Since the commencement of the War on Terrorism after 9/11, has terrorism against Americans increased or decreased? At least when it comes to the paramount form of domestic terrorism having nothing to do with Islam, terrorism is on the increase. Environmentalist terrorism, or eco-terrorism, is blooming. “Domestically, since 9/11, the most damage has been done in dollar terms,” said eco-terrorism expert Ron Arnold in an interview. “The frequency of attacks has doubled or tripled. The breadth of targets has increased.”
This rapid rise in domestic eco-terrorism has not escaped the notice of federal authorities, who have announced plans to combat it more effectively. For example, the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is funding a new study at the University of Arkansas Terrorism Research Center on how to predict terrorist attacks. Arnold, author of Ecoterror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature (Free Enterprise Press, 1997) and executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE), is one of the experts participating. Said center president Alan Gottlieb in a statement November 19, “We are proud of Ron and pleased that the Terrorism Research Center has recognized his expertise with this consultancy. . . . He accepted the consultancy as a private individual-the center does not accept government grants and has no connection to this study project.”
Said Brent Smith, professor of sociology and director of the Terrorism Research Center: “Terrorists commit hundreds of preparatory and ancillary crimes that are not terrorist attacks but which might give us some indication of the routinized patterns of preparatory conduct. Our goal is to map those preparatory crimes by time and location to determine if patterns of conduct exist.”
Arnold said that he began collecting stories of eco-terrorism in the 1980s, when the phenomenon first began to be noticed. He got to know eco-terrorists and may even have coined the term “eco-terrorism.” “I know a lot of these people,” he said. “I interviewed them face to face.”
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) are the most prominent of eco-terrorist groups. Unlike Muslim radicals, however, eco-terrorists avoid killing people-or, at least, “they say they don’t kill people,” said Arnold. Perhaps, he said, eco-terrorists do not claim responsibility for their acts of eco-terrorist murder. The sole exception has been the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski-who, technically under the law, “was not a terrorist. He was a serial killer,” said Arnold.
In Ecoterror, Arnold cites the federal government’s official definition of terrorism: “The unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group [or groups] of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” ELF and ALF have easily accessible websites which include information on their activities and tips, such as on how to commit arson-and make it quite clear that they meet the government’s definition of terrorism. “A lot of them want to kill off people to Neolithic levels,” said Arnold. “A lot of these people have neutered themselves. They have had tubal ligations and vasectomies.”
Arnold believes that the ideology behind eco-terrorism is spreading, “particularly among college-age people. . .,” he said. “One-third of ELF’s activities get reported but two-thirds go unreported.”
Eco-terrorists commit acts such as sabotaging power plants, destroying logging equipment, and releasing animals from laboratories. Arnold’s book includes a long list of such incidents and detailed accounts of his contacts with environmentalists-and includes the story of how big, elite foundations on both coasts took over the war-on-progress environmentalist movement.
Arnold pointed to a long article in the Nov. 26, 2003, Portland, Ore., Willamette Week that presents a particularly insightful glimpse into the world of eco-terrorists. Jake Sherman, 21, is facing prison time for setting fire to logging equipment. While at Portland State University, “he worked on the Green Party presidential campaign of Ralph Nader” and fell under the spell of “Tre Arrow,” a local environmental activist. “By the middle of the winter of 2000-2001, young Jake Sherman was beginning to copy some of Arrow’s idiosyncratic habits, including his shoelessness, his refusal to bathe and his militant veganism.” The older Arrow allegedly led Sherman and two other young people into committing arson, but remains at large.
Arnold said the terrorism study should take a couple of years to complete, but not all of its conclusions are likely to be released. “We want to learn how to predict terrorist attacks,” he said, “so we’re not going to tell terrorists our methodology.”
Arnold may be reached at CDFE, 12500 N.E. 10th Pl., Bellevue, Wash. 98005 (425-455-5038; fax: 425-451-3959; website: www.cdfe.org)