January 19th saw the release of a previously sealed 65-count federal Indictment in the Animal Liberation Front/Earth Liberation Front cases I wrote about a month ago.
So happy to be able to change the topic away from illegal, impeachable domestic wiretapping, overly-excited, fumbling Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez held a Press Conference Friday and called the indictees a “terrorist cell.” The equally-pleased with himself, FBI Director Robert Mueller claimed those arrested called themselves “The Family.” (The Manson card?)
Eleven are indicted and eight are now in custody. They range from folks completely unknown within enviro circles to the well-known Jonathan Paul, brother of vegan activist and Baywatch actress Alexandra Paul. He and his other sister, ironically, are firefighters. Jonathan Paul has been very visible in many of the environmental issues of the past decade; from “Salvage” logging opposition to the Seattle WTO protests to efforts to protect whales from the famous Makah Whale Hunt.
The acts of eco-sabotage laid at their feet vary from the arson at the Detroit and Oakridge Ranger Stations I wrote about; the prominent Vail Ski Resort expansion arson; destruction of a genetically-engineered tree nursery; torching of timber company offices and under-construction trophy homes; to destruction of a Belgian-owned wild horse meat packing plant.
Another Disturbing In-Custody Death
William Rodgers, an Arizona bookstore owner, is listed as a twelfth unindicted co-conspirator on most of the counts. Unindicted; as he died mysteriously while in custody in an Arizona jail. The implausible claim is he committed suicide using a small plastic bag to suffocate himself.
Kirk Engdall, an Oregon federal prosecutor proudly admits, “We gathered information from our confidential witness regarding Vail.”
As David Lane, a Denver defense attorney familiar with the Vail case told the Denver Post, “The government makes a living off tapes and snitches. It’s absolutely standard operating procedure.”
In every single count of the indictment, the state notes the acts were carried out with the help of, “another person(s) known to the grand Jury.” The government admits its case is based upon “confidential informants” and upon arrestee Stanislaus Meyerhoff who has turned State’s Witness and has not been charged with ALL of the arsons he admits to have been involved with.
One of the government’s key “confidential witnesses” is Jacob Ferguson, according to Craig Weinerman, the attorney of Chelsea Gerlach, one of those indicted. Ferguson admits to setting many of these fires, but has not himself been indicted. Others, still unnamed, are known to have “worn a wire” for the feds at various activist gatherings.
The Northwest’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, is providing extensive coverage. The paper notes, “The arsons began in October 1996, when the Earth Liberation Front torched a pickup at the Detroit ranger station in the Willamette National Forest and left a plastic jug rigged as an incendiary on the rooftop. Spray painted graffiti read, ‘Leave the forests alone, and no one gets hurt'” Other graffiti read, ‘Stop Raping the Forest.’ ”
This begs the question: who would attempt to burn down a building, yet write graffiti on the very same building that, if the “rigged jug” was successful, would be reduced to ashes? And, it should be noted that the “incendiary device” on the roof went undetected, though it was a cordoned off major crime scene, for 48 hours after the fire, which certainly suggests, at minimum, incompetence. ELF supposedly claimed responsibility.
Not a bit of graffiti “evidence” was found at the Oakridge Ranger Station fire that followed the Detroit one by two days. And, ELF which proudly takes credit for its sabotage, even posting to a website has never claimed the Oakridge arson.
One competing theory is that the Ranger Station fire was actually lit by disgruntled local loggers in response to the feds just completed decision to NOT “salvage” log Warner Creek, an old growth forest that itself was a victim of arson and a cause celebre complete with two years of Earth First! blockades. In fact, Spotted Owl research that proved the protesters’ claims went up in smoke.
Here Come the Feds
One of my American Indian Movement contacts tells me that rumor has it that the feds are seriously engaged in a “mop-up operation” against numerous activists who have gone toe-to-toe with the Beast in the last few decades. If so, get ready for a spate of “confidential informant-based” arrests across a spectrum of movements as the crackdown on dissent accelerates.
MICHAEL DONNELLY has been active in the efforts to protect our last Ancient Forests. Committed to non-violent Civil Disobedience, if necessary; he and allies have never advocated arson and consider it not only counterproductive to their efforts to protect ecosystems, but likely government and/or industry efforts to discredit legitimate environmental dissent.
He can be reached at email@example.com