Copyrighted material

The Judi Bari Bombing Revisited

Big Timber, Public Relations and the FBI

Analysis and commentary by Nicholas Wilson

on Judi Bari case
Nine years ago, on May 24, 1990, the car bombing of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney made headlines across the nation. At the FBI's instigation, Oakland Police immediately arrested the pair and charged that they were terrorists injured by the accidental explosion of their own bomb. Events moved swiftly in the days that followed. For seven weeks, the FBI and police held press conferences where they dribbled out false claims of evidence of the pair's guilt to keep sensational media coverage roiling.

But there was much that the police weren't telling, such as clear evidence that she was innocent, targeted for murder because of her environmental and labor organizing. Someone wanted to stop the two Northern California Earth First! leaders, the organizers of Redwood Summer, the largest ever campaign of nonviolent protests against corporate liquidation logging of the redwoods.

After two months the Alameda County District Attorney refused to file any charges for lack of evidence. There is evidence, though, from the FBI's own files, that agents falsified evidence against Bari and Cherney, suppressed exonerating evidence, and conspired with Oakland to try to frame them. Most disturbing, however, is that the FBI stubbornly refused to do a genuine investigation of the bombing, and failed to pursue real evidence and leads turned over to them. Why would they refuse to investigate solid clues, like identifying fingerprints they found? Was it a cover-up of FBI complicity in the bombing? Was it because they already knew it would show involvement by the timber industry? And if someone wanted to get rid of her, why was Judi Bari bombed when a bullet would have been easier? A new analysis suggests that the key to unraveling the mystery is a timber industry public relations strategy to defeat a logging reform initiative in the fall election.

Evidence of Judi and Darryl's innocence hidden in FBI files
After a year with no progress in the official investigation, and with the FBI still saying there were no other suspects but Judi and Darryl, the two filed a federal civil rights suit against the FBI and Oakland Police, charging them with conspiring "to suppress, chill and 'neutralize' their constitutionally protected activities in defense of the environment." It also charges false arrest and unlawful search and seizure. Judi's last work in her life was to oversee a crucial phase of her ongoing lawsuit so that her legal team could take the case to trial on behalf of her children, to clear her name, and to secure the rights of all activists to be free from police interference with their constitutional rights. Although she died of cancer on March 2, 1997, the suit is continued by Judi's estate and by Darryl Cherney, aided by the Redwood Summer Justice Project, the nonprofit organization set up by her to organize political and financial support for the suit.

By filing the suit they could investigate the bombing themselves using the court's power to compel the FBI and police to turn over files and evidence and to submit to questioning under oath. To date, their charges are supported by over 14,000 pages of evidence, including the testimony of over 50 FBI agents and police officers. The evidence of police misconduct is strong enough that the suit has survived repeated attempts by the FBI and Oakland to get the courts to dismiss it.

FBI files contained evidence of Judi and Darryl's innocence, but not until three years after the bombing, and then only under court order, did the FBI begin (grudgingly) to disclose evidence.

They discovered that police crime scene photos clearly showed the bomb ripped a hole in the floorboard centered directly under the driver's seat. Documents revealed the FBI's chief bomb expert, David R. Williams, showed the San Francisco agents and Oakland Police that without any doubt the bomb had been completely hidden under the driver's seat, that the bomb had a motion trigger as well as a timer. He told them the bomb had functioned as designed rather than exploding accidentally. That put the lie to FBI statements, made soon after the explosion, that the bomb was on the back seat floorboard where they would have seen it -- the principal claim used to justify arresting Judi and Darryl for possession and transportation of an explosive device.

But while the authorities knew that Judi and Darryl were innocent victims, the FBI and Oakland police continued to tell the media they had evidence Judi and Darryl were the culprits. As the FBI refused to investigate prior death threats and focused exclusively on Judi, Darryl and other Earth First! activists as suspects, they allowed the real bomber to go free. Why would they do that? Whose interests were served?

"If you turn up dead then we'll investigate"
Judi felt sure as soon as it happened that timber interests were behind the bombing. She told investigating officers in the hospital that she began receiving death threats soon after she had announced plans for Redwood Summer. They found copies of written ones in her bombed car.

There were many signs of an orchestrated campaign of harassment and intimidation against Judi and other environmentalists in the weeks before the bombing. The timber companies knowingly distributed fake Earth First! flyers and press releases advocating violence and sabotage to workers, community members and media in a move calculated to whip up fear and hatred against environmentalists.

Judi said she never received death threats before or since, except one when she moved to her rural cabin near Willits near the end of that summer. When Judi reported the death threats to local police, they told her they didn't have the manpower to investigate. "If you turn up dead then we'll investigate," she was told.

Bari was also making connections with timber workers. Perhaps the key incident that made her the target of the bomb attack was her appearance together with Louisiana Pacific workers before Mendocino County's Board of Supervisors.

She demanded the county use its eminent domain power to seize LP Corporation timberlands and manage them in the public interest. That demand certainly focused LP executives' attention on her, and the local newspaper gave it prominent coverage, including a large photo of Judi from the board meeting.

A copy of that photo with the circle and cross hairs of a rifle scope drawn over her face was the most frightening death threat Judi received, she said. The photo was stapled to the door of the Mendocino Environmental Center along with a yellow ribbon, the symbol of timber industry support groups opposed to Redwood Summer and the Forests Forever Initiative on the November ballot. A pile of excrement was left below the threat.

Big Timber and Big PR
If Proposition 130, the Forests Forever initiative, had passed in the fall 1990 election, it would have put an end to unsustainable liquidation logging and clearcutting. The three big logging corporations of the redwood region -- Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific and Pacific Lumber -- would have lost hundreds of millions of dollars (billions, if their propaganda is believed).

With an enormous financial motive to defeat the initiative, they hired public relations firms including Hill & Knowlton to manage a multimillion-dollar PR campaign to turn public opinion against the initiative. They targeted and demonized environmental activists. They made sure the public associated the ballot initative with Earth First!. After the Bari bombing as the FBI and police were smearing Bari and Cherney as terrorists, they quickly labeled Prop. 130 "the Earth First! initiative," and said it was "too extreme."

An important part of that PR campaign was to derail Redwood Summer. It was linked to Forests Forever and it was drawing major media attention to the accelerated logging the companies were doing. When Judi and Darryl first announced their plans for the summer-long series of nonviolent demonstrations, they said on TV their goal was to slow the logging until Forests Forever could be passed in November. "(Redwood Summer) is not a symbolic act. We hope to literally slow down the logging by using our bodies nonviolently this summer, and we hope to do that so that there'll be something left to save by the time any legislation can be passed to regulate them," Bari told NPR in a radio interview after the bombing.

An anti-environmentalist "Wise Use" group cooked up phony EF! flyers and press releases calling for violence and sabotage during Redwood Summer, and Pacific Lumber and Louisiana Pacific knowingly distributed the fakes to deceive people about EF!'s nonviolent intentions and create an atmosphere of hatred and violence toward environmentalists.

anti- EF! demonstrators Although local media, including the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, reported the fakes as real and speculated they were from a violence-prone "splinter group" of EF!, some metropolitan papers saw through the hoax. San Francisco Examiner columnist Rob Morse wrote April 29, 1990 that he had received a press kit from H&K on behalf of "Earth First!'s nemesis, Pacific Lumber Co." Morse wrote:

The kit included a press release on the Earth First! letterhead, but not written in the usual careful, sweet style of Earth First! It read like a bad Hollywood version of what radicals talk like... At the bottom of this ridiculous flyer was the name of Earth First! leader Darryl Cherney, with his first name misspelled.... Not only are trees being clear-cut, but dirty tricksters are turning them into fake press releases.

By September 20, 1990, the timber industry had contributed $5,723,843 to defeat Prop. 130 in officially reported campaign contributions. That figure does not include company funds spent for direct advertising and PR against the initiative, nor the money paid to set up and support "Community Solidarity Coalition" yellow-ribbon groups working to defeat it.

The FBI's Campaign to Discredit Earth First!
There is also good reason to believe the FBI was actively (or passively) involved in the bombing.

FBI records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that the FBI infiltrated and spied on Earth First! almost from its beginning in 1980, with the earliest known FBI report on it dated 1981. Heavily censored FBI documents obtained through Bari's suit indicate weekly meetings in spring 1990 between an FBI agent and a secret informant in Northern California. Deposition testimony by Oakland Police Department officers and FBI agents states the FBI had an informant on EF! leaders, and the FBI told OPD that Darryl and Judi were already "the subjects of an investigation in the terrorist field" when they were bombed. Were they under surveillance when the bomb was placed?

Just before the bombing, the FBI was wrapping up Operation Thermcon in Arizona, a 3-year sting operation employing over 50 FBI agents designed to entrap and discredit EF! and its co-founder Dave Foreman as explosive-using terrorists. The FBI infiltrated a tiny Arizona EF! group with an undercover agent provocateur, won their trust over a couple of years, and tried to con them into using thermite, an explosive incendiary, to take down a power line. The activists declined the infiltrator's offer to provide explosives, and he settled for providing them with a cutting torch instead. The FBI provocateur provided the equipment, trained the activists in its use, chose the target, drove them to the site, and joined an FBI strike team in busting them in the act on May 31, 1989. Foreman was not directly involved, but was charged with conspiracy for providing $100 to the group. The resulting "Arizona Five" trial ended in plea bargains in August, 1991, with prison sentences for two of the activists.

Thermcon was the FBI's code name for "thermite conspiracy," but there was no thermite involved except in the FBI plot to tie EF! to explosives despite the fact they have never advocated or used explosives in their 19-year history. The FBI's goal in Thermcon was basically public relations, to trick the public into believing EF! were violent extremists so as to neutralize their effectiveness and isolate them from public support.

Michael Fain, the FBI's undercover agent provocateur in the Arizona case, accidentally recorded his conversation with other agents. It revealed that the FBI's true goal was to discredit Earth First! and radical environmentalism in the public mind. On the tape, Fain is heard to say, "I don't really look for them to be doing a lot of hurting people. (Foreman) isn't really the guy we need to pop -- I mean in terms of an actual perpetrator. This is the guy we need to pop to send a message. And that's all we're really doing. . . . Uh-oh! We don't need that on tape! Hoo boy!"

Some of the same San Francisco FBI terrorist squad agents who worked the Thermcon case were assigned to the Bari bomb case. The FBI tried for years to keep their Thermcon files secret from Bari's lawyers, claiming there was no connection, but they were finally ordered by the court to furnish copies in 1996, three years after the FBI's first release of files in the case.

But the FBI is apparently hiding sixteen crucial documents they claim are "missing" from the Thermcon file. They span a period from just after Redwood Summer was announced, in March, 1990, to a month after the bombing. Bari lawyer Dennis Cunningham wrote in a brief: "Plaintiffs are of the opinion that the missing (documents) showed political surveillance and other illicit operations against Earth First! in California, and Redwood Summer, having nothing to do with THERMCON; as such, given the charges herein, they were too hot to handle, and so were simply iced...."

The FBI - Timber Connection
The Bari - Cherney lawsuit also turned up several connections between the timber industry and the FBI, including a chummy "Dear Bill" letter sent to FBI Director William Sessions by a board member of Maxxam, which owns Pacific Lumber.

Other associations are more disturbing because they involve bombs and bomb-making. Just a month before the bomb exploded in Bari's car, the FBI conducted a bomb investigator school in Humboldt County.

As part of the training, lead instructor and FBI bomb expert Special Agent Frank Doyle blew up cars with pipe bombs on a Louisiana Pacific logging site, then his students practiced investigating the results. Louisiana Pacific, remember, was the company whose timberlands Judi asked Mendocino County to seize, after which she immediately began receiving death threats.

LP cooperated with the FBI in providing the bomb school location. Although the FBI claims it has lost the documents that show the names of participants-- another suspicious claim -- it is known that the chief of LP's private security force, based in Humboldt County, was a former deputy sheriff and an FBI-certified bomb expert. It would be reasonable to expect him to be present at the FBI bomb school on the company's land.

Then there's the mystery of the dud bomb in the LP sawmill in Cloverdale. Two weeks after the bomb school (and two weeks before Bari's car exploded), a partly-exploded firebomb was found.

The Cloverdale bomb failed to fully explode or to ignite the can of gasoline it included, and it was likely designed to fail, as part of an overall plan to set Judi up for blame after being killed by the Oakland bomb two weeks later.

A cardboard sign near the firebomb bore the words, "LP screws millworkers." This was the message Judi used in outreach to workers. Records indicate investigators found a usable fingerprint on the sign, but there is no record that the FBI ever tried to match the print to Judi or Darryl.

The FBI lab confirmed that components of that and Oakland bombs matched exactly in components and construction method, and were built by the same person(s).

Another suspicious point about the Cloverdale bomb: this exact type of firebomb, a pipe bomb strapped to a can of gasoline, was studied at the FBI bomb school two weeks earlier, according to testimony of an Oakland officer who attended.

FBI Lied About the Evidence
Within an hour of the Oakland explosion, none other than Special Agent Doyle, the bomb school instructor, was taking charge of the bomb scene investigation. Since he was the FBI's top Bay Area bomb expert, the other FBI and Oakland bomb investigators first at the scene, some of whom had been his students, deferred to his assertions about the evidence.

It was Doyle who allegedly overruled the Oakland sergeant on the scene who said the bomb was under the driver's seat and that he could see the pavement under the car through the hole in the seat. It was Doyle who falsely said the bomb was on the floor behind the driver's seat where it would have been easily seen. It was also Doyle who falsely claimed that two bags of nails found in the back of Judi's car matched nails taped to the bomb for shrapnel effect, when in fact they were not even the same type, and were clearly different to the naked eye.

Other officers on the scene testified that Doyle argued with them, and quoted him saying, "I've been looking at bomb scenes for 20 years, and I'm looking at this one, and I'm telling you you can rely on it. This bomb was visible to the people who loaded the back seat of this car."

Was it an honest mistake? Not likely, the judge ruled in denying Doyle immunity from the lawsuit. Dennis Cunningham argued in a court brief, "In sum, there was no way such an experienced bomb technician as Frank Doyle, ... or the other investigators -- or Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder -- would not have known that the bomb was under the seat when it blew up."

Exactly three weeks later, when Supervisory Special Agent David R. Williams -- the FBI crime laboratory's top explosives expert -- inspected the bombed car, he pointed out to Doyle that impact marks left by the pipe bomb's end caps on the transmission tunnel and driver's door, combined with the location of the hole in the floorboard and the damage to the seat cushion, clearly proved the bomb was under the driver's seat, not in the back where Doyle had said. Williams had said earlier, from evidence sent to the crime lab, that the bomb had a motion trigger, and that it had functioned as designed rather than being an accidental explosion.

Despite this clear evidence that Judi was the target of attempted murder, the FBI and Oakland PD continued for another four weeks telling the media and the court that Judi and Darryl were their only suspects, and cooking up other stories about nails from the bomb matching nails found in Judi's house.

There can be no doubt that the FBI was knowingly lying about evidence. But why? Some think there was a determined effort to hide exonerating evidence and to smear Judi and EF! according to plan, even though the bomb didn't kill her as intended.

The Mysterious Letter
The days following the explosion in Judi's car were already weird enough: The media were belatedly told about the dud bomb at the Cloverdale LP sawmill with Judi's slogan posted nearby, and there were almost daily statements from the Oakland Police and FBI insisting that Bari was a clumsy bomber. But then came a mysterious letter that made everyone's head spin -- an anonymous anti-abortion extremist took credit for the bombing.

The so-called "Lord's Avenger" letter was mailed to the regional daily newspaper, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The author said Judi was targeted because she organized opposition to an anti-abortion demonstration some 16 months earlier.

The writer, who used biblical-sounding language and proclaimed, "I am the Lord's Avenger," said he had also built and placed the Cloverdale sawmill bomb in an effort to "bring infamy down on Judi Bari." The letter accurately described details of the construction of both bombs, including that the Oakland bomb was motion triggered.

The letter is seen by all sides as a hoax -- but who was the hoaxer and what was the motive? Because the letter said that Judi was the target and not the bomber, the FBI claimed it must have been written by a confederate of Judi's and Darryl's that knew how the bomb was made. It became an excuse for the FBI to investigate Earth First!

Judi realized that that the details of the bomb construction included in the letter were known to the FBI, and believed the letter was a red herring tactic by the FBI or the timber industry to throw suspicion away from themselves once they realized that she would survive the bombing and the plan to blame her was unraveling. The physical evidence, if it came to light, would reveal she was not the bomber. Suspicion of a timber industry connection would be obvious because of the death threats she received as their leading opponent. The Avenger letter provided a plausible lone assassin theory unconnected to either timber or FBI. Indeed, the FBI resisted mightily against releasing the exonerating evidence. Judi's enemies have seized on the Avenger letter and tried to tie it to her ex-husband, but that theory doesn't wash -- a topic to be covered in a later Monitor story.

FBI Domestic Covert Operations - COINTELPRO
One of the big questions remains: Would the FBI actually try to frame Judi Bari? The act of blaming Judi and Darryl for the bombing that nearly killed them, and their repeated lies to the media about evidence in the case, are classic "COINTELPRO" tactics.

Until it was exposed in 1971, COINTELPRO was the FBI's code name for its Top Secret "counterintelligence" program to undermine leftist and other radical movements. FBI founder and longtime Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of various "subversive" organizations and their members and individuals whom he categorized as opposed to the national interests.

Under Hoover the Bureau placed itself above the law and used fraud, deception, dirty tricks and force to sabotage constitutionally-protected political activity. Its methods were the domestic counterpart of covert action tactics used by the CIA throughout the world.

A mid-seventies Congressional investigation declared the FBI's covert operations against political dissenters unlawful, unconstitutional and un-American. In 1975, Congressman Don Edwards commented:

Regardless of the unattractiveness or noisy militancy of some private citizens or organizations, the Constitution does not permit federal interference with their activities except through the criminal justice system, armed with its ancient safeguards. There are no exceptions. No federal agency, the CIA, the IRS, or the FBI, can be at the same time policeman, prosecutor, judge and jury. That is what constitutionally guaranteed due process is all about. It may sometimes be disorderly and unsatisfactory to some, but it is the essence of freedom ... I suggest that the philosophy supporting COINTELPRO is the subversive notion that any public official, the President or a policeman, possesses a kind of inherent power to set aside the Constitution whenever he thinks the public interest, or "national security" warrants it. That notion is postulate of tyranny. [emphasis added]

As a result of those hearings, new rules were put in place barring FBI investigations of political groups in the absence of any reasonable indication that crimes were being planned or committed. But in the '80s the FBI used the same old tactics against opponents of U. S. policy in El Salvador and Nicaragua -- they just stopped calling it COINTELPRO. At the end of the 1980s the FBI conducted a three-year secret operation against Earth First! in Arizona, described above.

M. Wesley Swearingen, a retired career FBI agent with first-hand inside knowledge of COINTELPRO wrote about it in his book "FBI Secrets -- An Agent's Expose:"

COINTELPRO is the FBI code word for an unconscionable program that was officially in operation and documented on paper from August 1956 to April 1971. The program is still in operation today, but under a different code name. The operation is no longer placed on paper where it can be discovered through the release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act. (emphasis added)

Swearingen wrote that as an FBI agent he was told not to discuss COINTELPRO with anyone outside the FBI, including his wife or relatives. He reviewed files showing Hoover ordered the mailing of anonymous letters to the parents of college-student daughters alerting them to the sexual activities of Students for a Democratic Society. After seeing that and far more egregious tactics in the files, including assassinations and framing people for life sentences, he wrote:

I knew that the FBI had gone off the deep end and had become a secret police state. I did not know the extent to which J. Edgar Hoover and his agents had gone to control the average citizen's mind, thoughts, and actions until I had read the files. Very few citizens know the extent to which the FBI has gone to control our society. The FBI thinks it knows what is best for the country."

(Links to a half hour radio interview with Swearingen, as well as many other sources of information on the Bari case and COINTELPRO cases described below, can be found on our related RESOURCES PAGE.)

Oakland Police Collaborated with the FBI
Among the old COINTELPRO pals of the FBI was the Oakland police, who have a long history of cooperating with the Bureau in spying on the Black Panther Party. In fact, Oakland couldn't have been a more convenient location for the FBI if they had planned it themselves. The media coverage of the Bari bombing was far greater, and was far more easily manipulated by the FBI, because of happening in the Bay Area, rather than in Mendocino or Humboldt Counties where Judi spent most of her time.

Because of the motion trigger, the bomber knew the explosion would occur soon after Judi started driving her car, and that she wouldn't get far from where she spent the night. It was only a question of when she would start off. The FBI was on the scene of the Bari bombing so quickly that it suggests they were waiting nearby "with their fingers in their ears," as Judi quipped.

But were the Oakland Police working with the FBI to set her up? Encouraging and tapping into political spying operations run by local police like Oakland's was one of the key ways the FBI got around the Attorney General's restrictions that barred strictly political spying after COINTELPRO was exposed.

In deposition, OPD intelligence division chief Kevin Griswold admitted that his department keeps files on over 300 political groups and individuals in the Bay Area. Griswold said the Oakland Police have spied on EF! since 1984, and had their own informant inside EF! who reported back to Griswold on plans for upcoming demonstrations. EF! is not based in Oakland and had little activity there prior to the Bari bombing. Griswold said he shares information from his spies with the FBI.

Richard Held, COINTELPRO master
The special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco office at the time of the bombing was Richard W. Held, a 26-year veteran of the FBI's COINTELPRO "dirty tricks" campaigns against the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement and Puerto Rican independence activists. In the late '60s, Held was part of a COINTELPRO operation resulting in the directed murders of two Black Panther leaders by FBI informers. Wesley Swearingen says Held also directed the framing and conviction of L.A. Panther leader Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt for murder, and that he was also guilty of perjury and destroying evidence.

Swearingen also wrote, "A clear example of the FBI's continued COINTELPRO is in the FBI's alleged involvement in the 1990 bombing of the vehicle occupied by Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney ... which was an effort to neutralize Judi Bari."

During his deposition under oath in the Bari case, Held claimed he was personally unaware of much about the Bari-Cherney case, and implied that it was not important enough to merit his attention. But files in the office contained a memo from Washington ordering his office to provide weekly reports on the case so that Headquarters could respond to the "numerous inquiries" they were getting from the media. His testimony was contradicted by FBI agents under his command who said in their depositions that they briefed him regularly on the case.

Mistakes in the Bari case under his command may have brought an early end to Held's twenty-five-year FBI career. He abruptly announced his resignation from the FBI in 1993 -- the day before Judi went public with the newly released Oakland Police crime scene photos which proved the FBI lied about the location of the bomb. Held said he resigned because he expected reassignment to a new post and didn't want to move his family. Was that the real reason? His father, also a COINTELPRO master, had risen to the high post of Deputy Director of the FBI, and Held's career track was headed for the top as well. He said his mother cried when he told her he was resigning.

Other FBI bombings
Two cases came to light where the FBI allegedly used bombs to frame radicals twenty years before the Bari bombing. One plot didn't work when the FBI's agent provocateur rebelled and blew the whistle:

In Seattle, FBI agent Louis Harris recruited David Sannes in 1970, a patriotic veteran who was willing to help them catch some bombers. Sannes worked with explosives expert Jeffrey Paul Desmond and FBI agent Bert Carter. Their instructions were to find people interested in bombing. ... When Carter made it clear that he planned to have one bomber die in a booby-trapped explosion, Sannes dropped his FBI work and went public. "My own knowledge is that the FBI along with other Federal law enforcement agencies has been involved in a campaign of bombing, arson and terrorism in order to create in the mass public mind a connection between political dissidence of whatever stripe and revolutionaries of whatever violent tendencies," Sannes reported in an interview on WBAI radio. (emphasis added)

In an unsettling parallel to the Bari case, Ralph Featherstone, a black Student National Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader from Washington, DC, was killed by a bomb explosion in his car on the night of March 9, 1970. Police recovered a letter supposedly found on his body which they believed came from Cuba along with a "revolutionary poem." They suspected that Featherstone was connected to communist activity. SNCC was a COINTELPRO target starting in 1967.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, another COINTELPRO target who sued the FBI and won, wrote: "The FBI claimed (Featherstone) had been transporting a bomb, but SNCC said that was nonsense. Since he was dead there was no further exploration of what happened. I've been remembering that in the light of the Bari bombing. And wondering. A lot. A LOT." (See also Waskow's letter about his own case in the March 1997 Monitor)

Judi Bari pointed out that if she had been killed by the bomb as intended, as in the Featherstone case, the evidence exonerating her would never have come out. Only because she survived and was able to file suit and gain subpoena power was she able to wrest the evidence loose from the grim, white-knuckled grip of the FBI.

The FBI has stonewalled at every turn
Until the Bari - Cherney suit finally has its day in court, many questions will lie unanswered. But it seems far more rational than paranoid to believe there was an FBI and corporate timber connection to the bombing of Judi Bari. Both timber and the FBI had ample motives, history, means and opportunity to bomb Judi. There are also FBI connections to both Maxxam/Pacific Lumber and Louisiana Pacific -- even involving bombs, in LP's case.

Both of those corporations were led by ruthless, robber-baron CEOs who were looting the redwoods at an unsustainable rate and reaping enormous profits. Judi was an outspoken leader of the opposition to that looting, and she was drawing unwanted public attention to it during the prelude to the Prop. 130 campaign, which if successful would have curtailed their rape and run tactics.

The FBI has obviously obstructed justice by refusing to disclose evidence as ordered by the court, forcing Judi's attorneys to go back to the court to get further orders to compel compliance, and even then "losing" key pages and groups of pages from the files. It hides behind secrecy, covering up its own wrongdoing, and possibly covering for the industry as well.

Even after the Alameda DA refused on July 12, 1990, to file charges due to lack of evidence, the FBI never corrected its lies to the media, and it maintains even now -- when the evidence to the contrary is damning -- that there are no other suspects in the case but Judi and Darryl.

The FBI has stonewalled at every turn. Many of the released file pages are heavily censored, some with "national security" indicated as the reason. What does the Bari bombing have to do with national security? Could it be the FBI's conceit that revealing its own culpability in the bombing would harm national security?

The FBI and Oakland claimed Bari and her supporters would not cooperate in the bombing investigation -- although they had the right to question Judi under oath at any time once discovery began in 1993 in her lawsuit. But they never called her for a deposition. Isn't it odd that the FBI maintains Judi was guilty, yet had no interest in questioning her?

On her own initiative, Judi gave her sworn deposition just four weeks before she died, and the FBI and Oakland attorneys chose not to ask her a single question in the two-day session. FBI attorney Joe Sher even tried to block the deposition from happening at all. He had already delayed it for a month with a procedural objection, then threatened to delay it for another month unless Judi agreed that her testimony could not be released to the public unless it became part of the court record. Judi was forced to agree, or she would have died without getting her testimony on the record in a form usable in court. Doesn't this look like the FBI is simply determined to cover up the facts?

The Bari/Cherney legal team has conducted about fifty depositions of witnesses from the FBI and Oakland police over the past several years, while the other side has not done a single one. Ever. Joe Sher boasted to Judi that he would drag the case out for twenty years or longer, as he did in the suit filed against the FBI by the Socialist Workers Party.

Sher knows that he has the power, wealth and institutional stamina of the U.S. government behind him, while Bari and Cherney rely upon community support and donations to keep their lawsuit alive on a shoestring budget. By filing every possible procedural challenge and appealing every ruling that goes against them, the FBI and Oakland have delayed the suit from coming to trial after eight years. Surely if Sher thought they would win he would have rushed it to trial quickly, rather than delaying in the hopes that the plaintiffs will run out of assets and give up -- or die before the case comes to trial.

Part of a PR plan to defeat Prop. 130
Many believe it was Judi Bari's effectiveness against timber corporations that made her the target of attempted murder. She was the redwood timber industry's most outspoken, brilliant, and effective opponent. But why use a bomb when there are simpler and more direct means to get rid of someone?

One answer is that the industry's overriding goal was to defeat the Forests Forever initiative -- millions, even billions of dollars were at stake. Framing Judi Bari for the bombing would serve that goal. First, it would chill participation in Redwood Summer by terrorizing the environmental movement. Second, it would be used to demonize Earth First! in public opinion as violent extremists. Third, they would turn voters away from the initiative by linking it with Earth First!. After the bombing and media smear campaign by the police and FBI, the industry's PR consultants quickly churned out press releases saying "Defeat the Earth First! Initiative. It's too extreme."

The bombing was carefully planned, including the Cloverdale sawmill incident which the FBI immediately cited as evidence of Judi's guilt in her own bombing. Both bombs were expertly conceived and built, according to the FBI's top expert. Because of that, Judi believed the bombing was a professional hit. Given the damage to her car, it's a miracle she survived.

As suggested near the beginning of this article, public relations may be the key to unraveling the mystery of not only who bombed Judi Bari, but why.

At the very least, the timber industry's public relations consultants took instant advantage of the bombing to make political hay against the initiative. But did a flack from an industry PR firm actually plot the bombing? If so, it was a scheme worthy of the CIA --or the FBI. It merged so neatly with the FBI's active operation to discredit Earth First! leaders, first Dave Foreman, then Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.

Some of Judi's old political rivals and enemies have recently launched an attack on her character and legacy, two years after her death. Pushing a theory that in the midst of an incredible blitz of intimidation and death threats, while she was organizing the biggest mass demonstrations against corporate overlogging in history, while she was taking on multi-billion dollar corporations and threatening their bottom line, while she was beginning to form a coalition between timber workers and environmentalists by pointing to the corporations as the problem -- while doing all that -- she was bombed for mundane personal reasons, and not for her political, forestry and labor activism.

Surely such post-mortem quarterbacking couldn't please the FBI and Big Timber more -- a topic that will be continued in a following edition of the Monitor.

Corrections to the original May 26 article were made on May 28

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Albion Monitor May 28, 1999 (

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