REPORTER: Olivia Rousset
AUDIO FROM FIRE DEPARTMENT TAPE, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, USA - CAPTAIN BROUELETTE: At 3.16 in the morning, we received a fire alarm from the horticultural building.
FIREFIGHTER: We are only about three minutes from the building, and it's the middle of the night - there's no traffic, so we're there very fast. Flames were on the outside of the building and it was really going good.
This fire at the University of Washington was lit in the name of the environment. It's the most recent major arson in a string of attacks across the country.
TV NEWSREADER: Here's what is new at 5.30 - What was suspected is now confirmed, a radical environmental group claims it started a fire that severely damaged part of an Oregon tree farm, and the fire that severely damaged the University of Washington.
INTERVIEWEE: This is a Fascist attack, which means a finger in Seattle's eye. Right square in the eye of Seattle.
The fire at the University's Centre for Urban Horticulture caused over $2.5 million in damage. It reduced to ashes the labs and offices of 50 people. But the arsonists were targeting the work of one man - genetic scientist Toby Bradshaw.
TOBY BRADSHAW: And this is my office where the fire was started with five gallons of gasoline.
Six days later, an environmental group posted a communique on the Internet, claiming responsibility for the arson. A group of underground activists called 'The Earth Liberation Front'.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH, ELF SPOKESPERSON: The research of Toby Bradshaw was reduced to smoke and ashes.
Toby Bradshaw is working to develop a fast-growing poplar tree for the paper industry. This is not the first time he has been targeted by environmentalists.
TOBY BRADSHAW: The ELF is absolutely an environmental fundamentalist group. They are just as fundamentalist and intolerant as a group like the Taliban.
SARAH REICHARD (Looking at photographs) This probably was the most emotional moment for me - watching them actually tear this building apart.
Sarah Reichard doesn't work with genetically modified plants. She's a conservation biologist. Yet decades of her research was destroyed in the fire.
SARAH REICHARD: This wasn't passive resistance. This wasn't protest. This wasn't Gandhi. This wasn't Martin Luther King. This was a violent action that showed very little regard for human beings and for the work that was being done here.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: To me, I don't think an individual, be it a student or a researcher, can exist next to and be associated with, in any sort of way, the kind of work that Toby Bradshaw is involved with, because of the threat that it does pose to the natural world.
PETER JENNINGS, NEWSCASTER - ABC NEWS: You may have heard of the Earth Liberation Front. The Attorney General himself says it's a domestic terrorist organisation. The FBI says it is one of the most dangerous groups in the country. But what is the ELF, who is the ELF?
ABC NEWS REPORTER: Since 1997, the ELF has claimed credit for nearly $40 million worth of arson damage. From logging companies to luxury homes, and even a ski lodge.
The Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, has claimed responsibility for more than 20 major arson and sabotage incidents in the last five years. Most of these actions have been here, in the north-west of the US, home to large areas of untouched wilderness and with a strong history of environmental activism. This is the public face of the Earth Liberation Front - 29-year-old Craig Rosebraugh runs a press office for the ELF here in Portland. He says he doesn't belong to the group, but shares their philosophy.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: All of us must look upon this global movement to protect all life as a matter of self defence. If someone was threatening your loved ones or one of your friends, I would hope and I would expect that you would engage in any and all necessary actions to stop that threat to life. If someone were threatening you, threatening your life...
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: Arson is used because if you go in and say you were targeting a corporate office of some business, and you go in and just knock their windows out, well, that might cost them a few hundred dollars and it might make the headlines of the local paper and it might generate some publicity. But it's a far different situation if you go in and burn the entire company to the ground, ensuring no-one is injured, and it's also going to generate a larger amount of publicity, so it's a definite, I think, intelligent tactic to use.
Craig receives anonymous communiqués outlining the ELF's justification for its actions, he then releases them to media.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: I don't know any of the members of the group whatsoever. The group is anonymous and underground. They communicate with me anonymously. It's a one-way means of communication.
JAMES F. JARBOE, FBI DOMESTIC TERRORISM CHIEF: Anyone that believes in the belief that ELF has, can go out and conduct a criminal act and then raise their hand through the Internet, back to ELF spokesmen and say, "This was done on behalf of ELF."
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: The Earth Liberation Front is formed into what are known as 'cells'. Each 'cell' may consist of anywhere from two up to seven or 10 people and the goal of that format is that if one cell is infiltrated by authorities, or if one individual in one cell is caught, that by no way means that other cells are going to be caught, so the entire movement as a whole cannot be stopped physically. It would be very, very hard to stop the movement.
The FBI claims they have caused damage worth more than US$40 million.
JAMES F. JARBOE: I think over the last five or six years, we're looking at around 600 different activities.
REPORTER: Can you tell me how many convictions you have for ELF activists?
JAMES F. JARBOE: ELF activists, per se, approximately I'd say four.
With such a poor strike rate for the FBI, it appears only the unlucky or the inexperienced get caught. When they do, they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
JEFF LUERS: I am 22 years old and I am currently in the Two Rivers Correctional Facility at the Oregon Department of Corrections.
The FBI considers Jeff Luers one of the four convicted ELF activists. He says he's not a member. Jeff has been sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for arson.
JEFF LUERS: When you are born in this country, there is a contract that's already been signed for you. It says that you, in essence, live in the greatest country in the world, that will provide these certain freedoms for you that we're free to take away at any time - especially if you use these freedoms in a way we disagree with.
In June last year, Jeff set fire to three 4WD vehicles.
JEFF LUERS: Around 1:00 in the morning, me and a friend left for the Romania car dealership. We went in under the cover of darkness. We made sure there were no people around, that the buildings that were nearby were vacant, and we started a fire that resulted in $40,000 of damage to three trucks.
DETECTIVE BOB HOLLAND, EUGENE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, I think he thought he wasn't going to get caught because of the time of day, the location, squirreling around at night. He just didn't bank on the Eugene Police Department out watching him.
JEFF LUERS: Approximately half an hour later, we were pulled over for having a headlight out in the City of Springfield. We were detained for about three hours, and we were questioned and arrested on criminal mischief. A week later, I was arraigned on nine different felony counts, including arson, attempted arson, manufacture and possession of destructive devices or explosives.
Jeff grew up here, in this quiet suburb of Los Angeles.
JUDY LUERS: We knew he was going to be a challenge to us when he was five years old. Our babysitter was on vacation and we took him to the local Parks Day Care Center.
JOHN LUERS: Summer day camp program.
JUDY LUERS: And I got greeted with him. First of all, he was saturated, there was a pond there and he was wet. And he said, "Momma, you gotta fight for what's right in life, and if anyone messes with me, I'll kick him in the balls." Five years old he said this and that has not changed.
Jeff left LA and moved here four years ago. Eugene, a laid-back University town in Oregon, is the so-called 'alternative' capital of the Pacific north-west. Jeff is known as 'Free' to his friends here. He was well liked in this neighbourhood. Before the WTO summit in Seattle in 1999, Eugene was a rallying point for anti-globalisation protesters. Local anarchist author John Zerzan was a key figure. John has known Jeff since he moved to Eugene.
JOHN ZERZAN, ANARCHIST AUTHOR: Well, my impression of 'Free' is that he was a very energetic, passionate young guy who was just very bright and very committed and had a great sensitivity to the awful things that are going on and which seemed to be accelerating - that's my general feeling about 'Free'. When I first heard about the ELF, I was greatly encouraged and I still am. They continue to take great risks in defence of the earth. I hope more people get involved in that. I think that more people will. Young people are not going to just sit and watch TV and take dope and just let everything go to hell, and ELF is certainly a part of that.
Jeff started this tree sit protest three years ago, to save an old growth forest outside Eugene. Today, others hold this ground. This poem, and footage of Jeff, was taped in 1998.
JEFF LUERS: Hi - we're up in the trees.
TAPERECORDER PLAYS, MAY 11 1999: It just takes one woman or one man to change the world and unite all our clans. MAN: What are you doin' up here, man?
JEFF LUERS: I'm, well, trying to help set up a tree house.
TAPERECORDER PLAYS: And I am pleading with you please fix our earth - because it's not gonna be here for you and you have to make a stand, because our very existence is in your hands. And this isn't just a poem by some punk in a tree and if you think it is, then I guess we're already dead. Look, plain and simple - the Earth can exist without us but we cannot live without her.
JOHN LUERS: We don't necessarily agree with all of Jeff's philosophies and ideologies. But it's our belief that in a democratic society, we have a right to those, and that you know, quite frankly, we think that the majority of Jeff's punishment is being heaped upon him not for his crime, but for his ideology.
Two years after he started the tree sit, Jeff was becoming increasingly frustrated with the ineffectiveness of his activism. Last year, Jeff and a friend decided to set fire to sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, at this Eugene car yard.
CAR SALESMAN: Well, this is Chevrolet's all-new Trailblazer. It's about a mid-size model. It's out brand new for 2002. As the new Silverado, it uses a lot of Corvette technology in a truck. This has the new Vortec 6.2 engine, with 240 horsepower, yeah, with just loads and loads of torque, which you want in a sport utility vehicle. It's definitely a great value for the dollar and it is worth looking at if you're in the market for any kind of a sport utility vehicle, you need to take a look at the new AAA Trailblazer.
JEFF LUERS: We are the number one polluter in the world. I mean, we have a few rivals, but overall, the majority of pollution that comes from the US comes from passenger trucks and vehicles. We have almost 250 million of them. When you take SUVs into consideration as being the number one polluter in that vehicle class, well, those are my reasons right there.
JOHN ZERZAN: I don't know whether burning SUVs is that unpopular. Certainly, there's a lot of people who drive them, but there are a lot of people who are appalled by what they represent and there's a clear physical representation when you see somebody in these armoured pig mobiles. There are a lot of people that are just furious at that, and not just anarchists.
STEVE ROMANIA: Yes, I did feel a bit victimised, primarily because we're not General Motors, we're not tied to General Motors. We're a private small family-owned business in this area, and I've grown up in this community, which is known for its environmental activism my whole life. I consider myself friendly to the environment and enjoy the outdoors and want to see a safe and clean environment for my children.
JAMES F. JARBOE: We've had instances where businesses have been repeatedly attacked because ELF didn't like what they were doing, so the business just finally said, "I don't want any more of this," and shut down. And you have an entire community left without a way to feed their families.
REPORTER: They would call that 'success'?
JAMES F. JARBOE: They could call it 'success'. I would call it 'domestic terrorism'.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: So what you are witnessing here is the first time I have ever made this variety of muffin. I thought about having a cooking show on cable access TV, so people would refer to it as 'the face of eco-terrorism' cooking show. A former vegan baker, Craig has been subpoenaed to seven grand juries, believes his house is bugged, and that he is followed by FBI agents. Despite all this, in five years as press officer, he has continued to defend the use of illegal tactics.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: I support the work of the individuals that burn down the SUVs. The ELF have also targeted SUVs. And yes, I have a SUV. I have a Toyota 4-Runner. It's a 4-cylinder car that, again, I bought for a bakery business and my choices were for a delivery vehicle - I could have a van that had a V-6 or a V-8 engine that put out more emissions, or I could use a 4-cylinder vehicle that put out less emissions to the natural environment.
REPORTER: How would you feel if someone burnt it?
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: I would understand.
Because of his outspoken stance in defence of the ELF, Craig Rosebraugh has become a lightning rod for public opinion.
RADIO - SHEILA HAMILTON, ANNOUNCER: 1006, Good morning, I'm Shiela Hamilton, you're on news talk 860KPAM. This should be an interesting hour. If you wanna talk to Craig Rosebraugh, who is the spokesperson for the ELF, you can call us at 503 2250 860. Sheldon, good morning. Hi.
SHELDON: Hey, Craig, you're really a socialist, aren't you?
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: Actually, no I'm not.
SHELDON: ...animal rights and environmental movement to further your political cause.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: No, I'm not a socialist, no.
SHELDON: I disagree. I am pretty much against you and everything you stand for.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: Thanks.
SHELDON: And I look forward to civil war, you know, I think it'll be fun.
SHEILA HAMILTON: And what do you mean by that, Sheldon?
SHELDON: I think eventually, one of these days there is going to be a second American civil war. And we are probably much going to go up against the whole, I call it the "liberal, left, socialist, communist front" and I think it's gonna to be a lot of fun.
SHEILA HAMILTON: OK, Sheldon. Thanks for that call. 503 2250 860 is the number. Our guest this hour is Craig Rosebraugh.
Craig grew up in this Portland suburb. It now bears little resemblance to the semi-rural area of his youth.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: All these houses were here like this when I grew up, but this was the basically the end of the cul de sac - right here is the house I grew up in - beyond all these houses, that's where all the hundreds of acres of forest and natural land area including creeks really started and then just went back. And so that's the area that I played in. Homes like these have now become targets for the ELF.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: I think this is what people think of when they think of the 'American Dream', yeah. I have actually emotional trouble coming back here because the area has changed so much. That first time when I came back and realised that was all gone, it's like all those memories slowly but surely ceased to exist.
BARBARA WALTERS, 20/20 ABC TV PRESENTER: Do, you smell something burning? Well, it could be houses in your neighbourhood, torched by radicals who say they are saving the earth. And to that, John Stossl says "Gimme a break".
JOHN STOSSL: I do, Barbara. I want the earth to be saved too, but some of these activists are just clueless and cruel, and then they are so smug about it. Bron Taylor has studied radical environmental movements for 12 years. A professor of environmental studies in Wisconsin, he is considered by many the foremost authority on these groups.
BRON TAYLOR, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: The ELF comes along and says, OK, "We're going after trophy homes. We're attacking that kind of sprawl. Nobody was doing that. Nobody was going after huge gas-guzzling vehicles. So I think there's an analogy that can be made that they may be putting on the map, on the moral radar of the mass culture, those kinds of insults to the environment that nobody else was.
JOHN STOSSL, 20/20 ABC TV PRESENTER: You are just making overblown foolish statements. You don't know anything. You're just a clueless kid.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH (Being interviewed) I'm a kid - a clueless kid?
JOHN STOSSL: A 29-year-old clueless kid who doesn't like America.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: Yeah, you're right, I don't like America, and thank you for your comments.
JOHN STOSSL: Give me a break!
BARBARA WALTERS: John, he is burning down people's property. Why aren't he and the people he's speaking for in jail?
JOHN STOSSL: Well, the people he's speaking for are not in jail because they haven't been caught. And he's not in jail 'cause he says, "I'm just the spokesman, I don't know these people."
BARBARA WALTERS: He doesn't?
JOHN STOSSL: He says he just finds out about what they do afterward by email, he claims not to know who they are and no-one's proven otherwise.
BARBARA WALTERS: I find him absolutely chilling.
JOHN STOSSL: Me too.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: If people want to think that I'm a terrorist or think that I'm violent or think that I'm promoting terrorism, think that I need to be locked up, that I'm weird, a misfit or misguided, that's fine. People can think that. People have the right to think and speak whatever they want to, you know. But I'm more interested in having people realise and begin to challenge their own personal thought patterns, their own paradigms of thought in their own lives - and say, OK, "That guy over there in the USA may be whacked, he may be crazy, but is anything that he's saying true?"
Tiring of the inevitable focus on him rather than the elusive figures of the ELF, Craig recently resigned as press officer. The group is now faceless, but the underground struggle continues.
NEWS REPORTER: As for the nearly 23-year prison sentence for crimes where no-one was killed?
INTERVIEWEE: That type of behaviour I think is the type of behaviour that people in our community just aren't going to tolerated. I don't think Lane County is open for terrorists, and I think that the response that we saw here shows that that's how we're going to deal with this type of event.
JEFF LUERS: I know when the judge came back, my heart was definitely pounding but when all's said and done, I wasn't shocked.
REPORTER: Why? Why not?
JEFF LUERS: I guess I expected to be dealt with differently. I knew from the course of events, the things that were taken, the statements that were made in the court room by different people, that I am not really sure that I ever stood much of a chance.
DETECTIVE BOB HOLLAND, ARSON INVESTIGATOR: Everybody's going, "Oh, my God, he got 22 years." This man was looking at about 45 years if the judge wanted to stack everything consecutively out.
Jeff was not alone in setting fire to the cars that night. His co-defendant accepted a pre-trial plea bargain and was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison. Jeff decided to go to trial.
REPORTER: Why didn't you take a deal?
JEFF LUERS: The only deal that I was offered was 12 years. I don't feel that I am guilty of the crimes I've been accused of. I openly admit that I started the fire. I openly admit that I destroyed the vehicles and that I did it consciously and willingly. I'm accused of basically trying to kill someone - of putting someone's life at severe risk. I know that I haven't done that.
Jeff was charged with recklessly endangering life, yet no-one was hurt.
DETECTIVE BOB HOLLAND: He was the kingpin, he was the mastermind in our estimation. He's the guy that bought the fuel. He's the guy that owned the location where the bomb factory was. We know that he was the guy that was probably running the thing.
Jeff's 'bomb factory' was a lock-up garage that served as a community hangout. His 'bomb' was a milk jug filled with camp stove fuel.
DETECTIVE BOB HOLLAND: This is a device that can easily be made by anyone using very common materials - an empty milk jug, a sponge, some matches, and some incense, and you've got yourself an incendiary bomb.
JEFF LUERS: I think that by definition, bombs are intended to explode, usually with the intent to harm someone. What I used was specifically intended to start a fire. It started a fire. And it didn't go any further than that.
Despite the efforts of 31 Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country, the ELF's activities are on the increase. Before the recent attacks in the US, they were listed as the number one domestic terrorism threat.
JAMES F. JARBOE: It goes back to the old saying, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably is a duck." And we look at it that way, and again it's then up to our Assistant Director to say "Yes, that was a domestic terrorism act."
BRON TAYLOR: If you can successfully label someone a terrorist and if you can make that label stick, it's not very hard to make the general public quiescent if you go out to exterminate them.
Republican Congressman George Nethercutt is one of many politicians scrambling for harsher sentences - including the death penalty.
GEORGE NETHERCUTT, CONGRESSMAN: What measures we're calling for in this legislation is to enhance the penalties to mandatory penalties for destruction of a plant or animal facility - up to 20 years in jail. If you kill somebody and you are a terrorist, and you conduct eco-terrorism or agro-terrorism, then you are facing the death penalty.
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: If an individual, conducted an action that did harm someone, that killed someone in a most severe sense, and they had spray-painted the Earth Liberation Front on the premises of that location, we would still not consider that an ELF action. It may have had political motives, it may have had environmental motives behind it, but because of the loss or injury to life, it would not be considered part of the Earth Liberation Front because it did not fit in with those guidelines.
REPORTER: That's a very easy disclaimer?
CRAIG ROSEBRAUGH: It is indeed.
BRON TAYLOR: I think it's chicken shit. I think it's a cop-out to simply say that "If somebody got hurt, it's not an ELF action." The ELF has been pretty clear that they want their people, or that people taking ELF actions are doing everything they can to minimise the risk of harm to human beings. But I can tell from having talked to sympathisers and people in these movements, that many of them are quite clear that some of their actions involve risk to humans and it's a risk they're willing to take, and many of them wouldn't be crying crocodile tears about it, either.
JAMES F. JARBOE: They believe they can do whatever they want to, regardless of what it might be in destroying things and they can just raise their hand and go, 'We don't want to hurt anyone,' and it makes it all right. But it doesn't. Again, once you've started the fire, it's out of your control, but it's not out of your responsibility.
REPORTER: No one's been hurt to date?
JAMES F. JARBOE: Correct.
GEORGE NETHERCUTT: The offence is serious. Again on the death penalty side, if you take somebody's life when you are intentionally trying to burn down a building, then I think you are in the nature of the Oklahoma bombing situation.
BRON TAYLOR: The comparison between Timothy McVeigh and the ELF is absolutely laughable and folks like that erode their credibility when they speak like that. I mean, count the bodies. I've been to Oklahoma City. I went there for a conference on terrorism. I've looked at the chairs. I know how many people died there. That's Kafkaesque, that's surreal.
JEFF LUERS: I've been called an 'eco-terrorist'. I've been called a 'domestic terrorist' and I've been called some other things that aren't as nice. I think if you look at the definitions of those words - 'Eco' is short for 'ecosystem'. Webster's definition of 'terrorism' is the political use of terror and intimidation. You put those two together and you start to see companies like Weyerhauser as an eco-terrorist. You start to see companies that are destroying or polluting as 'eco-terrorists'. I like to think of myself as an 'eco-defender'.
While Jeff was in jail awaiting trial, someone made a forceful statement. 35 SUVs were set on fire at the same Eugene car yard. No one has yet been charged for this arson. The communiqué, which was posted on the ELF website, called attention to the destructive effects of SUVs on the earth. It then went on to state that the Romania Car Yard was targeted again in solidarity with Jeff.
DETECTIVE BOB HOLLAND: When I read the communiqué, I took it to mean, "You may have arrested two of our soldiers, but we lost this battle, but we will win the war. We're still out here, we're still in numbers. We can inflict damage when we want, where we want, and in fact, we'll show you by burning Romania a second time, and not only burn it like Craig Marshall and Jeff Luers did, but we'll burn it three times as big - 10 times as big." And in fact they did.
JEFF LUERS: I mean, a week before my trial, someone goes and causes a million dollars worth of damage in the same place I'm accused of burning - and then says they did it for me. I would imagine that had a negative effect. I think that the communiqué was inappropriate. I don't think I should ever have been mentioned. I think it might have only enforced the prosecutor's belief that I was a leader.
After the second fire, Jeff went to court and was reindicted on 13 new charges. Five more years were added onto his already 17-year sentence. Under Oregon law, 15 of those years are mandatory. JOHN LUERS: They charged him with three counts of first degree arson, one for each vehicle that was burnt. There was only one fire, but somehow out of one fire, you can get three major charges. Jeff has lodged his appeal. After spending US$20,000 on legal fees, he can no longer afford an attorney and is seeking legal aid. Since this interview, Jeff has been banned from any future visits by the media.
JEFF LUERS: I won't say that by doing what I did I expected the world to change. I don't think that I accomplished anything more than burning three cars. What I did was an act of frustration, of having no other means that I had tried, work. I mean, for all intensive purposes, I don't have a voice. I can talk and talk and talk and write as many letters, I've even met with some of the Congress people here in town. Nothing I have done has accomplished any change.
REPORTER: And what has this accomplished do you think?
JEFF LUERS: It has accomplished me getting 22 years in prison. It has accomplished, perhaps hopefully, a few more people now are willing to pay attention now, or at least willing to listen.
JOHN ZERZAN: You can have all the good ideas you want forever, and the system doesn't respond to good ideas. It responds to people actually resisting it in a real way - it's just going to run it's course, it's going to obey it's dictates and proceed according to its priorities, it's dynamics. It doesn't care about your good ideas. It doesn't care about your standing there with your sign and saying, "Hey, I'm polite, I'm doing what the cops say." They'll pat you on the head and laugh up their sleeve. That's a nonsense way of imagining you're going to be a part of challenging the way things are going. It takes more than that.
JUDY LUERS: The three of us have such a unique bond that when he hurts, we hurt. And when he is locked up in that prison, he's not the only one locked up. We are in our own prison - the only difference being, we have the privilege to lock our own door as opposed to having it locked for us.
JEFF LUERS: Should I stay here for the duration of my sentence, my parents will be dead, some of my friends might pass away - the entire world and life that I've had up to this point will be non-existent 21 years from now. That's hard to swallow. I mean, that's real difficult, but I can't look back knowing what I know and having what I have in my heart, and say that I regret trying to make things better.