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Agents of Suspicion

Opening the Dossiers on State Repression

by ALEXANDER REID ROSS

In a presentation recently leaked to the public, the FBI, PA State Police and Joint Terrorism Task Force profile Marcellus Shale Earth First!, Shadbush Environmental Justice Collective, and PowerShift among other groups, as Environmental Extremists and ecoterrorists. The presentation is a bizarre mix of paranoid fascism, intrigue, and information that could have been included in an EF!J media packet.

What is an environmental extremist? If you have ever said to yourself, I “believe that criminal actions are necessary to end perceived exploitation of the natural resources and ecosystems in the United States;” If you have ever thought of yourself as, “Nonhierarchical and autonomous with lone offenders and small cells posing the greatest threat of criminal activity… [and] extremely difficult to identify and infiltrate;” Or if you “Adhere to Earth Liberation Front (ELF) credo: ‘To inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment;’” You just might be an environmental extremist.

Hop on board, because things are about to get real. The presentation sites that bastion of freedom, the Anti-Defamation League, stating, “During the past two decades, radical environmental and animal rights groups have claimed responsibility for hundreds of crimes and acts of terrorism, including arson, bombings, vandalism and harassment, causing more than $100 million in damage. While some activists have been captured, ecoterror cells – small and loosely affiliated – are extremely difficult to identify and most attacks remain unsolved. Although it has been overshadowed by Islamic terrorist threats since September 11, ecoterrorism remains one of the country’s most active terrorist movements” (they added the red themselves).

Among the groups listed, EF! features most prominantly. Finger Lakes; Hudson Valley; OccupyWellStreet; Stop Tennessee Gas Pipeline; and Susquehanna Valley are all listed as dangerous extremist groups. The slideshow states that EF! groups do two things: fundraise for jail support, and hold active trainings for lockdowns and blockades, involving direct action strategies and tree climbing workshops, tree sits and road blocks, arrest dos and don’ts, and the like. (To our chagrin, there was no mention of sleeping dragons.)

The slideshow presents the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism And Response to Terrorism (START)’s Overview of Bombing and Arson Attacks by Environmental and Animal Rights Extremists in the United States, stating, “Between 1995 and 2010, there were a total of 239 arsons and bombings committed by these groups, with 55% attributed to ELF and 45% to ALF. Of these 239 incidents, 62% were bombings, and 38% were arsons. The vast majority of all incidents, 66 %, occurred in the West. Over 42% of these incidents resulted in substantial or very substantial property damage and financial losses. Overall, findings indicate greater attention needs to be paid to the criminal activities of animal and environmental rights extremists organizations in order to support future investigations and risk assessments.”

A Distorted Timeline

From a cursory view of the slideshow, it is apparent what worries them the most is not security cameras and tripods, although the slideshow does include some great photos. The slideshow begins with smaller, autonomous actions like The Security Hunting Contest, which apparently had a big impact on their understanding of radical groups, then escalates with treesits, tripods, and the like. In the final few slides, we are regaled with a series of bomb threats purportedly sent from environmentalists who may or may not have anything to do with any one of the groups mentioned.

There is a weirdly arranged, and incomplete timeline of events that, put into order, looks like this:

July 8, 2012: 150 EF!ers occupy Moshannon.

August 13: A pipe bomb is found at a fracking operation

February 12, 2013: Two IEDs are discovered on an access road to a storage well.

February 18: EF!ers stop Tennessee Gas Pipeline with a treesit

February 19: Appalachia Resist erects tripod at Greenhunter Water in Ohio

March 9: A white truck runs a drive-by shooting at a Shell well pad in Pensylvannia

March 21, April 12: Suspicious, charred debris found on well pad

May 13: Pipe bomb found with black powder inside

This timeline leaves out events occurring monthly throughout the Marcellus Shale in order to make it appear as though environmental groups protesting fracking are involved in a conspiracy to blow people up. Although nobody has ever been harmed by an Earth First! or ELF action (unless you count cops brutalizing people), there is no clear distinction in the presentation between violent, potentially violent, and non-violent groups. Instead, the JTTF presentation approaches the environmental movement from the perspective of counterinsurgency, where the peaceful groups could provide cover for violent insurgents, making them just as important as groups or individuals who either openly advocate or commit violent acts (ie, actions that would hurt, maim, or kill people).

In other words, according to the JTTF, the entire environmental movement is a plausible shield for violent insurgents.

The Investigative Milieu

This confusion-based analysis does not come about through lack of investigation. The presentation makes the distinction that investigations are “Predicated on actions and/or threats of violence or criminal activity, not freedom of speech,” which is an important distinction considering that Pennsylvania’s Department of Homeland Security has already been caught working with private intelligence corporations  to spy on peaceful activists, community meetings, religious groups, and even film screenings in order to tamper with the outcomes of municipal legislation, such as zoning ordinances which directly affect industry’s ability to frack in residential areas.

Freedom of speech being suppressed in the investigatory survey,we are then left with “varying levels of investigation,” including ”Threat Assessment; Preliminary Investigation; and Full Investigation.” These investigations entail “Documentation & Information Sharing,” presumably like the sharing that occurred between DHS and private intelligence corporations outlined above, “United States Oil & Natural Gas–LEO/SIG;” and “Marcellus Shale Operators’ Crime Committee.” For those of us newbies to the security industry complex, the LEO/SIG is Law Enforcement Online Special Interest Groups.

According to the FBI, “LEOSIGs allow members to participate in communities of specialized interest in order to securely share information and receive specialized training.” It seems that the energy industry has it’s own SIG in LEO, which ”is a secure, Internet-based information sharing system for agencies around the world that are involved in law enforcement, first response, criminal justice, anti-terrorism, and intelligence. With LEO, members can access or share sensitive but unclassified information anytime and anywhere.”

Only yesterday, a blogger from the Marcellus Shale region reported a visit from local authorities asking about photographs she had taken of a fracking site. If you turn back the clock about a year, a university professor in North Texas was questioned by the FBI about IEDs. In short, the full spectrum of security state techno-strategy has been unleashed in Pennsylvania, and they still can’t figure out who left a pipebomb with black powder on their doorstep like a flaming bag of poop.

This is the best that the US government can do. As California goes through the worst drought since the 16th Century, the oceans acidify, and groundwater is not only depleted at increasing rates, but literally poisoned by an industry claiming to alleviate climate change, but only adding to it, this is the best they can do.

Alexander Reid Ross is a contributing moderator of the Earth First! Newswire. He is the editor of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab (AK Press 2014) and a contributor to Life During Wartime (AK Press 2013). This article is also being published at earthfirstjournal.org/newswire.