Militant environmental group targets FBI, others

14 Mar 2001

Militant environmental group targets FBI, others
Scripps-McClatchy Western Service
March 13, 2001

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Two weeks after claiming responsibility for its first arson attack in California, the Earth Liberation Front has issued a nationwide call for "militant direct action" against FBI offices and other federal buildings.

The militant environmental group, which the FBI has called the nation's most dangerous domestic terror organization, on Tuesday issued a statement asking its followers to engage in actions against the federal government on April 5.

That date coincides with the scheduled pretrial hearing of Frank Ambrose, who has been charged in Bloomington, Ind., with tree-spiking and is suspected to be an ELF member.

Ambrose has denied the charges and his case has become a rallying point for environmental activists who believe he is being unfairly targeted by FBI agents anxious to win a court victory against an alleged ELF follower.

Sacramento FBI spokesman Nick Rossi said his agency had little to say about the ELF announcement or FBI security efforts.

"We evaluate each threat on a case by case basis," Rossi said.

The announcement calls for protests at a time of year when federal agencies typically are at a heightened state of alert because of the April 19 anniversaries of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing and the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

The call for action on April 5 came through e-mail messages sent to individuals who have asked to be updated on ELF activities. The messages are forwarded by a group of activists based in Portland, Ore., who deny any membership in the group.

One of the activists, Lesliejames Pickering, said Tuesday that he believed the latest announcement indicated there would be demonstrations of "support for radical action."

"Militant means more organized, more strategic," Pickering said. "There are going to be protests nationwide."

He added that he expected protest sites to include either Sacramento or San Francisco.

The shadowy organization, which has no official members, says it is a worldwide group that includes anyone who takes action to protect the environment without injuring or killing anyone.

The group claims to have caused at least $37 million in damages to various timber operations, ski resorts and other entities ELF members believe have hurt the environment.

In one of its latest efforts, the ELF claims to have set a Feb. 20 pre-dawn fire at a cotton gin near Visalia that caused $700,000 in damage. The group claimed it targeted the plant because it contained genetically engineered cotton seeds.

But officials said there were no such seeds at the gin, and a fire investigator said Tuesday that officials have not been able to corroborate the group's claims of setting the blaze.

The ELF claimed to have placed barrels containing a total of 20 gallons of gasoline and other fuel around the inside of the plant.

Capt. Mike Davidson of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said a dog trained to detect accelerants at arsons was sent inside the cotton gin and found no scent of the fuel.

"I personally believe that if there were 20 gallons of accelerant inside the dog would have smelled it and the firefighters would have smelled it (when they arrived on the scene)," Davidson said. "I can't eliminate the possibility that the Earth Liberation Front set the fire; I can say that they didn't do the fire the way they said they did."

However, FBI officials have said the group's previous claims of responsibility for such actions generally have been accurate. And officials are concerned that the fire in Visalia and the recent announcements indicate ELF followers are planning to increase the number and frequency of such attacks.


(Contact Sam Stanton of the Sacramento Bee in California at http://www.sacbee.com.)


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