Tags: FBI: | Ecoterrorism | Top | Domestic | Threat

FBI: Ecoterrorism Top Domestic Threat

Friday, 20 May 2005 12:00 AM

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe of Oklahoma (one of the good guys in this real-life drama) may not have realized he was touching a raw nerve with his more liberal colleagues when he held a hearing on that subject May 18. But shortly after he gaveled the panel to order, he was confronted with an indignant and defensive firestorm.

Some liberals seem to be super-sensitive over evidence that there are people affiliated with "mainstream" organizations who are helping the violence-prone Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF). When specific examples are cited, they want to change the subject.

In an explosive and contentious hearing, John Lewis, Deputy Assistant Director for the FBI's Counter-terrorism Division, said ecoterrorism – as represented by ELF and ALF – is "way out front" among domestic terrorists.

That assessment was questioned by liberal senator Frank Lautenberg. While going out of his way to employ the strongest possible words to condemn ecoterrorists or any violence for whatever cause, the New Jersey Democrat cited "hate crimes" and abortion clinic bombers as greater terrorist threats simply because of their numbers.

He even dragged in the fight over CSX running its freight trains with hazardous material through the city of Washington, D.C. That is a matter of some concern, and is a complicated issue with no winners and no losers.

In any event, it is irrelevant to the hearing. The railroad is no terrorist. In focusing on ELF and ALF, we're talking about fundamentally bad people. What part of "bad people" do we not understand here?

In fact, Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, actually read the dictionary definition of "terrorism," for Senator Lautenberg's benefit. Vitter sought to delineate the difference between deliberate efforts to do harm, on the one hand, and (for example) the risk in a Hobson's choice of either transporting hazmat (chlorine) or leaving millions of Americans without water from their faucets because chlorine is necessary to purify drinking water.

The dictionary defines "terrorism" as "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes," as Vitter explained.

Lautenberg shot back with a sarcastic "Thank you, Senator Vitter. I was not aware of that."

But the Louisianan wasn't through. He then went on to take his New Jersey colleague to task for – as we noted above – protesting too much. He asked why Lautenberg had deemed it necessary to defend such organizations as the Audubon Society when nobody at the hearing had accused them of anything.

At that point, Lautenberg turned to committee Chairman Inhofe, R-Okla., and asked: "Mr. Chairman, am I a witness here? If I am, I'd be glad to take a seat at the witness table." Whereupon Inhofe gently suggested to Vitter that he direct his questions to the witnesses.

The FBI's Lewis stood his ground. He said the '60s violence by the Ku Klux Klan has subsided and that abortion bombers can't compare with ecoterrorists in terms of geographic reach. Ecoterrorism is the No. 1 domestic terrorist threat, he reiterated.

Carson W. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Field Operations Director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) added that law enforcement was concerned about the willingness of ELF and ALF to resort to incendiary and explosive devices and infiltrate animal or environmental businesses to gather intelligence for raids or other forms of "direct action."

When the FBI official started to cite some examples of ecoterrorism in Lautenberg's own state of New Jersey, the lawmaker cut him off. "We don't need to hear more. We know all about that," he said.

It's his own state. One wonders if New Jerseyans appreciate it that their senator doesn't want to hear FBI concerns about violence visited upon the Garden State. As we reported last month (see

In his opening statement, Chairman Inhofe said that ELF and ALF are also "a concern for American law enforcement over [i.e., more than] the likes of the KKK, Aryan Nation, militia groups or anti-abortion groups."

The Oklahoman noted that not only the FBI but also the Department of Homeland Security had agreed that ELF and ALF "are a severe problem posing a serious threat to the safety of Americans." Further, he added, "it is only a matter of time before someone dies from their dangerous tactics of arson, sabotage and vandalism."

"Plainly, I think we're lucky," added Lewis of the FBI.

Senator Lautenberg and his left-leaning colleague Senator Jim Jeffords ("independent" former Republican from Vermont who caucuses with and votes with the Democrats) warned against "guilt by association" or trying to tar more mainstream environmentalist groups for the sins of ELF and ALF.

Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, issued a written statement complaining that his request to testify before Inhofe's panel had been rejected. He said ecoterrorism is one type of threat to our infrastructure, but "it is not the only one," a point Inhofe had dealt with in his opening statement.

Before hearing from the witnesses, Senator Inhofe showed a three-minute video showing a convicted ecoterrorist/arsonist, Rodney Coronado, teaching kids how to light incendiary devices. The instruction was accompanied by such rhetoric as "We should destroy them [businesses the terrorists self-righteously determine to be injurious to the environment or abusive to animals] by any means necessary," and "their [the police] car should burn."

During the video, Lautenberg blurted out that he thought the whole thing was a waste of time. When Chairman Inhofe gaveled him down, the New Jersey seantor got up to leave. Before he got to the door, the video ended, so he returned to his seat.

And here we get to the part that may explain why come lefties arrived at the hearing with both verbal guns loaded and ready for oratorical fire:

David Martosko, Director of Research for the Center for Consumer Freedom, testified that many "direct action" crimes, such as detonating bombs, starting fires, threatening and stalking innocent people, "receive demonstrable cooperation and assistance – both rhetorical and financial – from an above-ground support system."


In his testimony, Martosko told the senators he wished the Sierra Club would disavow the comment.

Senator Lautenberg seemed incredulous, but Martosko said he had documented the comments under oath.

Chairman Inhofe said that PETA President Ingrid Newkirk and terrorist group advocate Dr. Steven Best, a University of Texas professor (

However, a written statement was submitted by Jeffrey S. Kerr, General Counsel and Director of Corporate Affairs for the PETA Foundation.

Kerr said that the the charges against PETA in this inquiry are "old news," that PETA has "no involvement with alleged ALF or ELF actions," and that "PETA does not support terrorism. PETA does not condone violence. In fact, PETA exists to fight the terrorism and violence inflicted on billions of animals annually in the meat, dairy, experimentation, tobacco, fur, leather, and circus industries."

Before Martosko ended his testimony, his parting words mentioned a graffiti attack that had just taken place in Fair Oaks, California, two days prior to the Washington hearing. Several sport utility vehicles and trucks in one neighborhood were spray-painted with the letters ELF and the word "polluter."

Nearby, a real estate sign was spray-painted with the message "Bomb the White House." That message had caught the attention of the Secret Service and the FBI. Senator Inhofe asked Martosko to submit to him some documents relating to this attack.

The Consumer Freedom advocate said ELF and ALF were a national security threat, and that this incident and other threats pointed to an advocacy of the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.

Wes Vernon in a Washington-based writer and veteran broadcast journalist.


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Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe of Oklahoma (one of the good guys in this real-life drama) may not have realized he was touching a raw nerve with his more liberal colleagues when he held a hearing on that subject May 18. But shortly after he...
Friday, 20 May 2005 12:00 AM
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