U.S. Government Hunts Eco-defenders
Secret Grand Jury investigations have led to indictments of 12
24 Jan 2006 03:50 GMT
The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a 65-count indictment on January 20, 2006 alleging that 12 people were involved in Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activities in the United States spanning five years from 1996 to 2001. As a result of the Grand Jury investigation in Eugene, Oregon, the suspects have been charged in 17 arson and sabotage attacks on federal and private facilities in five states. No one was harmed in any of the incidents. Ongoing grand juries in San Diego and San Francisco are also targeting environmentalists and animal rights defenders.
The nation-wide sweep of arrests, dubbed “Operation Backfire”, has been declared by the FBI as a major hit to environmentalists and animal rights activists who engage in destruction of property as a means to defend wilderness and lives of animals. However, many suspect that the string of arrests falls in line with decades-long FBI covert intelligence operations aimed at disrupting and discrediting political movements. Part of COINTELPRO and other intelligence agendas, the FBI has been engaged in domestic surveillance activities and have been falsely targeting political activists since the 1960s.
Background: Portland: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | | Indybay: 1 | 2 | 3 | | NYC: 1 | | Arizona
Support Sites: www.supportdaniel.org | www.supportchelsea.org | www.freedarren.org | friends of suzanne | www.supportkevintubbs.org
Brian Glick writes in his book titled, War at Home, “Government harassment of U.S. political activists clearly exists today, violating our fundamental democratic rights and creating a climate of fear and distrust which undermines our efforts to challenge official policy. Similar attacks on social justice movements came to light during the 1960s. Only years later did we learn that these had been merely the visible tip of an iceberg. Largely hidden at the time was a vast government program to neutralize domestic political opposition through ‘covert action’ (political repression carried out secretly or under the guise of legitimate law enforcement).” In 2002, a federal jury found the FBI and the Oakland Police guilty of violating Judi Bari and Daryl Cherney's first amendment rights by framing them as terrorists following an assassination attempt made on Bari and Cherney in order to discredit Earth First!
Operation Backfire was announced as the Bush Administration currently attempts to defend its domestic spying program, in which many from both sides of the political spectrum have alleged unconstitutional. Many cases involved in the indictment came just before the statute of limitations was due to expire. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and ATF Director Carl Truscott claim that “eco-terrorism” is the number one domestic terrorism threat in the U.S. “Terrorism” is defined in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (28 CFR Section 0.85) as “…unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Gonzales said at a recent news conference, “Investigating and preventing animal rights and environmental extremism is one of the FBI’s highest domestic priorities.” According to Carl Truscott, director of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the FBI claims to have at least 188 open investigations of crimes claimed by the ELF and ALF. The only evidence declared in the 83 page indictment comes from the testimony of five "confidential sources." Two individuals have been publicly identified as FBI informants, Jacob Ferguson and Stanislas “Jack” Meyerhoff, the latter who has been indicted. FBI's indictments are taking some of the heat off the Bureau after a recent 60-Minute episode exposed the FBI’s failure to apprehend anyone in ELF and ALF actions.
The vast majority of mainstream American media outlets have regurgitated the government’s language, reporting a one-sided story that fails to expose crimes committed against the environment by the government and corporations, and to explain the motivation and passion of environmental or animal rights’ defenders. Like the government institutions and corporations targeted in the actions, the mainstream media presents the capitalist-perspective, only reporting property damage, but no other facts of the actions.
Of the individuals in custody, almost all have publicly proclaimed innocence. Some have very openly stated that they have no affiliation with the ELF or any like organization. Those facing charges include:
• Daniel McGowan, an environmental and social justice activist from New York. Daniel has been an active member of the community, working on diverse projects such as the demonstrations against the Republican National Convention, Really Really Free Markets, and supporting political prisoners such as Jeff "Free" Luers and others. Daniel was a graduate student earning a Master's degree in acupuncture and working at Women's Law, a nonprofit group that helps women in domestic abuse situations navigate the legal system. See: www.supportdaniel.org
• Chelsea Dan Gerlach, a peaceful environmentalist who has lived almost her entire her life in Oregon. At the time of her arrest she worked as a talented DJ in demand in the Portland area. As Chelsea's sister states, "The person we know and love is incapable of such acts and we have absolutely no reason to believe in her criminal involvement in these cases." See: www.supportchelsea.org
• Darren Todd Thurston, a well-known Canadian activist who is deeply concerned about his ability to receive fair treatment as a Canadian being held on US soil. See: www.freedarren.org
• Jonathan Paul, a firefighter and long-time environmental and animal rights activist who helped co-found America's Whale Alliance and Ocean Defense International.
• Suzanne Savoie, an environmental activist who has been helping to organize campaigns to stop the Bald Lick timber sale and protect the Counderoy Mountain roadless area on Oregon's Black Mountain. Suzanne's support group can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
• Kevin Tubbs has been described as a uniquely gentle, loving person who is uncommonly generous to friends and strangers alike. See www.supportkevintubbs.org
• Joseph Dibee: Joseph is not currently in custody.
• Josephine Overaker: Josephine is not currently in custody.
• Rebecca Rubin: Rebecca is not currently in custody.
• Sarah Kendall Harvey, from Arizona is currently out on bail. She has requested that she receive no prisoner support.
• Stanislas Meyerhoff, who according to the Associated Press is now cooperating with the authorities as a snitch.
• Bill Rodgers remains an un-indicted co-conspirator after dying in custody through an apparent suicide on the Winter Solstice. Bill was a well known Arizona community activist who ran the Catalyst info-shop out of his home.
In a separate investigation in Sacramento, California, three individuals were arrested on January 16, 2006, on charges of conspiring to damage or destroy certain property by explosive or fire. The government reported that a paid confidential source also had a role in the arrests.
In Arizona, Earth First! activist and former ALF member Rod Coronado was recently convicted of “conspiracy to interfere or injure a federal official (or his property)” for his involvement in an action trying to stop the Arizona Game and Fish Department from killing mountain lions on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service. He is facing 7 years in prison for spreading mountain lion urine and setting off one snare. Assistant prosecution attorney Bev Anderson said after the trial "I know he wasn't tried here for being a violent anarchist. This trial wasn't about Rod Coronado being a terrorist, but he is one."