Albion Monitor /News

Earth First! Answers Charges of Unabomber Link

by Nicholas Wilson

ABC News claims FBI files show connection

After ABC-TV claimed that the FBI had information linking Unabomber suspect Ted Kaczynski and Earth First! on an April 5 World News Tonight broadcast, the staff of the Earth First! Journal responded with an open letter to the network titled, "ABC Trash Journalism -- Unabomber and Earth First!?" posted to the Internet newsgroup on April 7.

ABC correspondent Brian Ross said he had learned that "Kaczynski's name appeared in FBI files in November of 1994 in connection to an FBI investigation of a radical environmental group called Earth First!." Ross continued, "Over the years, Earth First! has been best known as a violent group, spiking trees and blowing up logging equipment, and in many respects, its anti-corporate philosophy parallels that of the Unabomber." He did not identify his source of information about FBI investigations.

Judi Bari, the Northern California Earth First! (EF!) leader crippled by a motion-triggered anti-personnel bomb placed under the driver's seat of her car in 1990, said in an Albion Monitor telephone interview Sunday that EF! long ago renounced tree-spiking and is committed to non-violence. She said EF! never used or advocated the use of explosives, and that public impressions to the contrary are the result of a continuing smear campaign by both the anti-environmentalist "Wise Use Movement" and the FBI.

COINTELPRO attacks on Earth First! and Judi Bari

Bari's lawsuit against the FBI for its handling of her case has been progressing in federal court for five years. The FBI stepped in within minutes of the bomb blast and accused Bari and her passenger Darryl Cherney of knowingly transporting a bomb which went off accidentally. Bari said the FBI showed up on the scene so quickly it was as though they had been "waiting around the corner with their fingers in their ears."

After over a month of sensational headlines fed by FBI statements the Alameda County District Attorney dropped charges for lack of evidence. In addition to false arrest, illegal search and seizure, and denial of equal protection of the law, Bari's suit charges the FBI with conspiracy to discredit Bari and Cherney as terrorists in the manner of COINTELPRO, thereby interfering with their rights to free speech.

The suit has survived three attempts by the FBI to get it tossed out and has provided Bari discovery of over 5000 pages of FBI files. Bari says FBI agents swore in depositions in her case that the FBI was not investigating EF!, but FBI documents she obtained strongly suggested otherwise.

COINTELPRO was the FBI's code word for covert action "counterintelligence programs" conducted under J. Edgar Hoover's direction to, in the FBI's own words, "disrupt , misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize" the civil rights, black liberation, antiwar and other progressive movements. The program was first exposed when a Black Panther "Committee to Investigate the FBI" broke into an FBI office in 1971, removing files and providing them to the press.

The 1975 U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights hearings into the FBI's political operations found the FBI's COINTELPRO activities to be illegal, involving massive violations of constitutional rights. These findings led to Attorney General's guidelines which say the FBI may not investigate or maintain files on domestic groups unless a crime is involved. Though the guidelines are still in effect at this writing, they would be changed if the "anti-terrorism" bill now in Congress becomes law, which could happen by the end of this week. The FBI documents are available in book form from South End Press, Chicago, under the title "The COINTELPRO Papers," by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall.

After learning that ABC's April 8 Good Morning America program also covered the alleged EF!-Unabomber connection, Bari said she phoned ABC's Brian Ross, accusing him of slandering EF!. When she asked him to name one example of EF! blowing up logging equipment, Bari said Ross responded, "You spike trees, don't you." She replied, "First of all, we don't, but secondly, there's a huge difference between spiking trees and blowing up logging equipment, especially when you're trying to link us with the Unabomber."

Attorney Michael Deutsch of the New York based Center for Constitutional Rights also spoke with Ross on Bari's behalf. Ross would not identify his source as to the contents of FBI files, however former FBI agent Rick Smith of San Francisco was on the April 8 show with Ross. Smith, who retired from the FBI last month, had been the FBI's spokesman on the Unabomber case and on the Bari bombing case as well.

A March 31 San Francisco Examiner article about Smith's retirement said his primary assignment for 20 years had been counterintelligence. With the dissolution of the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the excitement was gone for Smith. The Examiner quoted him saying, "You felt like you won but ... we lost the enemy. It didn't have the same level of interest for me."

ABC informant is agent for timber industry and "Wise Use"

The April 5 ABC TV story featured Barry Clausen, a private investigator for the timber industry and "Wise Use" Movement. ABC reporter Ross said Clausen had been "trying to persuade the FBI since last August that the Unabomber had to have some kind of connection to Earth First! or other radical environmental group."

In a speech to the timber lobby group California Forestry Association (CFA) in Sacramento January 26, 1995, Clausen said he considered EF! "the enemy." He said he had infiltrated an EF! group in 1989 as a paid agent of "people within the timber industry and mining and ranching in Montana." His 1994 book about EF! was published by the Washington Contract Loggers Association. He said he had been on about 50 radio stations and in 48 newspapers since his book came out, and gave speeches to Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, timber and ranching groups. He also publishes a newsletter called "Eco-Terrorism Watch."

In his CFA speech Clausen told of his admiration for Turkish police anti-terrorist units who used machine guns mounted on dirt bikes. He also liked the way the Turkish police threatened to sink a Greenpeace ship, no matter who was on board, unless it left Turkish waters.

As it happened, Clausen's speech to CFA was delivered three months before CFA's executive director Gilbert Murray was killed by the Unabomber's last bomb on April 24, 1995. Murray was described as a "Wise Use Leader" in a news release from "Wise Use" founder Ron Arnold's Center for Defense of Free Enterprise web site. The article says Murray was killed "by a mail bomb from an ecoterrorist. In an instant, the Unabomber, spouting Deep Ecology rhetoric against industrial civilization, took away a promising leader of the broad Wise Use Movement. Gil's memory should inspire us to greater achievements, not derail us into seeking links between our political opponents and his death." Obviously Barry Clausen did not take this advice to heart.

Clausen scheduled a press conference late last week in Montana, claiming he had an attendance list containing the name "Casinski" from an environmental conference held at the University of Montana in 1994. He canceled the event after EF! and the Native Forest Network scheduled their own press conference an hour earlier in the same hotel. Clausen refused to let members of the press see his purported list or say how he obtained it.

Other comment in the media

USA Today's April 10 edition ran an opinion piece titled "Want Motive for Unabomber?" by weekly columnist Anna Chavez of the "conservative" Center for Equal Opportunity in Washington, D.C. Chavez asked, "Is (the Unabomber) at least loosely affiliated with an organized radical group that advocates a war on modern technology? The Unabomber may well have taken his inspiration from the writings of Earth First!'s radical fringe." Chavez's column can be found at USA Today's online edition, where a new version is posted each Wednesday.

Rush Limbaugh joined in the fun April 12, calling Kaczynski "a liberal, environmentalist wacko" who "is known to have read Earth First! literature." Limbaugh went on to say he recalled that a few years ago "a couple of EF! wackos were blown up by the bomb they themselves had made and were transporting in their car, ... something that shows how the environmentalist wackos are anything but nonviolent people who just want clean air and water." Without naming names, he clearly was repeating the false allegations leaked to the press by the San Francisco office of the FBI in the Bari/Cherney case.

Not every news source was taken in by the Wise Use campaign, however. The Dallas Morning News April 11 edition ran a story saying: "Federal law enforcement officials on April 10 said documents found in Unabomb suspect Theodore Kaczynski's cabin 'indicate research' into environmental issues, but 'no direct link to any radical group or movement.' Members of Kaczynski's family said he did not belong to any environmental groups, and 'prominent' environmental groups in California and Montana said he is not on any of their mailing lists."

In an April 12 post to the talk.environment and newsgroups under the heading "Re: Unabomber Connection Nonexistent," David Orr ( wrote: "The campaign was begun in the late '80s to discredit EF! Some evidence exists to suggest that the FBI worked closely with timber industry and other so-called "wise use" elements in manipulating public opinion against environmental activists. This latest round of allegations -- all unfounded -- is just an effort by the industry to destroy the personal reputations of honest environmental activists with nothing to hide. No connection between Unabomber and EF! has EVER been shown, but that hasn't stopped industry from repeating the same old lies and distortions. The facts are there for all to see, but you won't see them on ABC News."

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Albion Monitor April 15, 1996 (

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