Biggest domestic threat: eco-terrorism

In light of Sept. 11, 2001 the need to protect ourselves and our products against would be foreign born terrorists has become self-evident. We have opined in this column before about homegrown terrorists. This latter group is not a new phenomenon.

The focus of some of these groups on so-called “eco terrorism” has also been conveyed. Just recently we spoke about a “score card” put out by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) which enumerated their acts of vandalism in the past year.

Some estimate they have caused up to $48 million in damage in that year. To date these “nuts” have focused primarily on environmental targets — GMO test plots, laboratories doing GMO testing, etc., laboratories using animal testing, tree spiking to make logging dangerous and stunts such as sitting in trees, etc.

Most of the population has simply laughed at “that bunch of fools” so long as they caused no real danger to humans or our life itself. As their antics have become more widespread and potentially dangerous, law enforcement has been forced to take more direct action against them. To us this is long overdue.

To bring this sort of terrorism into focus, on Feb. 12 a House of Representatives committee held a hearing to look at the “eco-terrorism.” The FBI's Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, James Jarboe, testified before the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. An extract of what he said was published by the Food Industry Environmental Network (FEIN) as follows:

“..The threat posed by eco-terrorism, as well as the measures being taken by the FBI and our law enforcement partners to address this threat … Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives….

“Generally, extremist groups engage in much activity that is protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly. Law enforcement becomes involved when the volatile talk of these groups transgresses into unlawful action ….

“Special interest terrorism differs from traditional right-wing and left-wing terrorism in that extremist special interest groups seek to resolve specific issues, rather than effect widespread political change. Special interest extremists continue to conduct acts of politically motivated violence to force segments of society, including the general public, to change attitudes about issues considered important to their causes.

“These groups occupy the extreme fringes of animal rights, pro-life, environmental, anti nuclear, and other movements. Some special interest extremists — most notably within the animal rights and environmental movements — have turned increasingly toward vandalism and terrorist activity in attempts to further their causes ….”

“The FBI has developed a strong response to the threats posed by domestic and international terrorism. Between fiscal years 1993 and 2003, the number of special agents dedicated to the FBI counterterrorism programs grew by approximately 224 percent (to 1,669 — nearly 16 percent of all FBI special agents)….

“Currently, more than 26 FBI field offices have pending investigations associated with ALF/ELF activities. Despite all of our efforts (increased resources allocated, successful arrests and prosecutions), law enforcement has a long way to go to adequately address the problem of eco-terrorism.

“Groups such as the ALF and the ELF present unique challenges. There is little if any hierarchal structure to such entities. Eco-terrorists are unlike traditional criminal enterprises which are often structured and organized. The difficulty investigating such groups is demonstrated by the fact that law enforcement has thus far has been unable to effect the arrests of anyone for some recent criminal activity directed at federal land managers or their offices.

“However, there are several ongoing investigations regarding such acts …”

SCPA applauds the FBI for stepping formally into the arena - It's high time.

Ed Duskin is executive vice president of the Southern Crop Protection Association.

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