKHEED MARTIN, the planet's largest military contractor, builds an arsenal of lethal weapons -- planes, bombers, and missiles. Lockheed's products are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians around the world.

    PHILIP MORRIS is the world's most profitable drug dealer, selling billions of addictive cigarettes (Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Parliament) that are responsible for the deaths of millions of people around the world. The company, which has tried to hide its lethal association by assuming a new corporate identity -- Altria -- specifically targets youngsters for addiction and death. As Global Exchange noted in a recent report on the world's 14 Worst Corporate Evil-doers, this company "has even hired underage 'Marlboro Girls' to distribute free cigarettes to other children" in its foreign markets.

    OK, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security: We've done the investigation; we've come up with the names; now it's time for you to get to work and bring these evil-doers to justice.

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