Quick action may have stalled ecoterrorists

Published June 1, 2000

When Congressman George Radanovich (R-California) received an email urging Earth Liberation Front (ELF) members to wage “militant demonstrations targeting U.S. federal buildings,” he and seven of his House colleagues immediately alerted the Department of Justice.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Rabin assured the congressmen that “. . . appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that all facets of our nation’s law enforcement and public safety communities are aware of, and can effectively respond to, any illegal acts of violence associated with this communication.”

The email message Radanovich received was sent by ELF spokesman Craig Rosebraugh, who called on ELF members to conduct their “militant demonstrations” on April 26, the day he testified before a Portland grand jury investigating the Christmas Day 1999 burning of Boise Cascade’s northwest headquarters. Rosebraugh had sent faxes to area newspapers claiming ELF took credit for the fire, which destroyed the headquarters. In those faxes, Rosebraugh wrote, “Let this be a lesson to all greedy multinational corporations who don’t respect ecosystems. The Elves are watching.”

According to a news report in The Oregonian, Rosebraugh reiterated before the Portland grand jury his claim to be merely the “above-the-ground” spokesman for ELF. He says he does not know the names of ELF members responsible for the violence. He has also said, “These are not random acts of lawlessness but actions that have a definite purpose. Individuals in the ELF want to see results. They want to pick up where the law is leaving off.”

While perhaps not random, ELF’s actions are often lawless. This past New Year’s Eve, for example, ELF members torched the office of scientist Catherine Ives in Michigan State University’s Agricultural Hall. Ives, who was working on bioengineering of food crops, was erroneously thought by ELF to be financed by Monsanto. After the fire Ives, who lost all her records, notes, books, and slides said, “I lost basically everything that has allowed me to be a professional over the last six, seven years.”

Rosebraugh’s post-fire fax said, “Cremate Monsanto, long live the ELF. Go on to the next GE [genetic engineering] target.”

In his latest threat, which Radanovich intercepted, Rosebraugh said, “We are organizing a national day of action against government repression on April 26. All individuals and groups concerned about government harassment and/or who support the courageous work of the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front are asked to hold militant demonstrations targeting U.S. federal buildings, embassies, etc.”

By “courageous work,” Rosebraugh apparently means terrorist attacks against those with whom ELF and ALF disagree. Since 1996, ELF and ALF have taken credit for a dozen terrorist attacks, mostly arsons. The two groups have earned a reputation as the most destructive terrorist arm of the environmental movement. [See “Ignored elves terrorize U.S.,” Environment & Climate News, April 2000.]

It is this reputation, and Rosebraugh’s email urging less-than-peaceful action against federal facilities around the world, that led the congressmen to write Attorney General Janet Reno. In a letter dated April 17, they urged her to use her authority under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to investigate alleged criminal activities by ELF and ALF members. Citing the urgency of the threat the organizations themselves claim to pose, the congressmen asked Reno to respond to them in writing no later than April 19 at 4:00 p.m.

“To take no action [now],” the congressmen said in their letter to Reno, “would send a signal that, if the ’cause’ is environmentalism, any illegal act is acceptable, no matter how dangerous.”

The letter to Reno was signed by representatives Chris Cannon (R-Utah), Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Idaho), Barbara Cubin (R-Wyoming), James Hansen (R-Utah), Wally Herger (R-California), Richard Pombo (R-California), George Radanovich (R-California), and Don Young (R-Alaska).

ELF was founded in 1992 as a spin-off of the somewhat less violent Earth First! which has been tearing up roads, damaging machinery, and spiking trees in timber country for several years. By September 1993, ELF and ALF had issued, according to congressional sources, a joint communiqué, declaring their solidarity of action. Then, three years later, they began sending their faxes, taking credit for criminal activities–the first of these, the burning of a Forest Service truck in the Willamette National Forest in 1996.

The group rapidly escalated its activities, claiming credit for burning a $12 million ski resort near Vail, Colorado in late 1998 and the Christmas Day 1999 arson at Michigan State University.

Although the groups have repeatedly claimed responsibility for these activities, the Justice Department has never made an arrest, much less indicted or convicted any of the perpetrators. Rosebraugh has testified before grand juries on five previous occasions, but has always been largely unresponsive.

In Portland, Rosebraugh testified under a grant of immunity and could face 18 months in prison if he failed to adequately answer the questions put to him. Nevertheless, according to The Oregonian, Rosebraugh “said he gave jurors some answers but none that could solve the $1 million blaze. Rosebraugh said he had no recollection of some incidents and avoided a few answers by invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”

Rosebraugh is expected to appear before the grand jury again in May. Fellow ecoterrorist Josh Harper, producer of a videotape series that publicizes animal-rights sabotage, is scheduled to appear May 24.