Eco-Terrorists Stepping up Attacks Across America

Published November 21, 2003

Environmental terrorists, already designated by the FBI as the nation’s No. 1 domestic terrorism threat, ran rampant across America during summer and fall 2003.

Wave of New Attacks

On August 1, terrorists burned to the ground a 206-unit apartment complex under construction in San Diego. The arsonists caused $50 million damage, making it “the single largest act of property destruction ever committed by one of these groups in the history of the country,” said Phil Celestini, head of the FBI’s domestic terrorism operations unit based in Washington, DC.

“It’s sheer dumb luck and providence that someone has not been killed,” Celestini added. “You set a fire that big, there’s no way of predicting what the ultimate consequences will be.”

Celestini noted with disgust that the terrorism, applauded by a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), was allegedly conducted in protest of urban sprawl—the spreading out of human population centers from a few highly concentrated cities to the surrounding countryside. The San Diego arson occurred in the city’s densely populated University City neighborhood, and the building itself would have combated urban sprawl by housing several hundred persons in a single building.

On August 28, a bomb exploded at the biotech Chiron Corp.’s Emeryville, California, business office. There were no human casualties, but the bomb resulted in significant property damage.

The company narrowly escaped a second terrorist attack on September 26, when explosives were discovered at its Pleasanton offices before they could explode. Chiron and another biotech company with nearby business offices were targeted because they use animal testing to ensure the safety of cosmetics and household products.

On September 23, Animal Liberation Front (ALF) terrorists destroyed much of a Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine office in Baton Rouge. Computers and lab equipment were demolished, and red paint was thrown on office walls.

Also on September 23, ELF planted incendiary devices at a bottled water pumping station in Martiny Township, Michigan. The deadly devices were discovered before anybody was hurt.

“We will no longer stand idly by while corporations profit at the expense of others,” claimed ELF in a press release. “To this end, we have taken action against one of the pumping stations that Perrier uses to steal water.”

During September, terrorists vandalized more than 100 SUVs throughout Southern California, causing more than $1 million in damage. The terrorists additionally took the effort to write such messages as “Fat, lazy Americans” on the vehicles.

On October 6, United States Forest Service agents found a New Mexico USFS construction site had been vandalized. Eco-terrorists had cut electrical wires, damaged government vehicles, and slashed the tires on a water trailer at a site where forest workers were upgrading roadside culverts to reduce erosion. The terrorists taunted the workers by scratching “ELF” on the vehicles, and writing “swine” and drawing swastikas on government property.

Deadly Impact of past Terrorism

The recent acts are part of an accelerating pattern of eco-terrorism committed by, and encouraged by, such groups as ELF and ALF. Past terrorist acts have included:

  • In 2002, ELF terrorists attacked a Forest Service research center in Pennsylvania. Stated ELF after claiming credit for the attack, “where it is necessary, we will no longer hesitate to pick up the gun to implement justice.”
  • In April 1999, ALF terrorists vandalized a cancer research center at the University of Minnesota, destroying the life-saving work of university researchers. “To this day our cancer vaccine program for treating brain tumor patients is still trying to recover from the vandalism,” said the university’s Dr. Walter Low.

In addition to ravaging the university’s cancer vaccine program, the terrorists destroyed important research computers and an incubator containing brain cells from patients participating in Alzheimer’s research. According to Low, the destruction of the incubator alone set back Alzheimer’s research by two years.

Said Low, “You begin to have an impact on a patient who’s donated their cells for us to develop a vaccine, and we no longer have that vaccine to offer to that patient. That patient has no other hope.”

  • In 1995, ALF terrorists firebombed research facilities at a Michigan State University building. College students were present and injured, but no one was killed.

Follow the Money

Watchdog groups, shocked and alarmed by the violence eco-terrorists are willing to commit, are also dismayed that ELF and ALF appear to have ready access to funds for producing propaganda, recruiting members, and committing their terrorist acts.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which produces slick advertising campaigns and whose leaders are treated as quasi-celebrities on the national cable news networks, has admitted to donating $1,500 to ELF in 2001. According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, PETA donated at least $70,000 to ALF.

PETA receives much of its funding from other liberal environmentalist groups. Like ALF and ELF, many of those groups are beginning to come under legal scrutiny.

On September 22, the charitable oversight group Public Interest Watch filed a complaint with the IRS charging Greenpeace with making illegal transfers from strictly monitored tax-exempt funds to non-exempt funds that can be used for a variety of questionable purposes. According to Public Interest Watch, Greenpeace transferred more than $10 million in exempt funds to non-exempt organizations from 1998 to 2000.

Said Marc Levin, president of the American Freedom Center, “These wholesale transfers from more tax-restrictive organizations to less-restrictive organizations are illegal on their face because there is no way to be sure that co-mingled funds won’t be used for non-exempt purposes. Furthermore, terrorist acts clearly do not fit within any of the legally recognized areas of activity for [tax-exempt] groups.”

Reached for comment, Greenpeace spokesperson Nancy Hwa adamantly denied that Greenpeace condoned violence or terrorist activities. “We are a non-violent organization. We don’t condone property destruction or violence,” said Hwa. She further asserted that Greenpeace has kicked out members who engage in such activities.

Levin took issue with the distinction Greenpeace draws between “civil disobedience” and terrorism. He noted Greenpeace members have forcibly boarded a cargo vessel carrying Brazilian wood to Florida, have blockaded a U.S. naval base, and have broken into the central control building of a nuclear power station in England.

“The difficulty in nabbing individual eco-terrorists is precisely why it is critically important that the IRS do its part to immobilize eco-terror groups by investigating the illegal use of tax-exempt funds to bankroll their crimes,” Levin added.

Defending the Indefensible

To the extent that Greenpeace may differ with charitable watchdogs over where the fine line exists between civil disobedience and terrorism, it must be noted that Greenpeace has at least publicly repudiated terrorist groups such as ALF and ELF. So too has the Sierra Club.

“The ELF are not environmentalists. They are arsonists,” said Sierra Club Director Carl Pope.

By contrast, when contacted by Environment & Climate News for their position on environmental terrorists like ELF and ALF, PETA, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and the Pew Center for Climate Research refused to state whether they supported or opposed such conduct.

When CNSNews asked Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s director of vegan outreach, for comment on an IRS complaint filed against PETA for its financial donations to ALF, Friedrich called the Center for Consumer Freedom, which filed the complaint, “whores for the meat and tobacco industry.”

Jay Lehr is science director for The Heartland Institute. His email address is [email protected].